Tag Archives: R&B

Tanika Charles Gets “The Gumption” To Become a Soul Star

Tanika Charles

“What gave you the nerve?” asks Tanika Charles, rhetorically, from her home in Toronto. “What gave me the nerve to think that I could speak to you that way?” The soul singer is explaining the various nuanced meanings behind the name of her new album, The Gumption, and her intonation shifts from indignation to disappointment as she explains. “[Gumption] was a word that came up because many of the songs are about, ‘Who are you? Why would you treat me like this?’”

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Soul Royalty: The Music of Lee Fields

Lee Fields

In 1969, when Lee Fields was 17 years old, he left his rural home in Wilson, North Carolina and boarded a Trailways bus to New York City with the $20 that his mom had given him and dreams of becoming a soul star. But Fields’s plan quickly hit a snag; soon after arriving at Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan, he took a cab to a Brooklyn address where he’d been told he had a bed to stay. “The driver charged me $18,” says Fields, before letting out a laugh. “Back home, you get a taxi and go to the other side of town for 60 cents!” Despite only having two bucks to his name, things in New York City worked out for Fields, who’s now been recording and performing for five decades. His latest album, It Rains Love, is produced by Leon Michels of the El Michels Affair. It’s a 10-track project that solidifies Fields’s position as enduring soul royalty by pairing his emotive vocals with spirited and melodic backing tracks. 

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Oakland Singer MaHaWaM’s “Is An Island” is a Fight for Visibility


Photos by GUERILLA

“I want to lend some visibility to something that seems to be very invisible,” says the singer and rapper MaHaWaM, speaking over the phone from their home in Oakland, CA. “As a Black person in America, my life has been threatened before. So when I received my HIV diagnosis, it was like, ‘Here’s another thing to deal with every day,’ you know?’”

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Ibibio Sound Machine Radiate Genuine Positivity on “Doko Mien”


Photography by Angela Stephenson

It’s a fraught task to take on, combining and innovating traditions, sounds, and languages belonging to specific regions of the world in order to create a universal piece of art. However, London’s Ibibio Sound Machine (featuring members from Nigeria, Ghana, Brazil, Trinidad, Australia, and elsewhere) have effortlessly done just that over the last few years, drawing upon elements of groove-heavy funk, Afrobeat, American soul, and Ghanaian highlife, and blending those influences with Ibibio folk story and British’s penchant for partying.

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Album of the Day: B. Cool-Aid, “Syrup”


It wouldn’t be wrong to describe the music of B. Cool-Aid as neo-soul—but it wouldn’t exactly be right, either. The duo’s work has all the warmth and feel of the Soulquarians, but their spin on it is decidedly more rugged and rap-centric. Long Beach, CA producer Ahwlee favors the sound of Dilla’s solo productions rather than his work with that collective And Pink Siifu, the musical polymath from Cincinnati, Ohio, moves between rapping and singing so subtly that the distinction between the two is often negligible. In short, B. Cool-Aid situate themselves comfortably at the intersection of neo-soul and indie rap.

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Album of the Day: Aaron Abernathy, “Epilogue”

Aaron Abernathy’s latest LP, Epilogue is the last album in a trilogy that began in 2016. The previous installments featured ruminations on love, race, and society through Abernathy’s unique twist on modern soul; Epilogue skews personal, documenting a recent breakup and chronicling the journey to redemption and self-actualization that followed. The album is broken up by snippets of phone conversations about the breakup, using the spoken words to outline the emotional effect while the songs expound on the broader themes.

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A Journey to Ethiopia Inspired Hejira’s New LP, “Thread of Gold”


Photography by Angela Stephenson Paintings by Miki van Zwanenberg

The second album from London-based group Hejira is, in a way, the result of frontwoman Rahel Debebe-Dessalegne’s attempt to communicate with herself in the wake of her father’s death. “When you go through that loss, it’s so personal and so scary to come outside of yourself and find a way to communicate—even to yourself,” she says. “I was feeling this pull to understand my father and my heritage that I had never felt until that point.” The album’s title, Thread of Gold, subtly underscores that drive. “Thread of Gold symbolizes the connection between us and our loved ones,” Debebe-Dessalegne says.

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Yves Jarvis’s Experimental, Folky R&B is Internal and Intentional

Yves Jarvis

Photo by Maya Fuhr

Yves Jarvis’s new album The Same But By Different Means doesn’t so much move from song to song as it pulses in place. As the title implies, Jarvis is committed to consistency; the music flows and swirls and bubbles with the same mellow mood, with melodies and rhythms rising up and sliding back down into the warm eddies. “There it goes, there it goes, there it goes,” he chants over a laid-back blues vamp on “Nothing New.” A dreamy harmonica floats above the folksy strum on “Out of the Blue, Into Both Hands,” multi-tracked vocals croon over gospel-tinged keyboards on “Hard to Say Bye.” Different instruments and genres all mix together to create a gently effervescent bliss.

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