R&B Blog

Contemporary R&B recommendations and commentary

Aaliyah’s Influential Afterlife

Listen closely, and you’ll hear Aaliyah’s voice getting louder all the time.

This week, DMX growled his scorn for the posthumous album Drake has announced is in the works, joining a chorus of disapproval from the late R&B singer’s family and former collaborators. The controversy erupted last month when Drake dropped a new track featuring previously unreleased vocals and confirmed rumors of the full-length project. Days earlier, Chris Keating of Yeasayer had cited her alongside David Bowie as a major influence on the Brooklyn band’s new album. In recent years following her death in a 2001 plane crash, Aaliyah has been covered by The XX, sampled by James Blake, J. Cole, and Azealia Banks, and shouted out by many others.
The reasons she persists are as varied as the artists who’ve turned to Aaliyah for inspiration. Part of it’s her voice, and part of it’s the way she innovated.

Before she died 11 years ago, few others sounded like her; today, though, the rest of the music world seems to be finally catching up.

From the Atlantic.

I don’t buy this argument. Liking Aaliyah isn’t the same as sounding like Aaliyah (nor is liking Aaliyah anything new). They may be fans, but Drake, J. Cole, Yeasayer, Azealia Banks, Beach House, Frank Ocean and frankly about a half dozen other artists cited in this article aren’t building on her music in any meaningful way, and few of them would claim to be.

Lucille Ghatti - High Grade 2: In The Sky With Diamonds

Though I enjoy the aesthetic, I generally don’t have much interest for the spacy, alternative soul releases that proliferate certain corners of the Internet. Lucille Ghatti’s output is an exception, though. Her summer mixtape/album/something High Grade was utterly entrancing, a druggier, sexier and infinitely less predictable spin on these shopworn sounds. I’m still not done taking in that tape yet, but it already has a followup: the even more explicitly druggy High Grade 2: In The Sjy With Diamonds. Ghatti doesn’t seem to be suffering for her prolificacy, though. On first listen, it seems just as good as its predecessor.

Jarvis - Heartache (mixtape)

The straight-from-the-gym photo shoot has been an album cover staple since before I was born, but I particularly got a kick out of this one: Apparently nobody told Jarvis the point is to flex without making it obvious that you’re flexing with every ounce of strength you can muster. I’m pretty sure the photographer cropped out the dumbbell he must be holding in his left arm.

I’m predisposed to like any mixtape with such an endearingly try-hard cover from an artist I’ve never heard from, but that caveat aside, this one delivers. Jarvis is a likeable, easy presence, well suited for these breezy, Trey Songz-lite tracks. “Make a Little Room,” in particular, is a wonderful sugar rush.

[I’m still struggling to embed LiveMixtapes steams onto Tumblr—what am I doing wrong here? Does Tumblr somehow use a different HTML than every other website?—but you can stream the album here.]

Miguel - “The Thrill”

Miguel’s upcoming record is shaping up to be a solid album of the year contender.

Jesse Boykins III - Restless Dreamer

In the United States R&B has been hopelessly conjoined to hip-hop, suffocated at its center trying to serve a nonnative constituency. (That’s not counting R&B’s middle-age-aimed adult-contemporary wing, which mostly aims to remind listeners of the music they grew up on by polishing up its rough edges.) Generally the genre has come to live in hip-hop’s shadow; most singers choose to stand close to it in hopes of catching some refracted glare.

An especially loaded Jon Caramanica paragraph.

thenext2shine asked: looking for an email from you. would like to send you a project of ours.

Best way to reach me is to message me on Twitter @evanryt and link me to any music you’ve got. I listen to everything I’m sent and always appreciate the submissions.

Dwele - “What Profit”

Hot damn the new Dwele album is good. What’s it going to take to get this guy a fraction of Frank Ocean’s press?

grumpnbind asked: hahahaha way to call pitchfork out. much love<3

Thanks for the love.

I should clarify that I’ve got nothing against Pitchfork. Actually, I’m a huge fan: Some of my absolute favorite music writers contribute to it, and I’ve been reading it almost daily for the last 11 years. I can’t imagine what I would have listened to in college without it.

I think the People’s List project, though, revealed a disconnect between the site’s readership, which apparently listens to indie-rock to the exclusion of just about everything else, and the site’s ambitions of being a fairly comprehensive music recommendation resource.

I’ve had variations of this conversation a lot with friends who write or edit for publications with a very specific (or niche) readership. Like it or not, that readership begins to dictate (and limit) your coverage.

strictlyalright asked: Have you listened to Elle Varner's album yet?

Yes, but only in small doses. It’s a solid album, but the aggressive tics in Varner’s voice make it impossible for me to get through it in one sitting. Maybe she should, I dunno, take it down a notch or two on the next one.