Alright, before we begin let me preface this by saying that Kanye West’s Instagram feed has been a rollercoaster off the track, tearing through the entire amusement park as of the past few days. In a campaign to win back Kim Kardashian, Kanye has taken public shots at her new beau Pete Davidson, Kid Cudi, Machine Gun Kelly, Billie Eilish (??) and TikTok (?????). At this point, I’m waiting to see if Taylor Swift gets involved somehow and this rollercoaster finds itself on the I-95.
But before all of that, Kanye shared a post that I’ve been thinking about since this month began. In early February, Kanye proposed the idea of turning Black History Month into Black Future Month. Instead of a month of looking towards the past, Kanye in a speech stated that it was now time for the Black community to take control of their own narrative, address their status of today and look forward to the progress to be made in the future. His initial (now deleted, sadly) Instagram post was shared by Pusha T, Alicia Keys, The Weeknd and more.
The post, as it originally appeared
Although putting Black history in focus for a month and encouraging others to read up on stories big and small isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I can’t say I enjoy the underlying temporary nature of it all. It sometimes feels like we are taking decorations out of a box just to put them back again. Along with underscoring the tragedies and triumphs of the past, we should also be focusing on the current issues of the black community, listening to the people of today as much as those of the past, and looking forward to a brighter future. Connecting the past to the present and future, we can keep important conversations going.
So, in thinking of how we could contribute to Black Future Month through our RXCOMMENDS series, I thought we could do what we do best as music lovers and curators. That is, share cool new tunes from up and coming black artists currently making waves. Some have blown up, some are on the come up. Their music spans multiple genres. We can’t wait to see what they put out down the line and we will be here to cover it on RXCOMMENDS – Michael Primiani
“Only With Time (A COLORS SHOW)” – Adria Kain
By: Aaliah Frazer
With so many independent artists emerging out of Canada in recent years, Adria Kain is definitely a standout. With smooth, soulful vocals and honest and heartfelt lyrics, Adria’s body of work is fresh, yet familiar. Since publicly releasing music since 2015, Adria has cultivated her own unique sound that has established her as a true artist. Her most recent project, “When Flowers Bloom,” is an intimate look into love and relationships, identity and Kain’s own reconnection with nature. The album features lush, jazzy, soulful, and ambient vibes that are equally suitable for staying in or dining out. One of my faves from this project, “Only with Time,” is a moving, stripped-down ballad that lovers of early 2000’s neo-soul and R&B will truly appreciate. The project as a whole is a “no-skip” gem that gets better with every listen.
If you would like a deeper dive into more amazing black Canadian R&B artists currently on my radar, keep an eye out for my feature in an upcoming article.
“Moon” – Amaria
By: Jamie Gemuend
If you haven’t been introduced to Amaria yet, then you are about to enter into a dreamy, soul-sounding landscape. At just 20 years old, this Dallas-Texas native has already left her imprint on the industry with her silky-smooth melodies and luscious vocals.
Bittersweet, Amaria’s debut EP released in 2021, offers a lyrically playful yet personal experience where roots run deep. The presence of live instrumentation on her tracks proves the authenticity and organic weight of this project. Immersed in this tranquil and calming auditory oasis, Amaria encourages her audience to do some soul searching through connection and recognition of the inner self.
My personal favourite song by this R&B rising super-star is “Moon”. “Moon” was released back in the Summer of 2020. This sonically euphoric gem takes you on a magical, ethereal journey to the cosmos. Take a moment out of your day and lift off into this lunar-inspired beauty.
“The Mission” – Bakar
By: Isabel Ross
28-year-old North London native Bakar has been shaking up the indie music scene since his debut mixtape, Badkid, in 2018. He blends elements of Hip-Hop, Punk and Rock to create a sound that is uniquely his own, a welcome, refreshing twist on the sounds that we’ve heard dominating these genres for the past decade.
I instantly fell in love with the vibe of his single “Hell N’ Back” when I first heard it in 2019. That happens to be how most listeners discovered him; with 127 million streams, it’s his most listened to track so far. Each release since has had such good energy; Bakar manages to awaken different emotions with each single. “The Mission”, a chill groovy track, describes yearning for a better future as the son of immigrants; his parents hail from Yemen and Tanzania. His latest single, “NW3” is a more lighthearted bop: a love song about moving to a nicer neighbourhood – London postcode NW3 – than the one he grew up in, with a girl he’s fallen for.
With his versatile sound, unique voice and compelling lyrics, I can’t wait to hear what Bakar has in store for his next album, Nobody’s Home, which comes out on February 25th.
“ANSEO (Feat. Jafaris)” – Denise Chaila
By: Emily Blaney
Zambian-Irish artist, Denise Chaila has quickly become one my favorite female artists in Hip Hop. Through her blend of Soul, Hip-hop and Grime, Denise tackles issues of identity, racism, misogyny, and mental health whilst exploring her Zambian-Irish heritage. Introducing herself as “the Black James Bond” in her track “Anseo” (meaning “here”), the Limerick artist serves up queen energy along with a funky hypnotic beat you can’t resist but vibe along to. With her growing success and realness, she has become a powerful activist and Black voice for creating a more diverse and progressive musical community within Ireland and definitely one to look out for in the future!
“Survivor” – Eric Gales
By: Ben Birchard
To be very clear – this is in the “new to me” category, and as a music and guitar lover, I really have to question where the heck I’ve been to not have had Eric Gales on my radar until recently. He released his first full length album in ’91 as The Eric Gales Band, the same year he was named “Best New Talent” by Guitar World magazine. He performed with Santana in ’94 at Woodstock and has since collaborated with the likes of Gary Clark Jr., Lauryn Hill and more recently Joe Bonamassa. Point being – this is not an emerging artist but one who’s had a lifetime of writing, recording, and touring leading up to his most recent release Crown, which is where I first heard him.
There is something awesome about discovering an artist or band at the beginning of the journey and following along the way; it’s an altogether different joy finding a fully formed artist with a back catalogue of material to then wade through, which is where I find myself now with Gales. His playing is pure fire; he is a modern-day torchbearer for the craft slung by Albert King, B.B. King and Jimi before him.
While I intend to keep digging into Gales’ musical past, it’s fitting that the track that drew me in first was “Survivor”. You can’t write one like this without having lived the Blues for years. You can hear and feel his experience in his lyrics and vocals, but almost more so in his guitar playing. Check this one out, and if you respond at all to the blues (and how can you not??) you either already know Gales, or this will be the gateway you didn’t even know you were looking for.
“The Other Black Dog” – Genesis Owusu
By: Michael Primiani
Early in 2021, my buddy Zac turned me on to the weirdo brilliance of Ghanian-Australian artist Genesis Owusu. Combining alt R&B, experimental Hip-hop, Electronic music, Neo-soul and experimental Rock – Genesis has a sound all his own and that I have not been able to get enough of. His debut album – Smiling With No Teeth – is on my Best of 2021 list. It won Album of the Year at the Australian Music Awards and it came second on our Best R&B Albums of the Year (losing ever so slightly to another up and comer – PinkPantheress). “The Other Black Dog” is an up-tempo highlight that feels like you are being chased by a gang of dogs. A groovy bassline forms a driving melody that you can’t help but move to, like a hound on your tail. The combo of Electronica (production by Touch Sensitive), rapping and Rock drums and distorted bass remind me of TV on the Radio and the Gorillaz. There are so many dope parts of this song and this is just one of 15 on a masterful record. I’m excited for what Genesis puts out next and you should be too! BONUS: Check out “Gold Chains”, a track selected by former President Barack Obama on his Best Track of 2021 list.
“This Sound” – Greentea Peng
By: Matt Lipson
I first heard Greentea Peng on my favorite weekly listen, Iggy Confidential on BBC Radio 6, hosted by Iggy Pop, an early fan and champion of Peng. I haven’t really found a point of comparison since, which is the true mark of an exciting new artist. She’s got this psychedelic Neo-soul style and delivers pure poetry in a kind of detached east-London accent. Greentea’s 2020 album MAN MADE is so ambitious and so beautifully executed; it’s Jazz, Dub, Soul, and R&B in this hour-long package that surprises at so many turns. “This Sound” is a great example; a prominent bassline and funk guitar lay the groundwork for some brilliant, no-frills rapping, and some disjointed lead guitar noodling brings the whole thing just perfectly off-kilter. Her delivery is always closer to slam poetry than to soul singing, so un-rushed and malleable and cool, like Sister Nancy channeling A Tribe Called Quest and Lauryn Hill.
“Smile” – Monjola
By: Adulis Mokanan
I was watching my friend DJ Doubledown do a live music set on Twitch. He played the music video for this song and I said “Who is this???”. Doubledown told me “Monjola- Smile” and I needed to know more about this artist. I looked him up on YouTube, and “Smile” was released in April 2021. The music video only has 14k views and Monjola only has 500 subscribers on YouTube, talk about finding a GEM!
Monjola is an Alternative R&B artist from Dublin, Ireland, he runs exhibitions with his art collective, “Cleavage Club.” and he also started his own independent label called “Chamomile Records” alongside his brother, Moyo, who produced Smile. I like this song because it is uplifting, positive and a message we need to hear during the times we’re living – so press play and smile along!
“Down Under” – Myles Lloyd
By: Jonathan Knox
It’s easy to listen to Myles Lloyd and draw comparisons to great contemporary R&B singers. His smooth and relaxed vocal delivery brings to mind House of Balloons-era Weeknd tracks, though with Lloyd’s talent, he makes it all his own. The criminally underheard “Down Under” creates a neon light late night vibe, using slick minimal beats, a mesmerizing hook and stellar vocals. The Quebec-based artist maintains the promise of this track throughout his recently released (and excellent!) sophomore album, Forever, Yours, making it only a matter of time until more people catch on and realize that this is an artist whose star is very clearly on the rise.
“Antidote (Feat. Adekunle Gold)” – Nao
By: Steve Panacci
One of the best things about what we do is discover new music and up and coming artists, and discovering Nao was special. I dug deeper into her story and discovered she studied Jazz at a local music school in London and previously did backup singing for Kwabs and Jarvis Cocker before releasing her first album in 2016. While she’s been around since then, her latest studio album And Then Life Was Beautiful is something for the ages. I particularly enjoyed the song “Antidote”. The R&B track has an Afro-Pop influence with a heavy presence of drum and loops. Its melody and energy are perfect. If there was anything good to come out of lockdowns in 2020, it’s this song.
“IMMORTAL (Feat. Yourbeautifulruin)” – Ricki Monique
By: Richmond Bugyei-Twum
One day I was sitting listening to one of my favorite podcasts, and suddenly at the end of the video I hear this mellow hypnotic yet jazzy production that piqued my interest. Then Ricki Monique’s voice comes in and blows all expectations away, bringing back that golden era of hip hop sound where lyricism sat above all else. As you vibe along to the super catchy production, Ricki’s voice keeps you following along as she floats so effortlessly on the beat with an amazing cadence and relatable lyrics. The visuals fit in perfectly alongside the production and lyrics like a Tetris piece making you feel like a passenger on a train ride through the 90s.
“Strong” – TRP.P
By: Lindsay Bell
“Strong” by TRP.P is a politically charged song that highlights racial disparities experienced by the Black community in our modern society. They speak of the ways that Black people have to circumnavigate a world that silences their experiences and targets them violently for just existing. Lyrics like “How come we can’t jog, or just sleep in our own bed?” reference the death of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor who were victims of hate crimes. This track paints the picture that after all that’s been done to insight change, there’s still a long way to go.
“INTRO” – TyriqueOrDie
By: Lindsay Bell
I heard TyriqueOrDie for the first time when a friend cast his video “CYBER TRUCK!” on the TV and said, “check out my friend.” Over the years I have grown certain expectations around people showing me their friend’s artwork, but this artist shattered my assumptions. TyriqueOrDie is an up-and-coming artist from Scarborough, Ontario who masterfully blends Trap and House into explosive jams. His recipe works like a stimulant as it heightens your senses and injects your body with chaotic energy. Those who listen will be infected with classic House groove and hard-hitting Trap vocals and may experience symptoms of intense euphoria and uncontrollable movements. It’s safe to say that TyriqueOrDie is an artist to look out for!
“Up” – Victory
By: Regan McDonnell
Twenty-year-old Toronto based artist Victory has been building her name in the Canadian R&B scene through a string of rich yet relaxed singles over the past two years, earning her praise from publications such as Complex, CBC and Virgin Radio. Striking a balance between her soulful style mixed with her Opera trained singing, Victory is able to effortlessly soar to high notes, ensuring her star is also sure to continue soaring in Canada and elsewhere. 2021 saw three brand new singles from Victory and more music has been promised to her fans for 2022. Be sure to keep your ear to the ground as her latest single is set to debut in early March and will surely be worth the wait and listen.
“Slurpee” – Zach Zoya
By: Regan McDonnell
A fast-rising star in the Canadian Hip-Hop landscape, Zach Zoya has impressed with his musical versatility. Among the many recent accolades Zoya has collected over a short period of time, he was named by YouTube as one of their ‘Trending Artists on the Rise”, he partnered with the NFL Canada for their exclusive #PepsiHalfTimeShow to perform a cover of Kendrick Lamar’s “LOVE” and he was one named as one of three Canadian artists to be featured on SoundCloud’s Black History Month initiative. Zoya is set to release his sophomore EP this year and we cannot wait to hear it!
You can find all of these tracks in the Spotify playlist below:
Special thanks to Adulis Mokanan for production assistance and to Andre Grant for his custom images