Photo: Jason Koerner/Getty Images
7 Incredible Sets From AfroNation Miami: WizKid, Uncle Waffles, Black Sherif & More
At the inaugural AfroNation Miami, stars of the Nigerian Afrobeats movement joined by Caribbean artists, South African amapiano DJs and MCs, all of whom kept the sweltering crowds grooving until late into the night.
If the inaugural AfroNation Miami could be described in one word, it’s hot — in all its meanings.
With thousands of tourists descending on Miami for Memorial Day weekend, many of them celebrating Urban Beach Week, it should be a no-brainer to have a festival focused on Black artists and music from around the world. The thing is, Florida gets pretty balmy in the summer — in the 80s and 90s every day — and the high-humidity heat during the two-day fest felt almost unbearable at times. But artists and fans alike didn’t let the climate ruin their good time.
An incredible selection of talent from across the African diaspora played to an approximately 20,000-strong crowd at LoanDepot Park, usually home of the Miami Marlins. Stars of the Nigerian Afrobeats movement including Burna Boy, Asake, and WizKid gave pulse-pounding performances, joined by Caribbean artists such as Jamaican dancehall talent Mavado and Panamanian reggaetonista Sech. Just outside on the stadium plaza, an entire stage of South African amapiano DJs and MCs kept the sweltering crowds grooving until late into the night.
There were a few snags common to festivals. Some artists, like WizKid, showed up late to their sets. Others, like Beenie Man, dropped out entirely, only to be replaced by the charismatic up-and-comer Shenseea. But more often than not, the international crowd was granted a formidable festival experience, anchored by extraordinary sets from some of the best Black artists in the world. Read on to discover seven of the most jaw-dropping sets from AfroNation Miami.
Asake Bares All-In Enrapturing Performance
Not even clothes could contain Asake’s exuberance — the Nigerian Afrobeats rookie basically undressed himself slowly during his half-hour performance. First he threw away his neon green wraparound shades. Then he ditched his Louis Vuitton jean jacket on the stage floor. His chunky silver sneakers came off at one point, and he finished the rest of the set walking around in his socks. His ear monitor fell out during one of his many twirling dance moves and had to be replaced later by a stagehand.
Eventually, that left his white tank top, which he’d been using to wipe away sweat for the whole performance. That came off at the climax of the show, when the singer stepped over the barrier to commune with the crowd. As a security guard supported him he leaned back in a crucifix pose, letting fans tug at his shirt until he finally tossed it into the throng.
Asake has come a long way in a very short time. The 28-year-old dropped his first album just last year and has been making the media rounds in the states, appearing on "Jimmy Fallon" and "Good Morning America." He’s a star on the rise, representing the new wave of Afrobeats, its embrace of continent-spanning sounds like amapiano (which he namechecks in the title of one of his biggest songs), and its potential to go even more global than it already is.
His stage presence signifies his world-conquering potential. He doesn’t interact with the crowd like Ckay or Burna Boy. He dances and sings, in a deep, sonorous voice, as if possessed by some spirit, staring into the middle distance, concentrating on nothing but leaving it all on the stage. It’s almost as if he was in a trance, and the moment he walked off after performing "Mr. Money," it felt as though everyone present had all snapped out of one as well, hypnotized by this one-of-a-kind talent.
Black Sherif Spits From The Streets
Although he played to a sparse crowd early Saturday, Ghanaian rapper Black Sherif didn’t let that stop him from giving a blistering performance. Fans holding signs thanking him for songs such as "Second Sermon" had camped out in front of the stage, and he didn’t disappoint them, delivering a passionate sermon from the streets.
As a proponent of the gritty Ghanaian offshoot of UK drill known as asakaa, Black Sherif was one of the few hip-hop-oriented acts on a bill dominated by pop and Afrobeats stars. He told stories of darkness and heartbreak with incredible focus and intensity, almost shouting his lyrics at the crowd in a raspy voice. Songs such as "45" feature lyrics in English and Sherif’s native language of Twi, and to his credit, his delivery was flawless through the entire set. He didn’t skip a single word, which is more than can be said for many American rappers.
The drama of Black Sherif’s passionate performance climaxed with his final song, the hit "Kwaku the Traveler," weaving a tragic tale of falling from and grinding his way back to success. About 30 seconds in, the DJ let the beat drop out, leaving the rapper to finish the song with a captivating a capella.
Burna Boy Withstands The Heat For Fuego Saturday Closing Set
Drenched in sweat, even Burna Boy eventually needed a break from the heat. After eight songs straight of passionate performance, he finally turned to a stagehand and declared "I’m gonna need some water."
The fiery performance was the climax of AfroNation’s Saturday lineup, and Damini Ogulu did not disappoint. Backed by a full band even larger than Asake’s, with backup singers, dancers, a brass section, and a drumline playing African percussion instruments, the global superstar dripped with charisma as well as perspiration. His million-watt smile shone brighter than any of the lights in the LoanDepot Park stands as he strutted around the stage and blazed through solo renditions of his biggest hits, including "Secret," as well as tracks from his recent album Love Damini such as the Ed Sheeran collab "For My Hand."
With pyrotechnics, smoke machines, and a stadium full of adoring fans at his disposal, the king of Afrobeats put on an incredible spectacle in Miami, with the most iconic moment coming at the end as the entire ballpark sang the chorus of "It’s Plenty" a capella. But an even more iconic moment may have been after performing his Dave collab "Location" when he recovered a Haitian flag, waved it around, and wrapped it around his neck like a bandanna. Out of all the flags being waved in the audience, this is the one that matters most in Miami with its huge Haitian diaspora population. And when Africa’s biggest star bore it proudly, the crowd erupted.
Ckay Celebrates Love And Money On The Main Stage
Before he went onstage at AfroNation Miami, Ckay’s DJ declared him "Africa’s number one boyfriend." It was easy to see why: Not only did he perform some of his most romantic songs, but the Nigerian singer spent much of the show making eyes at the crowd. And making heart symbols with his hands. And peace signs.
It seems the fans loved him back. The phones all came out upon hearing the opening strains of closer "Love Nwatiti" (a massive international hit and the first No. 1 on Billboard’s Afrobeats chart) and the crowd roared with approval upon hearing the sweet guitar melody on "Emiliana." "This is my first time doing this song in Miami, I want you to make some noise!" he declared.
The show wasn’t all about romance, however. Penultimate song "Hallelujah" is an ode to cash money, and Ckay displayed his clout by bringing out featured rapper Blaqbonez to perform his verse. "If you wanna make some money this year say ‘Ohhhhh,’" the singer said to the crowd before jumping into the amapiano-influenced track. Money and talent — maybe he would make a good boyfriend.
Major League DJz Offer A Scorching Set Of South African Sounds
More than anyone else at AfroNation, Major League DJz showed the world-conquering potential of amapiano.
Closing the stage on Sunday night, the duo ran through a scorching set of amapiano favorites, even slipping in an immaculate remix of Beyoncé’s "CUFF IT" while a succession of MCs pumped up the crowd. Shifting the vibe at will — from intense, futuristic rave and trance-indebted synth tracks to lighter tunes with soulful piano and organ chords, and always with eruptions of log drum bass and skillfully-deployed delays, filters, and other effects — they kept the crowd enraptured and in thrall to the power of ‘piano. So deeply in command of the audience were they that a guest appearance midway through the set threatened to derail it entirely. Atlanta rapper Kali took the stage to perform her song "Area Codes," and the trap-influenced track felt like a wrench thrown into the Majors’ finely-tuned amapiano machine.
Kali wasn’t the only guest appearance, as by the end of the set, it felt as though the entire Piano People collective had come on stage. Over a dozen people stood behind, in front of, and even on top of the decks, celebrating their success and lending their collective energy to give the performance a feeling of unstoppability. The MCs hyped up the crowd, the dancers (including the previous night’s headliner Uncle Waffles) danced, and the rest basked in the vibes of the by-then-bursting crowd. This is how Africa raves, and the rest of the world would be smart to follow along.
DJ Uncle Waffles Brings Impeccable Femme Energy To Piano People Stage
While the stars of Afrobeats took the stage inside on the LoanDepot Park field, outside the stadium the Piano People stage had the feel of a block party. Focusing on the ascendant South African dance genre of amapiano, the stage brought some of the scene’s biggest talents to Miami.
It was Saturday night headliner Uncle Waffles, also the only female artist to headline either stage, that offered the purest take on what makes the genre exciting. Looking like a Matrix character in a black jumpsuit and neon-green hair, the South Africa-via-eSwatini DJ put up a powerful mix of amapiano tracks, including her own massive hit "Tanzania." The pulse of the log drum bass and the steamy rhythms felt right at home in the swampy humidity.
While many of the loudest, most energetic voices at the stage were MCs such as Focalistic and Musa Keys, Waffles, despite primarily DJing, quietly behind the decks. She would often start a track and jump to the front of the stage to join her dance troupe, themselves dressed in cheerleader-style outfits, in thrilling, coordinated dance routines. The energy and enthusiasm onstage and in the crowd manifested itself the most in these moments.
WizKid Shows He's The Star Of The Show
WizKid knows he’s a star (he was calling himself "Starboy" long before The Weeknd) and at his festival-closing set on Sunday night, he delivered a star experience, taking the stage from atop a massive stair-shaped backdrop designed to let him descend from high above the rest of us.
Wearing sequined black pants, a leather fedora, and shades that never left his eyes, Wizzy strutted back and forth on the stage like a proud lion, performing the biggest hits from his massive catalog. Some guests came out, such as Buju for "Mood," while the artist let the crowd sing-along to Drake’s verse on "Come Closer." The instrumentals seemed to switch between a DJ and a live band, both of them obscured by the stage setup.
At other sets such as Burna Boy and Asake, the band was a major feature; here there was nothing to distract the crowd from Big Wiz. He absorbed their love like a sponge, and may have caught some thrown underwear from the crowd too.
Much was made by the artist of the global nature of the crowd. Wizzy started out his set by shouting out all the Caribbeans, from Jamaica to Trinidad and certainly Haiti, present in the audience, before moving on to Africa. "I see your flags, I see you repping for your country right now," he said. "This is a sexy ass crowd tonight, baby!"
Photos: Jason Koerner/Getty Images; Kristy Sparow/Getty Images; Gonzalo Marroquin/Getty Images for REVOLVE; Jeremy Moeller/Getty Images; Jason Koerner/Getty Images; Amazing Klef; Dave Benett/Getty Images for Bang and Olufsen
Meet The Latest Wave Of Rising Afrobeats Stars: AMAARAE, BNXN, Oladapo & More
The pan-African pop movement has generated significant talent in recent years. Here are 10 Afrobeats artists who are bringing their unique voices and perspectives to the scene.
Based in Nigeria, the genre has exploded in popularity internationally. Billboard recently started a chart for Afrobeats singles, and the Recording Academy recently added a brand new category, Best African Music Performance, to honor the continent’s best musicians.
The pan-African pop movement has generated lots of fresh and interesting talent in recent years. Red on for 10 Afrobeats artists who are bringing their unique voices and perspectives to the scene.
Born in the Bronx, Ghanaian American AMAARAE was raised between Atlanta and Accra — and it shows in her unapologetically sexy music. Bridging the gap between African and American sounds is AMAARAE's M.O.; she’s collaborated with artists on both continents, from Blaqbonez and Stonebwoy to Kaytraminé and Kali Uchis.
On songs like "Wasted Eyes" off her latest album Fountain Baby, AMAARAE effortlessly blends Afrobeats with R&B and neo-soul, alongside raps that reverberate with trap braggadocio: "Fresh to death, I’m beyond heat / Activist in my Dior jeans."
Speaking of designer clothes, she’s also becoming something of a fashion icon, having been profiled in British Vogue about her style and teaming with Shygirl and Arca on a campaign for H&M’s collab line with Mugler.
All over the world, forward thinking musicians are introducing new innovations to pop music. Take NewJeans, for instance — the K-pop quintet introduced global club influences and Western collabs into their music, resulting in rave reviews and massive hits.
Nigerian American R&B singer AMAKA, formerly of the sister act VanJess, also wanted to do something different for her solo debut, recruiting Haitian Canadian producer/DJ KAYTRANADA, whose woozy take on house music has earned him two GRAMMY Awards. The resulting EP, Oasis, is incredibly interesting, blending suave R&B with Afrobeats influences for an irresistible, sensual combination that feels like an exciting new direction for African pop music.
You don’t have to look far to find the next major Afrobeats superstar, the next Burna Boy or Wizkid — it’s Asake. This month he sold out London’s O2 Arena. Before that he took Miami’s inaugural AfroNation festival by storm with a showstopping set that saw the audience tearing off his clothes. And even before that he had booked appearances on "The Tonight Show" and "Good Morning America."
He is incredibly talented and charismatic, as his rapid rise proves. But what makes the deep-voiced Lagotian so compelling isn’t just that — it’s also the embrace of a musical pan-Africanism that feels special. He blows open the Afrobeats formula by introducing influences from all over the continent. "Dull" from his debut Mr. Money With the Vibes interpolates the traditional Yoruba genre of fújì, but he also includes séga, a traditional genre from Mauritius and Réunion, on "Yoga," from this year’s Work of Art. Of course, there’s also his primary influence, South Africa’s massive house offshoot amapiano — he even named a song, which became a massive hit, after the genre
Most big Afrobeats and amapiano stars tend to perform mainly in English, with many also mixing in African languages like Yoruba, Igbo, and Zulu. But with a massive portion of the continent speaking French, it makes sense that a few Francophone Afrobeats musicians have risen up.
Born in Mali and raised outside of Paris, Aya Nakamura comes from a family of griots (musical oral historians), meaning music runs in the family. She’s had a string of massive hits in France and elsewhere in Europe, including 2018’s massive "Djadja," a bold breakup anthem which topped the charts in France and the Netherlands.
This year, she’s returned with a new album, DNK, and rather than take on the trendy amapiano influences embraced by the rest of the Afrobeats world, she’s offering her own take on zouk, a French-Caribbean dance genre. In our borderless era of pop music, this is one talent that certainly deserves more attention in the states.
Formerly known as Buju, BNXN (a stylization of his last name Benson) can count Burna Boy as a mentor, having quarantined with the King of Afrobeats during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Like his mentor, BNXN describes his sound as Afro-fusion, taking cues from R&B, dancehall, and traditional genres from Nigeria.
It’s this Naija identity that truly powers his distinctive songwriting voice, however. A song by BNXN will feature plenty of local witticisms and lyrics in pidgin and local languages, as well as standard English, and his faculty as a storyteller ranges from tales from the gritty streets to childhood recollections of Lagos.
Afrobeats is full of romantics, from Burna Boy to "Africa’s number one boyfriend" Ckay. With his own "Afro-life" take on songwriting, Fireboy DML certainly occupies that lane well, taking on a Casanova persona and weaving tales of love and heartbreak that frequently see him top the charts.
His track "Peru" resulted in remixes from Ed Sheeran and 21 Savage, topping the Billboard U.S. Afrobeats Songs chart last year and making it to 53 on the Hot 100 and all the way to number two on the Global 200. Fireboy DML’s reappeared this year with the uptempo, dancefloor-ready "Someone" and amapiano-influenced "YAWA," both taking his sound in interesting new directions.
Though he’s been a star in Nigeria and Ghana for some time, it’s taken Mr Eazi until now to announce a debut album, currently due in October. Lead single "Chop Time, No Friend," with a title taken from a pidgin phrase meaning "live in the moment," is a breezy, catchy take on Afrobeats with a vibrant video paying tribute to local life in Dakar, Senegal.
It’s only one part of the artist’s ambitions. He’s also joined BBC Radio 1Xtra selector DJ Edu to create the ChopLife Soundsystem, a new project designed to highlight sounds from across the continent. Their first release Chop Life, Vol. 1: Mzansi Chronicles delves into amapiano, featuring stars of the genre such as Focalistic and Major League DJz.
An actress, singer, and songwriter, Lisa Yaro is a triple threat. She’s acted alongside Vanessa Hudgens in movies like Asking For It, and written for the likes of will.i.am. Now she’s turning her attention to music with her debut EP My Way. It’s a pivot that may prove her most exciting move yet: Single "SAVAGE" bristles with amapiano-influenced brawn, while the title track offers a confident take on the Afrobeats sound. With the scene remaining dominated by male artists, it’s exciting to see a female singer arrive with such a clearly-defined sound.
With a style incorporating highlife, R&B, and pop with lyrics in English, Yoruba, and Nigerian pidgin, Oladapo is another up-and-coming musician in the Afro-fusion lane. He got an early boost when his 2019 single "Mango" was shortlisted by Mr Eazi’s Empawa Africa initiative, and since then he’s refined his style on bright and romantic hits like "Proud."
His latest single, "IF AT ALL," adds amapiano log drums and blends a wistful instrumental with contemplative lyrics.
In pop music it sometimes helps to have a signature look. There’s Missy Elliot’s bulbous "Supa Dupa Fly" fit, or KISS’ black-and-white face paint. Pharrell had his vintage Vivienne Westwood hat, and Dame Viv herself helped defined the punk aesthetic by styling the Sex Pistols. Nigerian singer Ruger has…an eyepatch.
To be clear, he’s not visually impaired in any way, he just wears it because it’s hard. Specifically, as he once told an interviewer, it’s a tie-in with his artist name — taken from the Ruger firearms company — and his persona as a sniper, as well as a tribute to a friend in the Nigerian military who really did lose an eye. Of course it’s not all about the eyepatch, because Ruger’s bubbly blend of dancehall and Afrobeats on songs like "Bounce" is a winning pop formula.
Photo: Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic via Getty Images
New Music Friday: Listen To New Releases From Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez, Blackpink & More
The summer of 2023 may be winding down, but its musical offerings remain white-hot. Check out some new songs and albums that arrived on Aug. 25, from Maluma to Burna Boy.
The faintest hint of fall is in the air, but the summer of 2023's musical deluge continues unabated. Across genres, scenes and styles, the landscape continues to flourish.
We have Miley Cyrus's first song since Endless Summer Vacation — a vulnerable, proudly "unfinished" offering. On the opposite end of the vibe spectrum, Selena Gomez has thrown caution to the wind with the carefree "Single Soon."
Miley Cyrus — "Used To Be Young"
On her first song since Endless Summer Vacation arrived in March, two-time GRAMMY nominee Cyrus avoids tidiness, and pursues honest reflection.
"The time has arrived to release a song that I could perfect forever. Although my work is done, this song will continue to write itself everyday," she said in a statement. "The fact it remains unfinished is a part of its beauty. That is my life at this moment ….. unfinished yet complete."
"Used to Be Young" belongs to the pantheon of "turning 30" jams; therein, Cyrus looks back on her misspent youth, and the attendant heat of the spotlight. "You say I used to be wild/ I say I used to be young," she sings.
In the stark video, she gazes unflinchingly into the lens, without varnish or artifice.
Selena Gomez — "Single Soon"
Where Cyrus' new song bittersweetly gazes backward, Gomez's carbonated new jam "Single Soon" is focused on the promised reverie of tomorrow — sans boyfriend.
"Should I do it on the phone?/ Should I leave a little note/ In the pocket of his coat?" the two-time GRAMMY nominee wonders, sounding positively giddy about her unshackling from Mr. Wrong.
As the song unspools, Gomez gets ready for a wild night out; the song ends with the portentous question, "Well, who's next?" If you're ready to slough off your summer fling, "Single Soon" is for you.
Ariana Grande — Yours Truly: Tenth Anniversary
The two-time GRAMMY winner and 15-time nominee's acclaimed debut album, Yours Truly, arrived on Aug. 30, 2013; thus, it's time to ring in its tin anniversary.
Granted, these aren't "new songs," per se: rather, in a weeklong celebration, Grande is reintroducing audiences to Yours Truly.
Dive in, and you'll find "Live From London" versions of multiple songs. Plus — perhaps most enticingly — the sprawling re-release contains two new versions of "The Way," her hit collaboration with late ex Mac Miller.
Maluma — Don Juan
Papi Juancho is dead; long live Don Juan. "Fue un placer," Maluma wrote on Instagram last New Year's Eve. (It translates to "It was a pleasure.")
And with that, the Colombian rap-singing heavyweight ushered in a new character. He's now Don Juan — in a reference both to the fictional libertine and his birth name of Juan Luis Londoño Arias.
Now, Don Juan's out with his titular album — which he dubs a "mature" blending of the musics that got him going, like reggaeton, house, salsa, and hip-hop.
Burna Boy & Dave — "Cheat On Me"
Just over a year after his latest album, Love, Damini, Burna Boy is back with I Told Them… The Nigerian star offers another forward-thinking missive with his seventh album.
Featuring the likes of 21 Savage, J. Cole, and Wu-Tang Clan's GZA and RZA, I Told Them… is one highlight after the next — and "Cheat On Me" is one of them. For the advance single, the GRAMMY-winning Afro-fusion dynamo teamed up with London rapper Dave.
Therein, the pair expound on getting out of their own way. The chorus, powered by a sample from British-Ghanian singer/songwriter Kwabs, sums it all up: "I couldn't see/ I was cheating on, cheating on me."
Blackpink — "The Girls"
BLACKPINK are a bona fide cross-cultural sensation, but they won't stop at the music: they're a game now.
A little over a year after their second studio album, Born Pink, the acclaimed South Korean girl group has released a mobile app, succinctly called "The Game." Therein — and above — players can watch the video for "The Girls," their first post-Born Pink jam.
Don't say Jisoo, Jennie, Rosé, and Lisa didn't warn you: "Stop sign, we're burning it down/ Better watch out, we coming in loud/ Bang, bang, just playing around/ Don't mess with the girls, with the girls, with the girls."
The Killers — "Your Side of Town"
The Killers' beloved debut album, Hot Fuss, turns 20 next year; as a ramp-up, here's "Your Side of Town," a new slice of electro-pop from the Vegas crew.
The sleek, aerodynamic, Auto-Tuned "Your Side of Town" is their first single since their acclaimed pair of albums, 2020's Imploding the Mirage and 2021's Pressure Machine.
Here, the five-time GRAMMY nominees take a Pet Shop Boys-like tack with the music; lyrically, they're still putting the "heart" in heartland rock.
"I'm hanging on your side of town/ I notice when you're not around," frontman Brandon Flowers sings on the chorus. "Can't keep my cool, I'm burning inside/ A broken heartbeat, barely alive."
But the Killers — like everyone on this list — remain very alive.
Photo: (L-R) Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images for BET, Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for The Recording Academy, Scott Dudelson/Getty Images, Timothy Norris/Getty Images, Erika Goldring/WireImage, Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Grey Goose Essences
2022 Year In Review: 7 Trends That Defined R&B
From the return of beloved mainstays to unexpected collaborations, revisit some of the year's biggest moments in R&B.
2022 was a glowing year for R&B, with newcomers and legends alike shattering claims that the genre is on the brink of losing its popularity. It was quite the opposite, actually — newer R&B stars like Flo helped revive '00s nostalgia, and veterans like Babyface showed that there's strength in collaboration.
As the world re-emerges from the pandemic, artists channeled a brighter energy in their music, using more upbeat melodies and lyrics that emphasized fun and romance. Chlöe provided the twerk-friendly anthems, while FKA Twigs' Caprisongs mixtape featured a song for every kind of party imaginable.
There were plenty more R&B stars new and old who contributed to the genre's shine this year. Below, revisit some of 2022's biggest moments in R&B.
The Ladies Seduced Us
R&B has always maintained a sensual core, and the women of the genre confidently reminded listeners of that fact throughout 2022. On her second album Age/Sex/Location, Ari Lennox explored the ebbs and flows of lust with songs like the NSFW "Leak It" (featuring Chlöe) and the flirtatious "Hoodie." Chlöe also continued to unleash her seductive goddess on her solo single, "Surprise."
Two years before SZA dropped her long-anticipated second album, SOS, in December, she showed off her pole-dancing skills in a 2020 Instagram post teasing single "Shirt." (And when lead single "Good Days" arrived in March, she continued her seduction in the outro of the music video.) The LP details the journey of post-lust heartbreak and how to regain one's confidence, from the sneaky affair of "Low" to feeling empty on the punk rock-inspired "F2F."
Peacock's Bel-Air star Coco Jones proved her singing ability was equally as strong as her acting skills, as she captured hearts with her debut EP, What I Didn't Tell You, including the yearning single "ICU." Amber Mark, also a fellow newcomer, released her debut album Three Dimensions Deep. The LP features an array of genres, but songs like "Softly" are what really entranced listeners.
Singers From Across the Pond Ruled
The appreciation for R&B spans shores, and British artists delivered fresh spins on the genre. Cheltenham's FKA Twigs set the energetic tone with the January release of her first mixtape, Caprisongs, which is filled with a kaleidoscope of sounds from drum and bass to trap. Leicester's Mahalia navigated heartbreak with her Letter To Ur Ex EP. Southampton native Craig David tapped back into his '00s style with his nostalgic eighth album, 22, which opens with an interpolation of fellow R&B star Jon B.'s 1998 classic, "They Don't Know."
After winning over stateside fans in 2018 with her GRAMMY-winning single "Boo'd Up," London-born Ella Mai returned with her sophomore album Heart on My Sleeve — a self-described "therapy session" that highlighted the artist's diaristic songwriting. London also spawned a new girl group this year with Flo, a trio who channeled the heydays of '00s pop&B with their debut EP, The Lead.
Afrobeats Trickled Into The Genre
Afrobeats' international popularity has surged over the past few years, so much so that other genres are now borrowing its infectious groove. This year, R&B singers infused the genre into their own sounds, further showcasing Afrobeats' versatility.
FKA Twigs' Caprisongs features "Jealousy," a mellow collab with burgeoning Nigerian artist Rema. Two months later, Rema dropped R&B-infused music of his own on his debut album, Rave & Roses, which featured guests like 6lack and Chris Brown.
The month of June gave way to sweltering summer collaborations. Diddy paired up with Bryson Tiller on the brooding "Gotta Move On," which scored the music mogul his 11th No. 1 on Billboard's Adult R&B Airplay chart. And in true Diddy fashion, he dropped a "Queens" version featuring Yung Miami and Ashanti.
Not long after, Chris Brown and Wizkid joined forces for "Call Me Every Day." Marking their third collaboration, the sultry smash illustrated just why they're crowned the princes of R&B and Afrobeats, respectively.
Artists Took It Back To The Club
R&B is not always about love songs and heartbreak. Rather than dwell in their feelings, a handful of singers opted for a more lighthearted approach in their music. After jumpstarting her solo era with last year's booty anthem "Have Mercy," Chlöe kept the ode to curves going with "Treat Me." Built atop a sample of Bubba Sparxxx and the Ying Yang Twins' 2005 hit "Ms. New Booty," "Treat Me" is a self-confidence anthem.
Baby Tate also borrowed an Atlanta crunk staple from the same year for "Ain't No Love." Featuring fellow Georgia native 2 Chainz, the bouncy tune samples Ciara's "Oh" collaboration with Ludacris, spinning the '00s classic into a modern-day jam.
On the opposite coast, Los Angeles' own Blxst solidified his signature laid-back style with his debut album, Before You Go. Lead single "About You" is best served with a cold one and a two-step.
Kehlani then took listeners to their native Bay Area with April's Blue Water Road album (where Blxst also makes an appearance). The Slick Rick-sampling "Wish I Never" is the ultimate '90s house party jam while the upbeat "Up At Night" with Justin Bieber will do just what its title implies.
Other club genres also came into play, with Ravyn Lenae experiencing house euphoria on Hypnos' "Xtasy" and FKA Twigs going full dancehall alongside shygirl with Caprisongs' "Papi Bones."
There Were Many '90s Celebrations
The '90s still has a tight grip on R&B's current sound, and the artists who ruled that decade proudly reminded us of that fact in 2022. For the 25th anniversary of Mariah Carey's transitional Butterfly album, the icon released a special re-edition that features an updated version of "The Roof" (with added vocals from Brandy) and "Whenever You Call" (with Brian McKnight), a live version of "My All" from VH1 Divas Live, the "Amorphous Anniversary Club Remix" of the title track and more.
Usher also got in the commemorative spirit, releasing My Way (25th Anniversary Edition) — which happens to share the same Sept. 16 anniversary as Carey's Butterfly. The new edition included reimagined versions of three tracks: "My Way (Ryan James Carr Remake)," "Nice & Slow (Ryan James Carr Remake)" and "You Make Me Wanna… (Ryan James Carr Remake)."
To commemorate another 25th anniversary, Erykah Badu celebrated her GRAMMY-winning Baduizm debut with a pair of shows at London's Royal Festival Hall.
Other '90s celebrations came from R&B quartet Xscape, who received the Lady of Soul honor at the 2022 Soul Train Awards, and new artist LAYA, who honored Missy Elliott with a cover of the rapper's 1997 single "Sock It 2 Me" for Women's History Month.
Alt-R&B Girls Made A Return
The beauty of R&B is in its sonic diversity. Alternative R&B has blossomed in popularity over the years, and 2022 saw the return of some of the subgenre's leaders.
Santigold made a thrilling return with Spirituals, the singer's first album in six years. An emotional journey through lockdown, the LP fuses gospel, electronica, punk and pop, all tied together with Santigold's signature yelps.
Another long-awaited comeback came from Kelela, who re-emerged in September after a five-year hiatus. Her single "Washed Away" is the launchpad to her second album Raven, which will be released next February. "Raven is my first breath taken in the dark, an affirmation of Black femme perspective in the midst of systemic erasure and the sound of our vulnerability turned to power," Kelela shared in a press release.
Although Solange didn't give fans new music in 2022, the singer was honored with the 2022 NYU Global Trailblazer Award for Creative and Artistic Excellence in March. And ever the ever-unpredictable star, she composed a score for the New York City Ballet that came to life with a performance at the Lincoln Center in September.
Old School Met New School
This year, there was no separation of generations. Rather, the "legend vs. newcomer" hierarchy was completely dismissed, as artists from the '60s to today joined forces in the recording studio.
Ronald Isley and Beyoncé wooed soul fans with their rework of "Make Me Say It Again, Girl," which originally appeared on the Isley Brothers' 1975 album, The Heat Is On. Isley's wife/manager Kandy told Billboard that Beyoncé's mother Tina Knowles-Lawson was integral in the collaboration, marking a full-circle moment for the star, who grew up listening to the group. "The fact that they are giving us permission to put it out at this time is just overly special," Kandy said.
Ciara and Summer Walker's lilting vocals complemented each other on "Better Thangs," while SZA (whose stage name pays homage to Wu-Tang Clan member RZA) featured the late Ol' Dirty Bastard on SOS. Elsewhere, PJ Morton's latest album is a celebration of collaboration, with guests Stevie Wonder and Nas on "Water," and Jill Scott and Alex Isley on "Still Believe."
In October, Babyface passed down his GRAMMY-winning torch to the women of R&B with his collaboration album, Girls Night Out. Solely featuring the new generation of female singers, from Muni Long to Ari Lennox, the album showed that romance has no age.
Mary J. Blige donned her Queen of Hip-Hop Soul crown on her latest album, which features rappers like Dave East and Fivio Foreign. On the opposite end, Toronto R&B duo dvsn teamed with male R&B group Jagged Edge on "What's Up" from the former's Working on My Karma album.
Whether it was R&B's legends or promising newcomers making waves, this year had plenty of proof that the genre is still thriving — and never going anywhere.
Photo: Prince Williams/Wireimage via Getty Images
15 Must-Hear New Albums Out This Month: RM, Drake & 21 Savage, Louis Tomlinson, Dolly Parton & More
Here are the can't-miss releases and massive new albums dropping in November 2022 from BTS' RM, Run The Jewels, Honey Dijon, Wizkid, and many others.
Although November might bring cooler weather, the month's releases are hot enough to keep you toasty. From psychedelic folk and ambitious rap, to gleaming pop and future bass, November's release calendar boasts a variety of bold returns.
This month sees Drake and 21 Savage pull up with their surprise collaborative album Her Loss, as well as Roddy Ricch's highly anticipated Feed Tha Streets III. Brockhampton will reunite one last time to release The Family, and Weyes Blood will blend soft rock and folk on And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow. Gryffin will start the month off right with his futuristic record, Alive, while Dolly Parton fans can turn back the clock with her greatest hits collection.
Below, check out a guide to the must-hear albums dropping in November 2022, from big names you know to newcomers you'll want to add to your playlist. — Taila Lee
Russell Dickerson - Russell Dickerson
Release date: Nov. 4
Tennessee native Russell Dickerson is no stranger to country music chart domination, having clocked No. 1 four times, beginning with 2017's "Yours." This month, he returns with his self-titled third album, featuring 15 songs that hit all the hallmarks that fans love.
Like 2017's Yours and 2020's Southern Symphony, Russell Dickerson covers heartstring-plucking love songs ("God Gave Me A Girl"), wistful reflections on the past and regret ("Blame It On Being Young" and "I Wonder") and foot-stomping party-starters ("All the Same Friends" and "Beers to the Summer"). Then there's the gleefully goofy "Big Wheels," an ode to country life with a music video that sees Dickerson rolling on the back of a big wheel tractor.
Dickerson was a co-writer and co-producer on all 15 tracks, working with veterans like Dann Huff, Zach Crowell and Josh Kerr to shape the album's pop-country sound. "No matter how far we get into this, I want people to know it's still me," Dickerson said in a statement. "I'm still the hyper, outgoing, fun-loving, crazy dude on stage. But also these songs are so meaningful to me." — Jack Tregoning
Hawa - Hadja Bangoura
Release date: Nov. 4
One of the most intriguing new talents straddling the worlds of rap and R&B, Hawa has been steadily building to her debut album. Now based in Brooklyn, Hawa was born in Berlin and grew up in Conakry, Guinea, and this intersection of cultures is ever-present in her music.
In 2020, the classically trained musician released an eight-song EP, The One, which featured her idiosyncratic vocals weaving through delicate, trap-influenced electronic production. Its Cadenza-produced single, "My Love," appeared in Michaela Coel's breakout HBO series, "I May Destroy You." Hawa then followed The One last year with "Wake Up," a gleaming single that paired a clean, seductive beat with her hazy vocalizing.
Hawa's debut album, Hadja Bangoura, is dedicated to her great-grandmother, who passed away this year. Featuring 11 songs, including the bristling lead single "Gemini," Hadja Bangoura is executive produced by Brooklyn rap maven Tony Seltzer and comes out via 4AD, the legendary independent British label that Hawa calls home. — J.T.
Drake and 21 Savage - Her Loss
Release date: Nov. 4
The release cycle for Drake and 21 Savage's collaborative album has been nothing but surprises. On Oct. 22, the duo announced their record unconventionally via a surprise message in the video for their high-energy collaboration "Jimmy Cooks" — the final track of Drake's Honestly, Nevermind. Yet, two days before the album was supposed to drop on Oct. 28, Drake disclosed on Instagram that producer Noah "40" Shebib had tested positive for COVID-19, halting the record's final production steps.
Now slated for release in early November, Her Loss might just be one of the most highly anticipated rap records of the year. If the album is anything like Drizzy and 21's most recent collaboration, fans can expect a spirited pop-rap synthesis of Drake's classic R&B melodies and 21's languid drawl. — T.L.
Gryffin - Alive
Release date: Nov. 4
American DJ Gryffin is ready to soar to new heights with Alive, his second studio album dropping Nov. 4 — which comes just a month after his headlining set at the debut Bay Area edition of the Breakaway Music Festival.
Alive shifts from tropical house to future bass with ease, shaping his distinct electronic style with elements of pop and hip-hop. While Gryffin's sound has long been fluid — just listen to his collaborations with EDM legend Illenium, alt R&B singer Tinashe, and Carly Rae Jepsen — there's always some friction present in his multifaceted EDM. The album's brooding title track, which features friend Calle Lehmann confessing that "I'm nothing without our love alive," signals that Alive will be about beating hearts and chasing highs. — T.L.
Bruce Springsteen - Only The Strong Survive
Release date: Nov. 11
As vital as ever at 73, Bruce Springsteen set out to challenge himself on his 21st album, Only The Strong Survive. After baring his soul on 2020's critically acclaimed Letter to You, the Boss set aside the pen and paper to focus on singing his heart out.
Conceived during COVID lockdown, Only The Strong Survive is a collection of 15 soul music classics. "I wanted to make an album where I just sang," the rock icon said in a statement. "And what better music to work with than the great American songbook of the Sixties and Seventies?"
Recorded in his native New Jersey, the album sees Springsteen belting out classics and some lesser-known gems from the catalogs of Motown, Gamble and Huff, Stax and more, including his take on Frank Wilson's "Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)," released as the album's first single.
In a video announcing the project to fans, Springsteen called soul music "some of the most beautiful vocal music ever written and recorded", and marveled at the opportunity to stretch his voice outside his comfort zone. Who better than the Boss to try it? — J.T.
Run The Jewels - RTJ CU4TRO
Release date: Nov. 11
Beloved rap duo Run The Jewels enjoy defying expectations, and RTJ CU4TRO is one of their most intriguing swerves yet. Out Nov. 11, RTJ CU4TRO is a reimagining of the pair's 2020 album, RTJ4, through the lens of an all-Latin lineup.
El-P and Killer Mike were inspired to try the concept after hearing remixes of their material by two Mexican artists, Mexican Institute of Sound ("Ooh La La") and Toy Selectah ("JU$T"). To create an album's worth of interpretations from LATAM-based artists, the duo went to their longtime collaborator Nick Hook to co-produce the album and use his connections to build the guest list.
"We set out to make a remix album, but we consider the end result of RTJ CU4TRO to be more than that," El-P said in a statement. "It's a reimagining of RTJ4 through the lens of collaboration and a fusing of numerous musical cultures and influences." That melding of cultures is represented by Honduran-born producer TROOKO, Colombian band Bomba Estéreo, Mexican DJ and producer Danny Brasco, Canadian-Nicaraguan musician Mas Aya and more Latin American all-stars. — J.T.
Louis Tomlinson - Faith in the Future
Release date: Nov. 11
Louis Tomlinson is tearing down walls. Two years after the success of his debut album Walls, the former One Direction member announced Faith in the Future. Out Nov. 11, the release may be his most experimental and emotional yet.
His recent single "Out Of My System" shows a new side of the English singer-songwriter. Tomlinson balances edgy playfulness and emotional gravity as he cries out, "Demons, I'm takin' all of my demons/ Putting them where I won't see them. The single's disorienting video places Tomlinson among flashing red lights, slick guitar licks and harsh drums.
Tomlinson's desperation for catharsis indicates that Faith in the Future might explore grittier, darker pop. However, based on the album title's suggestion of stable optimism, it seems Tomlinson might not stray too far from his saccharine pop roots. — T.L.
Wizkid - More Love, Less Ego
Release date: Nov. 14
With four GRAMMY Award nominations and one win to his name, Lagos-born singer Wizkid is a true Nigerian superstar. The singer earned international acclaim with his GRAMMY-nominated 2020 album, Made In Lagos, which clocked up a billion streams and was certified Gold in the U.S.
Its single, "Essence," featuring Tems, blew up worldwide, introducing many to the Afrobeats genre. One of the song's biggest fans was none other than Justin Bieber, whose remixed version of "Essence" became the first African song to reach Top 10 on Billboard Hot 100.
Wizkid returns this month with his fifth studio album, More Love, Less Ego, which has all the signs of another mega-hit. The singer began the rollout with back-to-back singles, "Bad To Me" and "Money & Love," each produced by his longtime studio partner P2J. Both singles capture Wizkid's laidback yet hyper-confident star power — how many others could pull off the shirtless lime green suit look from the "Bad To Me" video? — J.T.
Brockhampton - The Family
Release date: Nov. 17
Hoping to redefine the term "boy band," the seven-member group is known for their DIY, dynamic hip-hop that often blurs into pop. After canceling dozens of tour dates and announcing an indefinite hiatus in January, Brockhampton is finally back.
The band first teased The Family — out via Question Everything and RCA Records — at the end of their 2022 Coachella performance, flashing the words "Final Album. 2022." onscreen after exiting the stage. The Family's colorful album cover zigzags between graphic cartoonish elements and eye-catching magazine cutouts — visually capturing Brockhampton's genre-blending, ambitious and unpredictable music. — T.L.
Weyes Blood - And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow
Release date: Nov. 18
The title of Weyes Blood’s upcoming album captures the duality of the singer-songwriter’s music: haunting yet heartwarming. The artist describes And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow as a “dystopian romance novel," where warmth and gloom mingle in her signature psychedelic folk and experimental rock landscape. Influenced by church music, And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow is a sacred, safe space to reflect on "the sound of your soul."
The record is also the second of a trilogy, following Weyes Blood’s ethereal 2019 album, Titanic Rising. And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow arrives just in time for her In Holy Flux tour, which will kick off in Los Angeles on Dec. 8. — T.L.
Roddy Ricch - Feed Tha Streets III
Release date: Nov. 18
'Tis the season: on Oct. 22, Roddy Ricch posted an image of himself at a Thanksgiving feast. The on-theme scene celebrates the upcoming release of Feed Tha Streets III, the third collection in his mixtape series.
Glamour populates the video for Ricch's latest single, "Aston Martin Truck." Among swinging gold chains and popping champagne, Ricch looks rather at home as he rests on a private jet — it's clear he's confident that Feed Tha Streets III will allow him to feast from the good life buffet.
The Compton rapper, who's influenced by the likes of Lil Wayne, Future and Young Thug, is known for his Hot 100 No. 1 single "The Box." Feed Tha Streets III follows the Compton rapper's 2021 sophomore album, LIVE LIFE FAST, which thrilled with Ricch's signature unpredictable flows over bouncy beats. — T.L.
Honey Dijon - Black Girl Magic
Release date: Nov. 18
Honey Dijon has been doing her thing at the forefront of the Chicago house scene for decades, and now the world is quickly catching up. The DJ and producer releases her second studio album, Black Girl Magic, on Nov. 18, featuring a stacked roll call of her friends. In choosing her guests, the Chicagoan looked to a new generation of queer people and people of color, including Compton's own house sensation Channel Tres, Atlanta singer/songwriter Hadiya George, and regular vocal collaborator Ramona Renea.
In true Honey Dijon style, the songs on Black Girl Magic are brimming with dance-floor energy, heartfelt emotion and positive vibes. "This album is dedicated to love," Honey said in a statement announcing Black Girl Magic. "Love of music, community, but most of all the love of self. Being true to who you are in spite of everything else and having the courage to love fearlessly." — J.T.
Dolly Parton - Dolly Parton — Diamonds & Rhinestones: The Greatest Hits Collection
Release date: Nov. 18
Dolly Parton's next album is sure to be a treasure. Titled Dolly Parton — Diamonds & Rhinestones: The Greatest Hits Collection, the record will feature a whopping 23 tracks from Parton's star-studded discography.
Featuring music released between 1971-2020, the album highlights Parton's extensive and extraordinary career. Although the icon is also known for her bluegrass and gospel ventures, Diamonds & Rhinestones primarily showcases Parton's deep country roots. However, some EDM finds its way onto the record via "Faith," Parton's 2020 collaboration with Swedish dance pop duo Galantis and Mr. Probz.
Out Nov. 18, this greatest hits collection will prove that Parton's discography indeed shines like a gem. — T.L.
Stormzy - This Is What I Mean
Release date: Nov. 25
UK grime trailblazer Stormzy returns this month with his third album, This Is What I Mean. The rapper has been on an incredible hot streak since 2019's celebrated Heavy Is The Head, collaborating with everyone from Ed Sheeran to Headie One and becoming the first black solo British artist to headline Glastonbury (wearing a stab-proof vest designed by Banksy, no less).
Now a household name in the UK, Stormzy got far from the spotlight to record his third album. This Is What I Mean mostly came together during a retreat on the privately-owned Osea Island in the UK county of Essex, where Stormzy surrounded himself with talented friends. The only plan was to hang out and make music when the moment took them. "We're all musicians, but we weren't always doing music," Stormzy said in a statement. “Some days we played football or walked around taking pictures. And the byproduct to that was very beautiful music."
Stormzy recently flexed his cachet in the music video for standalone single, "Mel Made Me Do It," which features cameos from Usain Bolt, Little Simz, Headie One and many more. With no featured rappers announced on This Is What I Mean, there's no distraction from Stormzy's shine. — J.T.
RM - TBD
Release date: Nov. 25
For the November issue of Rolling Stone, genre-crossing hitmaker Pharrell Williams sat down for a "musician-on-musician" chat with BTS' RM. Their chat covered many topics, from dealing with superstardom to finding purpose in a career, while also touching on some tantalizing details about RM's forthcoming solo album, rumored to be dropping on Nov. 25.
"Like 90 percent of the work is done," RM told Pharrell. "I've released some mixtapes as one of the members of the band, but it was just an experiment. I think this time it's maybe my official first solo album." Coming hot on the heels of solo releases from fellow members Jin ("The Astronaut") and j-hope (Jack In The Box), news of RM's solo album has sent the BTS ARMY into overdrive.
In the course of the Rolling Stone interview, Pharrell and RM casually made plans to work on something for RM's album — completing "that last 10 percent," as Pharrell put it. (BTS is already set to feature on Pharrell's upcoming collaborative album, Phriends.) Other rumors of possible guests on the RM album are already flying around the internet, including South Korean sensation BIBI and BTS member Jungkook.
Whoever makes the cut, RM's solo effort is feverishly anticipated by fans, and will ease the long wait for BTS to reconvene as a group "around 2025" after all members fulfill South Korea's mandatory national military service. — J.T.