Since its onset in the 1940s, rhythm, and blues have been a genre of music that soothes so many different moods. Having a bad day? R&B might just be what you need to calm your nerves. It can also be doubled as a reflective type of music that could allow you moments of sober reflection and is very relative for lovers.
This year has seen some of the finest R&B projects that can be considered some of the best projects of the year. From Brent Faiyaz’s Wasteland to Ari Lennox’s Age, Sex, Location, and The Weeknd’s energetic ambitious Dawn FM. Let’s take you through 7 of the best R&B projects of the year.
Brent Faiyaz – Wasteland
Brent Faiyaz released the Wasteland album on July 8, 2022. On Wasteland, he portrays himself as a villain of some sort. The project asks a fundamental question: Can a man still be portrayed as good despite the numerous mistakes he makes?
He begins with Villain’s Theme, where he addresses the toxic status his lyricism gets over suspenseful dramatic beats. In Loose Change and Gravity featuring Tyler, The Creator and the skit: Egomaniac, he’s seen tussling with his lover who doesn’t seem to be happy about the lack of attention she gets from him. He constantly reassures her that he’s still got feelings for her but she doesn’t need to keep waiting around for him.
Although the project is as concise and straight to the point as F*ck the World and Sonder Son, it doesn’t follow the usual plug-and-play format. It rather seems more solemn and follows a storyline that takes you through like a movie.
Steve Lacy – Gemini Rights
Steve Lacy released his sophomore album Gemini Rights on July 15th and it was all we expected as he urges us to honor multi-dimensionality in any form. Steve Lacy is one of the driving forces in R&B so it’s no surprise that he made it to the list. Lacy uses his sweet psych-tinged melodious vocals to align his star sign ‘Gemini’ known for juggling between passions as he explores true heartbreak and being a headstrong partner as well as the struggle for his “rights” as a queer and black person.
The first track, Static starts with sexual pleasure and drug-induced high drifts as he refers to ketamine and masturbation over smooth vocal harmonies. On Sunshine, Foushee uses her sensual vocals to help Lacy build his identity as both the heartbroken lover and the transgressing partner. All through, Gemini Rights is an ear-pleasing saga and an expression of inept creative freedom. Even Kanye West referred to it as a “beautiful album from one of the most inspiring people on earth.”
Ari Lennox – age/sex/location
Singer and songwriter, Ari Lennox also released her sophomore album, age/sex/location on September 18 via Dreamville and Interscope Records. The album which was executively produced by Dreamville producer, Dr. Elite, includes guest appearances from Lucky Daye, Chlöe, and Summer Walker. On Age, Sex, Location, Lennox refreshes classic R&B stylings for a contemporary audience, sounding at ease with herself as she offers up her sexual desires.
Ari Lennox herself describes the album as “the transitional space before my current eat, pray, love journey.” Though a little bit cliché there is no description more apt as she uses crisp, velvety soprano voice to invoke sexual intimacy and longing in tracks like the bluesy opener, POF, the 70’s R&B Shea Butter Baby, the groovy Waste My Time, and the humorous duet-skit Boy Bye with Lucky Daye.
BLxst – Before You Go
In 2020, Blxst made his official debut with No Love Lost, and the album was the world’s introduction to rapper-singer/songwriter’s perfect, seamless blend of R&B and West Coast hip-hop. In April 2022, BLxst blessed us again with a new album to further prove himself as the same talented breakout artist we fell in love with.
Before You Go picks up from his last album blending traditional R&B with more contemporary Californian notes. He plays with the tones of classic soul and regional L.A. sounds. His backup singer, Cheyenne Wright opens the show with a 52-second intro titled, Sky Lounge Music with vocals typical of a black Pentecostal church choir. The saxophone led Never Was Wrong details a struggling relationship.
All through, BLxst uses his ability to create monstrous hooks and his sweet vocals to make a beautiful body of work worthy of mention.
The Weeknd – Dawn FM
The king of alternative R&B and dream pop, The Weeknd also released his fifth studio album, Dawn FM to begin the year on January 7, 2022. The 16-track record was released via XO and Republic Records and consists of guest appearances from Tyler the Creator, Lil Wayne, and a narration by Jim Carrey.
The album which is a follow-up to his 2020 After Hours, explores house music, and R&B that builds into a singular sound with catchy tunes. Dawn Fm stands as The Weeknd’s most ambitious project as he expresses the loose concept of purgatory. He dives into a spoken word segment on Random Access Memories with long-time MJ producer Quincy Jones, the retro masterpiece Out of Time, and scratch funk guitar tunes on Human Nature.
Although Dawn FM follows through The Weeknd’s Michael Jackson thriller sounds with an upbeat nature, it still has an R&B infusion that could have it placed in the category of an electronic-R&B album.
Ravyn Lenae – Hypnos
Hypnos is the first full-length album of American singer and songwriter, Ravyn Lenae released on May 30 2022 through Atlantic Records. The album includes guest appearances and production from Monte Booker, Steve Lacy, KAYTRANADA, Fousheé, Mereba, Smino, Sango, Luke Titus, IAMNOBODI, Phoelix, and Teo Halm.
Hypnos ushers in Ravyn’s vocal melodies over a more stripped-down sound for a lucid listening experience. In Venom, she knowingly asks her unsuspecting partner why he’s playing her combining looped beats that delivers a scathing message. Lenae looks at her life like a landscape on Where I’m from accompanied by trickling acoustic guitars as she renders lyrics: “Watch me spread my wings.” The natural rhythmic progression in Hypnos makes for a fine R&B album.
Kehlani – Blue Water Road
Kehlani was also able to deliver some of the finest R&B renditions in her third studio album, Blue Water Road. The album which was released on April 29, 2022, via TSNMI and Atlantic Records a follow-up to her 2020 sophomore album, It Was Good Until It Wasn’t. Executively produced by Pop Wansel, the album features guest appearances from Justin Bieber, Syd, Blxst, Jessie Reyez, Ambré, and Thundercat.
Blue Water Road reveals Kehlani’s authentic pursuit of happiness with a calm demeanor typical of the title of the project. In tracks like the lead single Altar, Get Me Started, and Wish I Never, Kehlani uses a spiral of R&B synths to set the stage for an honest reflection.