This Fresh Finds Fridays column curated by Flisadam Pointer features releases from Fridayy, Xenia Manasseh, LAYA, Ninja Kidsoul, Queen Naija, Bellah & Gaidaa, Justin Garner, JeRonelle, and The Amours.

Check out this week’s roundup and don’t forget to let us know who you’re listening to in the comment section below.

Fridayy – Fridayy

In a matter of one year, Grammy Award-nominated recording artist Fridayy has won over the hearts of rap music fans thanks to his career-changing appearance on DJ Khaled’s “God Did.” In a video posted on his official Instagram page, Fridayy opened up about his star-studded year, saying, “I can’t lie, nobody told me it was going to be like this. Everything happened so fast. This sh*t feels like [it was] just yesterday. I was just in my room at my mom’s crib, making 12 hooks a day. Ten or eleven years of dedication for something that looks like an overnight success as some may see it.”

The Philadelphia native’s blend of hip-hop, R&B, and soul, along with his rich bass vocal register, immediately captivated listeners. To seize the newly found popularity last year, Fridayy shared his project, Lost In Melody. But his latest self-titled album, starring singles “When It Comes To You,” “Don’t Give It Away” with Chris Brown, and “Stand By Me,” is where Fridayy’s true brilliance shines. 

The 14-track body of work is not only double the length of his label debut EP, but it is also twice as grand as his mainstream introduction. On Fridayy the album, the self-proclaimed Melody God, paints an even clearer picture to fans on who is as a producer, songwriter, and instrumentalist but Francis LeBlanc, the individual. The project has a heavy lyrical emphasis on how his religious upbringing crafted a protective armor around him, which helped him survive the gritty streets of Philadelphia. When it comes to the sonic influences, Fridayy’s American Haitian culture is the nexus. With additional vocal appearances by Fireboy DML, Maverick City Music, Adekunle Gold, and Byron Messia, Fridayy is a melting point of genres from across the diaspora. Fridayy, the album is a nearly 40-minute journal entry of God’s guidance, grace, and gratitude. If you didn’t get to know Fridayy on his debut EP, his self-titled album leaves no stone unturned.

LAYA – Bet That

R&B’s sassiest rebel child, LAYA’s new EP Bet That, is finally here. As the official follow-up to 2022’s Um, Hello, somehow the Staten Island native found a way to up the ante. By forgoing the need for outside vocal guest appearances and keeping the circle of producers tight, the singer managed to present to best 7 songs representative of her charming edge. 

With frequent collaborator Chad Paul as well as Dante Carter and guest production by Derrel Hudgins, on Bet That, the group sonically takes fans on a deep dive into Laya’s frayed approach to the genre. Typically, singles released before a project is made available to the public are just appetizers of what’s to come, but in Laya’s case, she held nothing back. Previously shared tracks “Need 2 Know” and “F’d Up” shared the same level of potency as the rest of Bet That. In fact, “F’d Up,” in addition to the record “Slide,” were two of the hardest-hitting songs on Bet That.

Laya isn’t the textbook definition of what an R&B act should look like or sound like, but she’s just who the genre needs to pull it the new generation of music lovers exploring more experimental sounds.

Xenia Manasseh – Love/Hate Pt. 1

The continent of Africa isn’t just the record homeland for life as we know it but also the dozens of musical expressions. For Keyan-born and raised singer Xenia Manasseh, that’s a badge of honor she proudly wears. On her new album, Love/Hate Pt. 1, the singer pulls in that history and other acts from around the continent to showcase its legacy.  

While Afrobeats, Afrofusion, and Amapiano are the biggest musician exports in different regions, across the album’s 11 tracks, Xenia ensures that R&B is planted deep into its soil. Her past work with the likes of Teyana Taylor, Sauti Sol, Mr. Eazi, and Burna Boy helped to prepare Xenia for the potent storytelling displayed across Love/Hate Pt. 1. From every angle, Xenia attacks the often overly complicated emotion for a refreshing take on highly-sought after feeling. 

Singles “Anticipate” featuring Karun and “Temporary Love” laid the groundwork for what fans would later come to experience on the project. But records such as “Southwards” featuring Tay Iwar and “Lowkey” truly highlight not only Xenia’s vision for the body of work but also her growth as a songwriter and vocalist.

With a guest vocal appearances by Shalom Dubas as well as intentional production by AVB, Sangria, Mombru, Adrian Forbes, and more, Love/Hate Pt. 1 is Xenia’s launching pad into the hearts of R&B lovers around the globe.

In an Instagram post, Xenia opened up about the project, writing, “I’ve told a lot of stories over the years, but I see this album as the ultimate release of these feelings that challenged me to become who I am today & who I am still becoming. ‘Grateful’ truly doesn’t encapsulate the magnitude of my gratitude, yet it’s the only word I can use to try and sum it up.”

If Love/Hate Pt. 1 was Xenia’s expulsion of pinned-up emotional energy, then listeners better brace themselves and their heartstrings for whatever creative energy she plans to share with the world next.

Ninja Kidsoul – Never Really Gone

For most recording artists, on their debut, they aim for the musical bounds of safety partly because they don’t understand what is out there to explore. Or because they don’t want to shake things up too much where potential fans are forever turned off by them. For Ninja Kidsoul, that mindset wasn’t even an option. On his new project, Never Really Gone, the German-American neo-soul singer the operating in the norm isn’t of any interest to him. 

After listening to his previously released singles “Face 2 Face,” ”Reckless,” and “Gap Sh*t (-2 semitones)” featured on the body of work, Ninja lets it be known that he is here to move the needle. Each of the work’s eight songs finds a way to push the envelope of what we know to be R&B music. Ninja’s recent coronation of German Soul’s leading pioneer is rightfully earned. With the assistance of executive production, Agajon, the pair fuses jazz, rap, R&B, and blues into a musical gumbo never heard before. 

From the opening to the closing and each record or interlude in between, Ninja Kidsoul uses each second on Never Really Gone to push to tear down genre borders. It would be an injustice to rank any song above another, but if there’s any place to start, “Face 2 Face,” “Gap Sh*t (-2 semitones),” or “Zone” would carry that torch.

Ninja Kidsoul’s Never Really Gone will restore your faith in the next generation of R&B talent.

Queen Naija – “No Fake Love” ft. NBA YoungBoy

After years of telling supporters about a secret dream collaboration on her wish board, Queen Naija’s new single, “No Fake Love,” finally made it a reality. The track featuring NBA YoungBoy, which was co-produced by B100, London Jae, and Squat, is the official follow-up to her past songs “Words Of Affirmation” and “Let’s Talk About It.” In the other two records, Queen is attempting to open up the doors of communication with her lover. The other is true for “No Fake Love.”

On the track, the Detroit native is issuing a clear warning that if their romantic connection isn’t genuine, she has no problem finding something new with another suitor. “So many bands I’m runnin’ through / So much that I wanna do / Startin’ to become so clear to me / Need more than love, I need loyalty / I can buy my own, I don’t need a loan / Don’t need no chaperone, I’m already grown / Got an AP all chrome, it’s covered in stones / If you ain’t on my type of time, then leave me alone,” sings Queen. 

NBA Youngboy adds his perspective as he raps, “Promise me, then lie, that’s foul / Get mad once we get out and talk loud / I know you got your own, I just wanna hold you down / For me, you’d do the same, I’m who to blame, I kept fake love around.”

With a host of interpolations on the single, including Fabolous’ “Can’t Deny It” featuring the late Nate Dogg (2001), Amerie’s “Why Don’t We Fall In Love” (2002), and Tupac’s “Ambitionz Az a Ridah” (1996), on “No Fake Love” Queen as well as YoungBoy is looking to bridge each generation of R&B and hip-hop favorite record for intergenerational appeal. 

Bellah & Gaidaa – “As You Are”

Jay-Z and Kanye West aren’t the only two musicians who can cook up a banger while in Paris, France. Thanks to COLORS’ first-ever songwriter’s camp, Bellah (British-Nigerian) and Gaidaa (Dutch-Sudanese) cooked up something special for R&B fans. Their joint single, “As You Are,” is a culmination of both recording artists’ unique approach to music. The international singers use their magical link up to pour into each other while giving others the tools to do the same for themselves. 

“And there’s nothing wrong / Emotional maybe / As you are / I’m gonna love you down down down / I might just let a wall down down down / Maybe there’s more to the mould / And what we tend to it grows / So imma water loving imma water-loving,” sings Bellah.

Gaidaa joins in to sing, “Tell you I’m enough it’s not a dream / Losing inhibition I’m in free / Better off / All in now I know the way to me / I’ve put in the work I need to see.”

To promote the collaboration, Bellah took to her Instagram to share a note about the track, writing, “What a beautiful song with a beautiful, beautiful lady. I love you, Gaidaa! Thank you so much, COLORS, for allowing us to meet and create! It’s such an honour. Issa love song to yourself, I hope you feel all the love oozing. Shout out to Sons Of Sonix, Paya, and Moo Latte every time for breathing magical life into this one.”

For both ladies, “As You Are,” marks their first primary billed track since 2022.

JeRonelle – “Down Bad”

Back in April, former FOX’s The Four contestant JeRonelle released his latest EP, Regret & Reflect. After giving fans time to enjoy the project, the singer has teamed up with director Anthony Hadley II to breathe new life into the breakout track “Down Bad.”

On the heartfelt track, JeRonelle digs deep to explore where his past relationship went wrong. In the supporting visual, Hadley follows the singer as he deals with the aftermath of a wild night out in which he sought to numb his pain but woke up with tons of things to be remorseful for.

“Feel the room caving in / Cloud in my back again / Three am on the phone and I’m not trying to sleep alone / It’s crazy how I got this way / Acting reckless to numb the pain / I lost your love then lost control / And let me vices take a hold / Can somebody help me fix my wounded heart’” sings JeRonelle. 

When describing the inspiration behind the record, in a clip uploaded to Instagram, JeRonelle wrote, “With ‘Down Bad’ I wanted to give y’all a feel-good song all about coping with heartbreak and the toxic vices we sometimes rely on to get us through.”

The Amours – “Before I Met You”

With the separations of several notable R&B groups, there hasn’t been an influx of talent to fill that void. However, The Amours (Jakiya and Shaina) are looking to change that. Whether you’ve seen their faces plastered across a few music festival lineup posters, including Mary J. Blige’s Strength Of A Women 2023. If you’ve seen or heard their heavenly harmonies supporting Juvenile’s highly-anticipated Tiny Desk Concert appearance for Black Music Month, the duo is fighting to become a household name. 

The single “Don’t Deserve” was a stellar introduction, but it is their song, “Before I Met You,” which was originally released in May, that will knock the socks off of R&B fans. Thanks to their new supporting video directed by Tife, the record has reentered streaming algorithms. With “Before I Met You,” producer Camper and The Amours embrace the longstanding legacy of DMV acts such as Amerie by creating a highly infectious summer romance record. 

Camper’s simple, streamlined production of The Amours’ airy vocals, and co-writer thankugoodsir’s delicate storytelling make “Before I Met You” a helpless romantic’s newest musical obsession. As they sing, “There’s no more drama / Inside my family / And lately I wonder / Are you the Answer to the dreams / Cause I can’t even do things / By myself anymore / And lately I wonder / Just who I was before / I met you before I met you,” your faith in love is restored. 

When the group first announced the inspiration behind the track, they wrote on Instagram, “[Before I Met You] feels like home! Imagine walking/riding down U Street, passing Ben’s during an early 2000s DC Summer!” 

Even if you aren’t a District Of Columbia native, the song’s vocal arrangement makes easy work of filling in whatever cultural nuances you might’ve missed, so love as a soft landing in your ears.


*Cover design:SaintOnSet 

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