This Fresh Finds Fridays column curated by Flisadam Pointer features releases from Jesse Boykins III, Arin Ray, Naomi Sharon, Terrace Martin, Alex Isley, sahn, Chris Brown, Kyle Dion, Asiahn, Elmiene, Ego Ella May.
Check out this week’s roundup and don’t forget to let us know who you’re listening to in the comment section.
Jesse Boykins III – New Growth
The music industry’s current infrastructure isn’t equipped to properly build around several present-day artists. Jesse Boykins III was one of the amazing talents nearly lost to the system. After stepping away from his past label situation with Def Jam, Boykins has undergrown a professional transformation. His newly established artistic sanctuary, New Growth Creative Activities, is the force behind the singer’s highly anticipated album, New Growth.
Prior to its release, fans were treated to a hefty helping of singles, including “Go With The Feelings,” “Honestly, I’m A Threat,” “No P*ssy For Losers,” “Kind And Nasty,” and “No Love Without You.” Each track served as a representation of each area of his expansion professionally, emotionally, and romantically. Across the body of work’s 14 records, Boykins painfully weaved together the thread of prosperity throughout every elemental aspect.
On New Growth, Boykins laminated each crack, bump, and bruise he’s endured in the past six years. Although he hasn’t arrived at the other end of the tunnel towards where healing patiently awaits him, on the project the listener learned just how far he’s traveled. The path towards internal restoration is not linear, New Growth demonstrated that.
The Boykins casual fans met on 2014’s Love Apparatus is not the ones who guided you along New Growth. He’s exponentially leveled up in every measurable aspect: vocal range, songwriting, production ear, and confidence. Due to the nature of the project, opening with a traditional gospel staple and his take on what a modern track in the genre was, the attention to detail shows up in many other parts of New Growth. New Growth’s standout tracks include “Forever Friends,” “Convo,” “Whoa,” and “Rain.”
There are no guest appearances on the project, and New Growth is better for it. Boykins has been silenced for too long, his solo story takes priority. It is important to note that there are no formal credited vocal guests; however, Boykins did pull in collaborators to perform limited background vocal work.
In a video shared to his official Instagram, Boykins opened up about the inspiration behind the project. “The album is called ‘New Growth,’ not fully grown or ‘grown as hell.’ It’s new growth. So I want to speak to that not only in my music but also in my artistry and me as a person. I feel like I’ve experienced a lot of life. Now, I’m coming to a certain understanding of things I truly value, what I really wanna be, who I really wanna be, and what it takes to let go of things I need to be that. So, I’m very grateful for this album for crystallizing this moment,” said Boykins.
Arin Ray – Phases III
The art of crafting a musical series is an intentional act. Whether the body of work is a mixtape, a culmination of mixed media projects, or a thread of namesake albums, artists express a specific freedom on compilation bodies of work. Arin Ray’s Phases series is where he flexes his creativity. Today is a bittersweet moment for fans of the Cincinnati, Ohio native.
“We complete the trilogy,” wrote Ray on his official Instagram page when discussing his latest project, Phases III. Ahead of the release, Ray shared one sole single, “Wait So Long.” Although the C. “Tricky” Stewart and Big Korey-produced record is stellar, there are several tracks that standout far behind, “Wait So Long,” including “Wet Dream,” “Curious,” “Cold” with Vanilla is Black, and “Electric.”
If you’ve followed Ray’s career since his 2018 album, Platinum Fire, then you’ve come to expect a flood of features. But in Phases III, Ray deviates from that standard practice with a simple appearance by Vanilla Is Black. With Phases III, Ray is looking to stand on his own, and rightfully so, given he now has two studio albums and three EPs to his name. However, Phases III is the shining light he might’ve had in mind when planning it.
Phases III is great but not stellar. When compared to the other projects in the installation, it rests comfortably in the middle. However, that’s a compliment when you have so many other phenomenal records to compare it to. Ray’s past solo tracks, such as “Don’t Chase,” “The Get Down,” and “Turn This Into Something,” make it feel like Ray took it easy on Phases III, which leads us to believe he had something tucked away for his next studio album.
Terrace Martin & Alex Isley – I Left My Heart In Ladera
There’s not much musician and producer extraordinaire Terrace Martin and vocalist Alex Isley could do to turn the listener off. Their collaborative project, I Left My Heart In Ladera, is a musical link-up fans didn’t know they needed. With nothing to go before its release, Martin and Isley eagerly left R&B fans on their toes, curious about what they cooked up.
As the project opens, fans are treated to the pair’s master take on Sade’s 1988 song “Paradise.” However, if you thought I Left My Heart In Ladera was going to be an EP full of covers, you’d be wrong. Instead, it is a body of work dedicated to what feels like the lost art of pure musicianship. Isley being born to a family full of instrumentalists and Martin being one himself, I Left My Heart In Ladera’s nexus is the inner workings of each sound. Jazz, neo-soul, and R&B all take turns setting into the forefront across the project’s 9 songs.
On I Left My Heart In Ladera’s standout Songs “Only In The Moment,” “2 Step In The Living Room,” and “Across The Street,” Isley’s sultry vocals are the star. But each instrument has a moment to shine on the instrumental-focused tracks “Dear Issa” and “La Brea & Stocker” with pianist and composer Paul Cornish.
The project also features a guest appearance by highly decorated musician Robert Glasper.
In a post shared to Isley’s official Instagram page, she shared that I Left My Heart In Ladera was a love letter to the Westside region of Los Angeles County, Ladera Heights, when she wrote, “Terrace Martin and I built this album with intention and love. And we finally get to share it.”
The key takeaway from I Left My Heart In Ladera is the economy of music is much more than the vocal contributions of a singer. The brilliance of the project is, of course, the vocals provided by Alex Isley, but equally, Terrace Martin’s musicality and production, mixing, mastering, songwriting, and more. I Left My Heart In Ladera is a subtle public service announcement highlighting the cultural importance of music education.
Elmiene – Marking My Time
Two years ago, Oxford native Elmiene won over the hearts of R&B lovers with a cover of Maxwell’s “Pretty Wings.” Since then, the singer has slowly but surely built up a discography of his own downtempo delicate ballads. On his latest EP, Marking My Time, showed that he has other sonic tricks hidden in his arsenal.
In March, he shared the 5-track project, El-Mean. To follow up with another body of work demonstrates that Elmiene is eager and ready to take over. Prior to Marking My Time hitting streaming platforms, the Sudanese-British recording artist dropped a handful of singles from it, including the title track, “Mama,” and “Mad At Fire.” Compared to each other, the standout track is quite easily “Mad At Fire” and “Somebody.” But Marking My Time signifies something much more pressing for Elmiene. As the name suggests, the recording artist’s priority is keeping his viral momentum going.
There are no sonic gimmicks on Marking My Time, shortcuts masked by unimaginative samples, or blatant attempts at vitality. Instead, Marking My Time, is all about emotional vulnerability, heartfelt songwriting, and striking vocals wrapped together with intentional production.
Naomi Sharon – Obsidian
R&B sonic evolution is a sight to see. The genre’s effortless capability to work with nearly every other sound proves how deeply engraved it is in the greater musical ethos. Naomi Sharon’s OVO Sounds debut album, Obsidian, is an example of this limitless reach. The Dutch-Caribbean singer used each of the project’s 13 tracks to demonstrate the genre’s range.
The glowing examples of this can be heard on the records, “If This Is Love,” “Myrrh,” “Time And Trust,” and “Hills.” While the promoted singles “Regardless,” “Definition of Love,” “Another Life,” and “Celestial” showcase her knowledge of her established audience along with Sharon’s forward thinking to not pigeonhole herself.
“Through every note, every lyric, and every heartbeat of my album, I’ve poured my soul into a melody that tells the story of my life. This is the soundtrack of my journey, the echoes of my dream,” wrote Sharon in an Instagram post about Obsidian.
With a small group of songwriters, producers, and just two guest appearances by Omah Lay and Beau Nox, Sharon doesn’t want to disrupt the carefully curated gumbo of EDM, neo-soul, and R&B that she’s shimmered on for years prior.
Obsidian is a gut-wrenching rollercoaster of love, loss, and, in the end, hope. Naomi Sharon set out to make a statement with her major label debut, and that she did.
sahn – the mornings
Simone Ledward Boseman, artistically known as sahn, has quietly played the background. As she made many red carpet appearances with her late husband Black Panther actor Chadwick Boseman, sahn has kept her artistic ventures a secret from the general public. However, now, she’s stepping out on faith to broadcast her hidden musical talent.
On her debut project, the mornings, she funneled her grief of tragically losing her husband as creative fuel. The result of this channeling is a sound bath of emotional, spiritual, and physical revelations that will move any who dares to press play. The lead single, “angelsxdemons,” was simply the beginning. Breakout tracks “high speed meditation,” “gracenotes,” “strong friends,” “green tea,” and the title track guides listeners down the rocky sahn’s had to travel in order to arrive at acceptance.
In a note shared with ThisIsRNB, sahn talked about the body of work. “[the mornings] is a story about the most pivotal moments of my life thus far and a few of the important lessons I’ve learned. The title speaks to the hidden lives we live. All that glitters may glow in the light of the evening hour, but who sees you in the mornings,” said the singer.
the mornings is a melting pot of jazz, R&B, and rap that will demand that you sit with yourself to grasp how you truly feel when you are left with your lonely thoughts before the sun rises.
Chris Brown – “Sensational” featuring Davido and Lojay
Chris Brown has proven that he can create music in pretty much any genre he chooses. In past releases, the Tappahannock, Virginia native has dominated pop, electronic, and rap. His track record in R&B is permanently pressed into the genre’s history books. So on his latest single, “Sensational,” featuring Davido and Lojay, his exploration into Afrobeats and Afrofusion should come as no surprise.
To track, co-written and produced by Philip “Hardwerk” Constable, is another flex at all Brown is capable of. Earlier in the week, Brown teased the record on Instagram, but not the full song is finally here and work the short wait. “Sensational” embodies all the key elements of Afrobeats’ essence: an infectious instrumental soundtrack and an addictive story to tell. In Brown’s case, it is his lust over a special mystery woman.
“Sensational / Wetin’ I do for you, girl? / And I know, and I know, and I know, girl / I act a fool for you / Love’s like a riddle / Give me the clues, solve the riddle / Laugh just a little / Life’s pretty sweet, can’t be bitter,” sang Brown.
“Sensational” is the second offering from Brown’s forthcoming album, 11:11. Brown’s past releases this year include “How We Roll” with Ciara and “Summer Too Hot.” He’s also made a few guest appearances on others’ tracks, including Ty Dolla Sign’s “Motion” and Tee Grizzley’s “IDGAF,” in which Mariah The Scientist is also featured.
Kyle Dion – “Let’s Get It On”
Kyle Dion’s goal to get everyone in his words, “shake some ass,” was accomplished with his new single, “Let’s Get It On.” Not to be confused with the late Marvin Gaye’s 1973 classic, although Dion’s record is all about bumping and grinding, sonically, it’s a completely different track.
Produced by Soran, “Let’s Get It On,” makes you want to set the clock back to the warmer summer months. As Dion sings, “Ain’t no summer kinda love / You wanna stay ’cause I got you
We don’t sleep, no, we’d rather be up (You giving me love) / Be up (You giving me love) / Be up / Break me off a little piece of ass, baby / Too many clothes on your body / I need to cool off you’re heating me up,” you can imagine the sun beaming down on your skins as you two-step with your boo thang.
Co-writers Michael “Miko” Simard, Soran, and Dion nailed the essence of a steamy love. The R&B-pop hybrid is Kyle Dion’s follow-up to his past single “Boyfriend Jeans.”
Asiahn – “Feel Good”
Good, better, best – never let it rest until your good is better and your best is your best. That motto was often repeated to me in my teenage years. While that mantra focuses on exerting your efforts outward to experience improvement, Asiahn has another suggestion. The recording artist’s latest single, “Feel Good,” is about the importance of recharging between chasing your goals.
The track, co-produced by Dreek Beatz, Geoffro, and Novodor, emphasized that self-care is as simple as temporarily unplugging to rest. “Sometimes instead of jumping out my bed / I’d rather watch some anime and lay right here instead / Don’t wake up till it’s sundown / Touch me until I’m worn out / Wash dishes when I feel like / Nobodies feelings to think about / My alone is never lonely / Something I had to grow to see / That I’m so good with just me / Cuz self-love is the best love / Don’t need no one else love / I can just get faded / Lay here naked” sings Asiahn.
In a post shared to her official Instagram, Asiahn wrote about the inspiration behind the record. “‘Feel Good’ is a song that you dedicate to yourself. ‘Feel Good’ is self-care, taking off your bra after a long day, removing hard-bottom shoes you had to wear for work that makes your feet sore, making yourself your favorite meal, having a glass of wine, and watching your favorite shows. ‘Feel Good’ is recognizing that you don’t have to be ‘perfect.’ You simply have to be you and exist. Existence is enough. ‘Feel Good’ is knowing that no one can give you this type of peace but yourself. You have to choose it every day,” penned Asiahn.
“Feel Good” is the follow-up to the past single “Do Bad,” which dropped in June.
Ego Ella May – “Higher Self”
If you have any doubt or lack confidence in any way, Ego Ella May is here to shake you out of that. The British-Nigerian recording artist’s new single, “Higher Self,” is the second offering off of her forthcoming project, Field Notes Pt. III. Co-produced by Doug Stuart, “Higher Self” is a record dedicated to manifesting a healthy relationship with the most important person to someone: themselves.
When Ego Ella May sings, “It’s easy to fall in love / To fall in love / It’s easy to fall in love / To fall in love / With yourself / The sea / The trees / With yourself / The sea / The trees / With yourself,” is a vocal manifestation of self-assurance.
In a statement provided to ThisIsRnB, the singer spoke about the track. “‘Higher Self’ is produced by myself and Dougie Stu. We made this song in Los Angeles last April (2022) and it was such a fun one to make! It’s about self-love and the way I imagine my higher self engages and speaks with me, challenging all the thoughts I have about being hard to love.
It’s a mantra of sorts that I hope will stick with you,” remarked the singer.
“Higher Self” is the follow-up to Ego Ella May’s previous record, “Undone.”
*Cover art credit: Abdi Ibrahim