The power of R&B music shined bright last week after nominations for the 2024 Grammy Awards were revealed. Leading the pack as the most nominated artist of the ceremony is SZA, who is up for a total of nine awards, including Album Of The Year. Right behind her is Victoria Monét with seven noms (Best New Artist, Record Of The Year, and more). Even her sweet toddler Hazel Monét made history, becoming the youngest person in the awards’ history to be up for a trophy.
Teyana Taylor moved the public to tears after her acceptance speech at the Give Her FlowHers Awards Gala hit social media. As the entertainer was joined on stage by her two daughters, Taylor held back tears while being acknowledged for her impact on the industry.
During her set at Camp Flog Gnaw 2023, Syd announced that despite their previously announced retirement, The Internet has new music on the way. In sadder news, Elle Varner revealed that her father and fellow musician, James “Big Soul” Varner passed away.
So, what new music dropped? This Fresh Finds Fridays column features released from BJ The Chicago Kid, Chris Brown, Gallant, Jacob Latimore, Jon B, Tank, Ari Lennox, Cedric Brazle, and Lilly Aviana. Check out this week’s roundup below. Don’t forget to let us know who you’re listening to below in the comment section.
BJ The Chicago Kid – Gravy
In the southern parts of the United States, biscuits and gravy is considered a comfort food. On his latest album with Yeti Beats, BJ The Chicago Kid tapped into that feeling. Across the 15-track album, BJ’s vocals and Yeti’s live instrumentation serve as a warm embrace from the cold machinery and artificial offerings fans have been given over the past few years.
Throughout Gravy, BJ injects his sensual heat with a pleasurable embrace into each of the records that appear on the album. The crooner has already mastered the art of a downtempo ballet and light-hearted, danceable uptempo tracks. With Gravy, that sonic balance is the most appreciated element. A hardy serving of both BJ’s love of soul (“Forgot Your Name” featuring Cory Henry) and gospel (“Long Time”) is ever so present as flairs of dance are stuffed into his most current R&B songs, including past single, “Spend The Night” featuring Coco Jones.
Standout songs on Gravy include “Get Loose,” “Honey” featuring Chloe, “Feel Something Do Something,” and “We’ll Be Alright (Outro).” Gravy features guest appearances by Philip Bailey, Robert Glasper, and Andra Day.
In a statement shared with ThisIsRnB, BJ shared the inspiration behind the album. “Gravy smothers, covers, and makes everything taste better. The album ‘Gravy’ is the persona of what the new cool is. It’s that feeling when you’re at your absolute best, got on your best clothes, exuding confidence in every step and word. This project embodies the very essence of how you carry yourself, how you assert your authority, and how you rise to the occasion. In essence, it’s the soul of the music, and in turn, the music becomes the gravy that defines me,” said the singer.
As a full project, Gravy serves all of the best parts of BJ The Chicago Kid and Yeti beats artistry. This album explores further what BJ has delivered in the past but remains true to his ethos. Yeti’s attention to instrumentation and musicality helps to lift and create a personalized experience, which helped to amplify BJ’s vocal abilities.
Chris Brown – 11:11
Chris Brown is arguably one of the most diverse R&B artists of our times. Not only can he dip into several different genres, but he is constantly evolving and searching for what sounds are on the rise. Curiosity is at the center of his new album, 11:11.
The album’s title is a reference to numerology as fans wished he put it out sooner, but in all actuality, it could be Brown’s way of saying accept me in my current state. One running complaint about Brown’s past projects is that they’ve been cumbersome. From similar-sounding tracks and a lengthy runtime, it oftentimes felt repetitive. However, on 11:11, he’s beginning to trim away the fat. Although the body of work has 22 songs, the sonic switch-ups help keep the listener tuned in. You won’t mind yourself bored listening to this project.
From pop and dance to AfroBeat, 11:11 has it all, including, of course, R&B. Brown also managed to squeeze his love for rap into the project. This is seen in his previously shared singles (“Sensational” featuring Davido and Lojay, “Summer Too Hot,” and “Nightmares” featuring Byron Messia), plus the selected guest features (Future & Friday). But the standout songs “Press Me,” “Best Ever” featuring Maeta, “Shooter,” and “Stutter” are where Brown’s vision really shines.
11:11 is one of Brown’s best projects over the years. There are points in the album where I wish it were condensed, taking it from 22 tracks to around 16, but his discernment has improved drastically. With the exception of Future, the guest cameos add to his overall project while and elevating the sonic story presented. Overall, 11:11 is an out-of-this-world showing for Chris Brown, and it reintroduces why he’s considered to be one of the leaders in the R&B space.
Terrace Martin & Gallant – Sneek
Terrence Martin is on a creative streak. Last week, it was announced that the musician was nominated for yet another Grammy award. Before that, he released a collaborative album with Alex Isley. Now, he’s teamed up with singer Gallant for another body of work titled Sneek.
On the 9-track project, Martin and Gallant know no bounds. The pair pulls in jazz, R&B, neo-soul, and EDM elements to fill their musical canvas. The common thread throughout the project is the musical freedom expressed on the lead single, “311!” featuring Robert Glasper and Keyon Harrold. Gallant has become known for his powerful vocal delivery, whereas Martin has strenuous instrumentation. However, on Sneek, both present a sense of ease.
Gallant taps into a gentler side of his voice. Martin’s production shows a sense of freestyle rather than a tightly guided structure. Sneek is an artist’s album. A work to display their innermost creative concepts stretching beyond what fans are open to hearing. The standouts on Sneek include “Bend,” “Alphabet City,” “Oslo,” and “Devil’s Advocate.”
Sneek is intended for those looking to music beyond current trends. Sneek offers that and more. Several tracks hop from genre to genre, creating an experience that can only be described as a buffet. At any point, one record could be a course within itself, but when put together, it’s a full offering that will level you stuffed. Listeners will continue to dig into this project for months to come. Sneek isn’t microwavable music; this is a home-cooked feast.
Jacob Latimore – Closure
When it comes to relationships, whether it be romantic, platonic, or familial, the idea of closure is a misleading concept. For his latest project by the same name, Jacob Latimore tapped into that mystical emotion. Across the project’s six tracks, Latimore channels different parts of the emotional journey towards healing.
This project’s rollout began in 2022 with the release of the single “Selfish” and has spread across the year. Latimore has crafted a robust story around the body of work’s concept in that time. Closure’s additional singles “Sorry” and “Drop” prove that. To date, it’s Latimore’s most robust thematic project to date.
Latimore entered the industry when he was just 10 years old. Since then, he’s seemingly given the audience what he thought they wanted to hear. In the last few years, he’s focus shifted away from music and into acting, starring in Showtime’s original series The Chi and the House Party film remake. That step back from music gave him a newfound clarity and confidence in what he had to offer. Closure is spoken from a place of lived experience. It feels authentic and can potentially push Latimore into the mainstream R&B conversations.
“This project was extremely therapeutic for me,” wrote Latimore in a post on Instagram discussing the project.
In six songs, listeners finally understand who Latimore is as a musician, thanks to those standout singles. Closure is enriched with dance elements and traditional R&B. Latimore, and the project’s producers carved out a space for him to step into his vulnerability, vocal abilities, and songwriting capabilities. Over the last few years, Latimore’s acting career has taken off, and with Closure, his R&B career will soon follow.
Jon B – “Waiting On You” featuring Tank
Jon B is a fixture on the road. As he tours from city to city, fans are happy to sit back and enjoy his classic projects. Although he doesn’t mind taking a tribe down memory lane, he still has new works in the vault ready to hit streaming services, starting with his latest single, “Waiting On You.”
To announce his upcoming album, the singer teamed up with Tank to show you why he’s a staple in R&B music. The track, which was co-produced by Brady Watt, is a display of their veteran status. Both crooners’ vocals are as smooth to the ears as silk is to the touch.
As Jon sings, “Baby you walk away / However long that it takes / Because I’m not there somewhere I’ll find you / Get you face to face / Crazy how it always on time / Even when the sun is lame / Only you can make the clock stay still / But never let time go away,” you know this is for the grown and sexy.
In a post on Instagram, Jon shared a message about the inspiration behind the record. “For my birthday this year, my gift is to [my fans is] my new single from the forthcoming album, ‘Waiting on You’ featuring Tank. Thank you for being patient with me. Each song is a capsuled emotion and every album is a tribute to the old feelings left behind,” wrote the singer.
“Waiting On You” is Jon B’s follow-up to his 2019 tracks “Priceless” and “Understand.”
Ari Lennox – “Get Close”
Ari Lennox is back. That’s not a phrase most fans thought they’d say before the end of the year. However, she shocked her followers online by announcing that she had a new track in the pipeline. That track was none other than “Get Close.” The record, which is co-produced by DZL and Kelvin ‘Wu10’ Wooten, is a track all about the importance of intimacy.
Whether or not you and your partner differ in general interest, you must find a way to maintain connection across the board, but of course, physically. As Lennox sings, “New York pizza, My Coke Zero / Gamble my heart, Rob Dinero / I just want you to call / So we can get congenial / Get close, Get close / Need you close,” she stresses he wise to be connected with her lover.
Regardless of their difference, their love for one another is the common ground. “Get Close” also emphasizes intimacy outside of sexual penetration. Lennox has documented her quest for sexual liberation throughout past albums and projects. “Get Close” is just another example of that layer of exploration.
With Dreamville Fest 2024’s lineup set to be released song, it is safe to assume “Get Close” is just the beginning of Lennox’s rollout for next year.
“Get Close” is Ari Lennox’s first solo release, with the exception of her cover of “My Favorite Things” since her 2022 EP Away Message.
Cedric Brazle – “Life Of The Party”
If we were to compile a list of 2023’s top R&B rookies, Cedric Brazle would surely make the list. The Jacksonville, Florida native has craved out a blossoming fan base for himself with his project …What I Know Now. Since March, he’s continued to promote the body of work.
However, before the year ended, he wanted to deliver something fresh to fans. To give supporters a taste of what’s to come next year, Brazle dropped his new KobeBeats-produced single, “Life Of The Party.” The record is an emotional look back on his love life, diving into the areas where he’s gone wrong.
“I’ve been taking love straight to head / I’ll look you right in the eyes / I hold close what I find / Yeah, I sin, but I’m better than I’ve ever been / I’ve made mistakes in hindsight but I get better with time / But with love it takes me out of pocket, gotta stop it / Might as well go out to the party / Gassed up on Henny and double cups / Might as well go catch me a body,” sings Brazle.
Cedric shared an exclusive statement with ThisIsRNB about the track. “[Life of the Party] is a record about self-reflection, especially when it comes to relationships. Sometimes, we put everything into our relationships and feel like, ‘What was the point? I might as well have been the bad guy.’ I’ve been in relationships that haven’t served me, and this song is a reminder that I can’t revisit that place moving forward since it hasn’t served me well,” wrote the singer.
Lilly Aviana – “Breathe”
Our constant connection to the daily devastating news around the world has made us extremely overwhelmed. From society’s battle with inflation, wars, natural disasters, famine, and more, it is hard just to take a breath sometimes. Lilly Aviana’s latest single, “Breathe,” is a musical outcry for just a moment of peace.
The Reggie Volume-produced song allows the Houston, Texas singer to express her empathic feelings. “Breathe” is a soundtrack to those overwhelmed, drained, and exhausted by life.
“You’re all f*cking crazy / I’m just the first to admit it / So I’m sending all my praises / Sending it up to the spirits / So take me to the waters / Drown my soul, drown my soul / Take me to the darkest depths just to free me so, free me so / So I can breathe / I just wanna breathe,” sings Lilly.
On “Breathe,” Lilly Aviana removed her mask of perceived strength to declare that it can quickly become too much for one person to manage. In a statement shared with ThisIsRNB, Lilly detailed the inspiration behind the track. “[Breathe] is a song I wrote in my darkest hour. It speaks about the pressures from every aspect of life we experience and wanting to escape that. I hope this song strikes something in your soul that moves you to break away from suffocating situations and allows you to breathe,” wrote the singer.
Cover photo credit: Micaiah Carter