As families gathered around their tables for a filling meal, Brandy rolled out the Christmas cheer with a toasty performance during the 2023 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. That showing was just a taste of her seasonal cheer, especially following her Netflix film Best Christmas Ever, which secured the top spot on the streaming service. Another singer who spread the holiday spirit is Jordin Sparks. In a heartwarming post, Sparks revealed that she dropped a surprise EP for the occasion, The Gift Of Christmas. On the project are covers of the classic songs “O Come, All Ye Faithful,” “Jingle Bells,” and “Silent Night.”
If you’re looking for a break from holiday programming, this week the 2023 Soul Train Awards are slated to air. Keke Palmer will serve as host and featured performer. Other entertainers for the evening include BJ The Chicago Kid, Muni Long, Coco Jones, Fridayy, with the Soul Cypher participants being Bryan–Michael Cox, Marsha Ambrosius, Eric Bellinger, and Arin Ray.
This Fresh Finds Fridays column features new musical releases from Queen Naija, Ego Ella May, Summer Pearl, Dixon, Inayah, DJ Rose Gold, Savannah Ré, Fana Hues, Kyla Imani, and Kelz2busy. Listen to this week’s roundup below. Don’t forget to let us know who you’re listening to below in the comment section.
Queen Naija – After The Butterflies
Queen Naija is an openbook. The content creator turned recording artist has let the public in on her most intimate moments. Her latest body of work, After The Butterflies, holds true to that practice. Across the project, Queen Naija takes listeners through her journey towards healing. In the resolve, Queen Naija unlocked a level of deeper connection with self and those around her, which is heard on lead singles “Words Of Affirmation” and “No Fake Love” with YoungBoy Never Broke Again.
For Queen Naija, words like self-love aren’t grossly overused pseudo-therapy terms thrown around for pizzazz. Throughout After The Butterflies, she crafts a soundtrack for what inner work looks like. In each of the records on the EP, Queen Naija bears a part of the rocky path of soul-bearing shadow work.
The standout tracks include “Self Love,” “Taboo” featuring Eric Bellinger, “All Or Nothing” featuring Ella Mai, and “Soul Tied.” With ten songs on After The Butterflies, Queen Naija brings a host of guest appearances, such as Monica, to drive home the point. Queen Naija has shown to be an intentional artist across her discography. With the anticipation for her sophomore album hanging in the air this EP shows that she’s off to a great start.
In a post on her official Instagram, Queen Naija shared a note about the project. “I’m so happy to announce that I’m finally releasing a new project. While we wait on the sophomore album, please enjoy this body of work that was created from a real and vulnerable state in my life,” penned the singer.
After The Butterflies is a 10-track album of the growth that emotional soul searching and building up emotional intelligence presents in the stages of adulthood. Overall, After The Butterflies is a great project. However, the only thing that is still a point of concern for skeptics and fans alike is her reliance on samples, interpolations, and quick flips into her creative concepts. Although on this project Queen Naija’s artistic identity is clearly displayed, her confidence in her abilities as a songwriter and singer isn’t as strong. Maybe on her sophomore album, she’ll step away from lifting from staples and lean into crafting new ones of her own.
Ego Ella May – Fieldnotes, Pt. III
Ego Ella May is one of the most interesting newer acts to call South London home. The singer’s piercing vocals and interesting worldview help her to assemble enticing records. Ego Ella May knows all of the rules of music but rebelliously decides to break them. Her latest EP Fieldnotes, Pt. III is an example of those juxtaposed creative positions.
As the final installment of the series, Ego Ella May finds a way to curate a sonic structure to run parallel to her free-forming thoughts. This contrast immediately hits you once you start the first of the four songs as the strict, meticulous bounds of musicality are heard in its production as her storytelling ventures along different life paths. Ego Ella May’s delicate delivery is the thin thread tying it all together.
In a statement, she shared the behind-the-scenes process of crafting the body of work. “This is the third and final part of the ‘Fieldnotes’ project that I started in lockdown, and so much has changed. So many lessons have been learned and put into this music, but the best part is that I’ve been lucky enough to work with my friends on this project: Dougie Stu, LVTHER, Sam Posener, and Wu-Lu. I’ve co-produced three out of the four songs, and I’m incredibly proud of that. It’s about coming back to yourself time and time again, it’s about love, it’s about growth pains, and it’s about listening to your inner voice. God speaks in whispers. I can’t wait for you to hear this,” penned Ego Ella May.
As much as Ego Ella May refuses to be bound by a genre label, Fieldnotes, Pt. III highlights just why she’d be jazz’s fiercest new star should she fully commit to it. Ego Ella May is fluid in the sense of the word. She can craft a work in all genres or something that lives outside of them all, which is where Fieldnotes, Pt. III resides.
Summer Pearl – Outmysystem
Summer Pearl is another proud representative of London. But on her debut mixtape, Outmysystem, she broadcasts her love for her Jamaican and Grenadian roots. Across the project’s thirteen songs, which include singles “Waste Your Time,” “What You Want,” and “Green Eyes,” Summer Pearl emphasizes that her work is a melting pot of sounds and emotions.
The singer shared a statement with ThisIsRnB to provide background on the body of work. “This project is a collection of songs, some of which I wrote almost 8 years ago and some a lot more recent. These are songs that I needed to get out of my system in order for me to move on. To be able to move on and get over that relationship, romantic or platonic, to move on but not forget the loss of friends and family. I guess it’s somewhat of a release in order to get back to myself. This is the first project I’ve released in three years, and I feel like it’s the most me. There are a few songs on love and having a good time, and then, of course, I’m a student of life and have to write what I see in this crazy world. ‘Outmysystem’ is allowing me to move on to the next chapter in my life, and I’m excited to see what that looks like, feels like, and sounds like,” wrote Summer Pearl.
Summer Pearl is a multihyphenate musician, and Outmysystem showcases her varying range of musical interests.
Reneé Rapp – “Tummy Hurts” featuring Coco Jones
Reneé Rapp is pop music’s budding princess, but she has the vocals to cut up in any genre. In her latest single, “Tummy Hurts (Remix)” featuring Coco Jones, she demonstrates that she has the windpipes to hold her own in R&B. The Alexander 23-produced track that appears on Rapp’s Snow Angel album is the duet you didn’t know you needed.
Jones blends perfectly into to song’s sound. “Baby, go open a Bible / ‘Causе God knows that sin is a cycle / Lied to my face, it’s your hobby / Boy, you fine as hell for a psycho / When do they pay for the cost of their choice / Never ’cause that’s just them boys being boys,” sings Jones.
Rapp celebrated the collaboration with a post on her official Instagram. “Making this album has been the greatest gift. Doing it with my best friend was the icing on a sweet ass cake. I love you more than anything baby, Alexander 23! Coco Jones, it’s like you were made to be on this track. I’m emotional. Go take a shot for me love you guys,” wrote Rapp.
Dixson – “Friends”
The holiday forces you to think about the relationships in your life. For Dixson, he’s examining his inner circle on “Friends.” The songwriter questions the lady in his life with producer DJ Camper in the background to lay the scene.
“Since you keepin’ tabs, I said, ‘Run it up’ / Since I’ve been in my bag, you been actin’ up / I ain’t even mad ’cause you bad as f*ck / Ain’t another n***a who could measure up / I know you wanna laugh when I bring it up / You say, “It’s in the past”, baby, pass it up / You a red flag, girl, it’s in your blood / But I ain’t even trippin’ long as you ain’t actin’ different ’cause you know me,” sings Dixon.
This is just the beginning of Dixson’s plans, or so he shared on Instagram. “I’m so hyped right now. We got a lot in the chamber,” wrote the musician.
“Friends” is Dixson’s follow-up to his single “Sweeter,” which was released in February.
Inayah – “For The Streets”
Fantasia’s 2006 record “When I See U” is an undeniable R&B classic. The song also serves as the inspiration behind singer Inayah’s new single “For The Streets.” With assistance from producers BoogzDaBeast and Pyro Da God, Inayah reimagines the sample to tell her story about heartbreak.
“I had your picture on my mirror / I took that shit down / Finally see that you been a clown / Been holding us down while you f*cking around / N***a, you for the streets / Good thing I kept my receipts / I finally see, you no good for me / Now I’m finally living stress-free,” sings Inayah.
“For The Streets” is Inayah’s follow-up to singles “Most Girlz” and “Always Something” from her 2022 project Insecure.
DJ Rosegold – “Passion” featuring Savannah Ré & Fana Hues
Disc jockeys, more commonly known as DJs, are no longer just limited to playing the background. DJ Rosegold is taking a page out of Grammy-nominated acts like DJ Khaled. The Mississauga, Ontario native’s new single shows that she’s ready to forge a path of her own.
On “Passion,” DJ Rosegold put her plan for superstardom with help from singers Savannah Ré & Fana Hues. The whimsical ballad is about giving into your heart’s deepest desire, which is drawn out in the track’s lyrics. “Bad habit / You don’t know you’re my ex that’s tragic / I’ve been tryna spare your feelings, in the moment / Better know what I’m doing / Come here for the last time, you give me passion,” sings Fana Hues.
On Instagram, DJ Rosegold revealed that “Passion” was a long time in the making. “I started working on this song all the way back in 2022,” wrote the entertainer, sharing a clip of the behind-the-scenes work she put into to bringing the record to life.
DJ Rosegold got her start playing the supporting role for artists like Saweetie and Chloe Bailey. With “Passion,” she’ll have to find folks to open up for her very soon.
“Passion” is DJ Rosegold’s follow-up to her 2020 track “Hop Out” featuring Chillaa.
Kyla Imani – “Real To You”
You live and learn from your mistakes. For budding recording artist Kyla Imani, she turns those lessons into catchy R&B bops. The New York City native’s latest single, “Real To You,” is a shining light of her creative spark.
Since signing a joint publishing deal with PULSE and Stargate, Kyla Imani has been billed as the next R&B talent to watch. “Real To You,” which was co-produced by Alec Zeilon and Kyla Imani, helps the singer live up to the hype.
“My heart is bigger than my ass ever will be / Should’ve left you on seen / Know you just want one thing / Love on the internet to get in my sheets / You like my stories, but do you like me? / What part of me’s on your mind? / ‘Cause it ain’t my mind / And I don’t know why I’m replying / Part of me wants you to try / My delusional side keeps on letting you slide,” sings Kyla Imani.
“Real To You” is Kyla Imani’s follow-up to her past single “21 Forever.”
Kelz2busy – “6AM”
Brooklyn, New York, has held the rap music scene in a chokehold. But you can not discredit its impact on R&B. East New York native Kelz2busy is looking to build on that imprint. His latest single, “6AM,” is a melodic soundtrack to managing emotions in today’s turbulent romantic battlefield.
In a statement shared with ThisIsRNB, Kelz discussed the inspiration behind the track, saying, “This one means a lot to me. From the heavy bass line to the harmonies I laid when I first heard the production to the nostalgic, airy feeling it gave me right away, I knew I needed to come from the most honest place possible. Here is a real-life description of my experience with love and the disappointment that comes with it.”