After months of teasing, Dawn Porter’s documentary on the life and legacy of R&B great Luther Vandross (Luther: Never Too Much) has begun showing. The industry’s leading voices, including Danyel Smith, showed their support at its showing at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. The public will have to wait awhile until they can view the film, so for now, you’ll just need to study the late musician’s highly decorated discography. But what the public can get their hands on are the new round of tour tickets from rising R&B acts such as Loony and OVO Sounds’ first lady Naomi Sharon.
But what new music dropped this week? This Fresh Finds Fridays column features releases from Kyle Dion, Destin Conrad, Umi, SiR, Reggie Becton, Sekou, Blk Odyssy, Kiah Victoria, and Ginga Soul. Check out this week’s roundup below. Don’t forget to let us know who you’re listening to in the comment section below.
Kyle Dion – If My Jeans Could Talk
If you’re looking for a deeply conceptual, Kyle Dion is your guy. With each release, the Coral Springs, Florida native digs his heels further into a creative proposition, exploring every angle before forcing it into submission on a record. The musician’s new EP, If My Jeans Could Talk, is one of his most potent examples of this due diligence.
From the way in which the 8-track body of work is produced and the lyricism shown to the supporting visuals for it, If My Jeans Could Talk is Kyle’s most thorough release to date. The sonics are clean, precise, and direct, which packs a punch as you listen. But most importantly, If My Jeans Could Talk is imaginative.
There are parts of this project that feel familiar, and that’s credited to the relatability in Kyle’s work. Kyle’s unique ability to turn overexplored concepts in R&B, such as unsteady relationships, one-sided romance, and emotional instability, into refreshing takes speaks to how nuanced his point of view is.
Pulling from the project’s title, If My Jeans Could Talk takes a look at Kyle’s most intimate areas that should be guarded and exposes them in a way that doesn’t feel exploitative. This project demonstrates how well-rounded Kyle Dion is. Not just as a vocalist, but as a songwriter, producer, and creative mind.
Standout tracks on If My Jeans Could Talk are “Gimme,” “Hang Me Out To Dry,” and “Soul Tied.”
Destin Conrad – Submissive 2
Before Destin Conrad hits the road for his first headlining tour, he needs to empty the vault. Despite having dropped his album Submissive just months ago, he still had more to add to the project’s sonic conversation. Although Submissive 2 is an extension of the initial release, on the 9-track project, Destin’s down a complete about-face.
Yes, the centralized focus of the body of work remains the same, but Destin’s creative direction is night and day in the best ways. To be frank, the clarity and steadiness of Submissive 2 make it the standout of the pair. In this installment, Destin delivers a more robust and mature discussion around relationship dynamics. Submissive 2 is the by-product of clarity. Once you’ve had sufficient time to process the relationship’s demise and decipher f*ckery from facts. The downtempo calmness threaded across the project helps the listener feel that same baptism from anger Destin has.
Standout tracks on Submissive 2 are “It’s Only You,” “Same Mistake” with Alex Isley, and “If I Lie.”
UMI – Talking To The Wind
UMI is a bright light in R&B. The Seattle, Washington native’s illumination at the center of her music. On her latest EP, Talking To The Wind, UMI explores the concept of joy. Across the 4-track project, UMI finds multiple approaches to extract joy from the smallest interactions.
Grand gestures are phenomenal, but how do you actively make a decision to be happy outside of those moments? The standout part of Talking To The Wind is how radical it is to be joyous. UMI’s appreciation for what others would consider a slice of normality is admirable. UMI’s gentle vocals and spirited songwriting throughout Talking To The Wind is therapeutic.
On X (formerly Twitter) Umi shared the inspiration behind the collection of songs. “When I am confused about life, I go outside and talk to the wind,” she wrote. “All the songs on this project feel like the wind to me. They give me the same feeling of peace and clarity. I trust it will do the same for you.”
Standout tracks on Talking To The Wind are “Not Necessarily” and “Show Me Out.”
SiR – “No Evil”
SiR held fans over in 2023 with a string of singles, covers, and soundtrack appearances. But 2024 is the year when supporters will get a new body of work from the Inglewood native. On his Taylor Hill-produced record, “No Evil,” he ushers listeners into his next full-length record. But if you thought it would be anything like his past works, you’d be wrong.
With several cult classes to his name, including his 2019 album Chasing Summer, SiR has mastered the traditional aspects of R&B. On “No Evil,” he’s exploring what else exists beyond the bounds. The record’s incorporation of rock, rap, and R&B is jarring at first, but as SiR’s sultry vocals pierce through the rugged introduction, you’re ready to follow him wherever he’s taking you.
As SiR sings, “Can you breathe underwater? / Should I dive any deeper? / What’s the name you want me to call you whenever I need you? / Are you here to get even? / Must be here for a reason / No point in tellin’ the truth when you’re bulletproof / And nobody cares to believe you / But, baby, I see you / And I see no evil,” his beloved R&B bad boy self shines bright.
From Prince to Miguel and now SiR, when your R&B favorite ventures into rock, you better brace yourself because something epic is on the horizon. “No Evil” is SiR’s follow-up to his song “Work Hard Play Hard” with D Smoke.
Reggie Becton – “Bad M’fkr”
Reggie Becton was ready to hit the road in 2023 to share his music with fans. Unfortunately, he was derailed from making that happen. However, instead of becoming crippled by that derailment, the PG County, Maryland representor returned to the booth.
His latest Étienne-produced single, “Bad M’fkr,” shows why the public was right to quickly become obsessed with him. The song’s streamlined use of the Spanish guitar is a cleverly crafted sonic metaphor driving home the message behind the record.
“A lot of pain, a lot of pain / A lot of shame, a lot of champagne / A lot of blame, a lot of blame / Thought I was immune to the pain / Been leveled by heartbreak / Got me guilty of the games that you play / I’ll bow down to your story / But there’s a lot of pain,” sings Reggie.
As the guitar pulls in all your focus, you lose all sense of the depressing nature of the song’s lyrics. How can something so memorizing to the ears be bad for your soul? The same way someone so ravishing can be so destructive to your heart. At its core, “Bad M’fker” is meant to show the embarrassing revelation you experience once the veil of infatuation is ripped from your eyes.
“Bad M’fkr” is Reggie Becton’s first single since the release of his 2023 album, Sadboy, Vol. 1.
Sekou – “Crying”
Last year, Sekou hit the R&B scene with something to prove. The Leicester-native, London-based singer released his debut EP, Out Of Mind. With the pressure off of his shoulders, Sekou is back to build upon the foundation he’s built.
Teaming up with songwriter extraordinaire Bibi Bourelly, “Crying” is a bold statement on all fronts. On the record, produced by Matt Rist, Sekou embraces his bravado. As he releases himself from the shackles of feeling jaded, Sekou fosters an empowering environment blanketed with the sternness of rich orchestric backing. Sekou’s chip on his shoulder hearts his ability to heal after heartbreak but makes for an irresistible song.
“You used to think that what we had / It wasn’t good enough / If that’s love, then I’ll find my emotions ‘til they’re gone / And I over us / If that’s love, then I don’t wanna fall in love again / ‘Cause what the f*ck was the point of that? / No, I don’t wanna fall in love again / ‘Cause broken hearts make maniacs,” sings Sekou.
On Instagram, Sekou shared the origins of the record. “This song means so much to me,” he wrote. “The storyline, just everything that I was feeling. I can’t wait to see this song grow. I wrote this song when I was 17, and it just sat on my notes demos I can’t believe it.”
“Crying” is Sekou’s follow-up to his EP Out Of Mind, released in 2023.
Blk Odyssy – “Want You”
Fresh off of his NPR Tiny Desk Concert debut, Blk Odyssy is ready to step into a new era. In the last two years, the Plainfield, New Jersey native has continually played around with sharp sonics, vocal styles, and abstract production. His latest single, “Want You,” co-produced with Tyler Johnson, is Blk Odyssy’s exploration into yet another dimension of his art.
In this next phase, Blk Odyssy is looking to integrate R&B and rock even further. This approach isn’t new by any means (i.e. Ashanti’s “Only You”). However, what is refreshing about Blk Odyssy’s approach is how quickly he can jump between genre pockets. He’s done alternative R&B, funk, rap, and now rock, Blk Odyssy isn’t allowing himself to become too comfortable with any one style.
The only consistent thing about Blk Odyssy is his unapologetic romantic core. “Want You” has that bad boy exterior with the lover boy interior. “I don’t give a f*ck what my daddy say / Baby, hit my line and I’ll be on the way, yeah / In a ’45, I’m doin’ ninety-eight, yeah / Overthinkin’ shit, I overcompensate / Bought a hundred roses in a bouquet / Maybe I should tell her it’s my birthday / That’s cap, but she still / Don’t want me at all / I’m so useless after all / Parked outside your home / And I want you / I could change it all,” sings Blk Odyssy.
“Want You” is Blk Odyssy’s first single since the release of his 2023 album Diamonds & Freaks.
Kiah Victoria – “Edges”
Kiah Victoria is one of the most enchanting independent R&B acts. For years, the Berlin-born, New York-based singer has fostered a dedicated fanbase with the release of several mixtapes, EPs, and carefully curated collaborations. Along the way, she’s even earned the cosigns from Billie Eilish and Jhené Aiko. Now, Kiah is finally ready to share her debut album with her admiring audience.
Until And Then We Wept is available to the public, Kiah’s warming up R&B lovers with sprinklings of her immersive work. Her latest single, “Edges,” produced by Rahm, is an ethereal display of Kiah’s metaphorically cozy approach to music.
The song’s title refers to one’s hairline, and in Black and Latinx communities, a woman’s edges carry cultural significance. The more kept they are, the more esteem a woman has – a gendered performance calling card that should never be seen as unkempt. However, in Kiah’s song, she is willing to break that covenant of femininity to experience intimacy without limits, edges be damned.
“I’m pressing out my hair now ‘cause you’re almost here / Ain’t seen you in a while but when we talk you’re so familiar / go off and drink for hours ‘cause the night is near / Hanging on the words that you said after the bodega / Standing on the fire escape / July / Sun goes down the skyline / You’re tracing my shoulder / It’s about the right time to get it started / Sweating out these edges,” sings Kiah.
“Edges” is Kiah Victoria’s follow-up to her song “Best Is The Best.
Ginga Soul – “Give it Up”
In 2021, Ginga Soul snatched the attention of R&B losers with the release of her debut EP, On My Mind. The Miami, Florida native’s warm vocals and core neo-soul perspective quickly made her a rookie to watch. Her latest single, “Give It Up,” is a continuation of those enticing elements.
The song, co-produced by HarveyBeatz, hilaael, and Archippe, is a sobering flashback to a tender time for Ginga. On the record, the singer relives the eye-opening moment when she learned that she was a pawn in someone else’s emotional game. “Spinning in my head about you again / Your second chance turned to three again / You were cunning it’s not funny played with my emotions,” sings Ginga.
If your love has ever been taken advantage of, experienced emotional turmoil, or delivered an ultimatum with your partner, Ginga’s “Give It Up” is for you.
“Give It Up” is Ginga Soul’s follow-up to her single “Karmic,” released in 2023.
*Post cover photo credit:Joel Verges