Berkeley-native Netta Brielle is a force to be reckoned with. Signed to Atlantic Records last year, her mixtape Will You Go With Me? clearly demonstrates her strengths as an artist and singer. She is, first and foremost, an RnB singer with a strong, dynamic voice and an impressive capability to hold long notes. But, like many female singers these days, she’s also well versed in pop and there’s at least one track on her mixtape, as well as the song she did with B.O.B., "It’s The Weekend," where she shows off her pop star skills. Her covers of Mint Condition’s “Breaking My Heart” and SWV’s “Rain” further show how good of a songstress she is because, truth be told, they’re almost better than the originals.
RnBaes: Female Singers On The Rise
Kelela is most known within the hipster community because of her former connection with the famed New York-based clothing empire, Opening Ceremony. But word of her is spreading largely because her music is so different from everything else that’s out there. Her most recent mixtape, Cut 4 Me, can best be described as “nouveau RnB.” Her music is slow and drawn out, with a hazy, heady feel to it. Her lyrics are simple and her voice, simple, too. So far she’s sung primarily love or lust songs, their messages toned down by the laidback vibe of her music. Though there’s a heavy techno, electronic streak to her music, it sounds more like techno and electronica after a few glasses of wine with a Xanax chaser.
Columbian singer Kali Uchis makes sweet, simple, and uncomplicated music with cute and clever lyrics (“I set the table for two / Maybe it’s cuz I’m a fool / I set the table for you”). She has a seductive, somewhat muffled-sounding voice reminiscent of a singer from the first half of the 20th Century. Her music videos, and even her look, are incredibly vivid and creative, and make it clear that she is, first and foremost, an artist. Although her unmistakable trendiness and intentional coolness make her shine less bright, Kali Uchis is still a force to be reckoned with.
Tink got her start as a rapper back in 2012 at the jaw-dropping age of 17. Her crisp, high-pitched voice was perfect for spitting bars at rapid-fire speed, but it’s also proven to be an asset in RnB, as well. Yes, Tink still sounds incredibly young (and, at age 19, she is), but that’s part of her appeal. In her debut mixtape, Winter’s Diary, her youthful voice adds a tender and confessional feel to her music. Tink is undeniably an amazing singer (and rapper, to boot) and with her ambition and work ethic, there’s no telling what she’ll do next.
FKA Twigs is another one of those loosely defined RnB artists, but she’s so weird and experimental (in a good way) that it’s hard to categorize her. (Although there are some who compare her to Aaliyah). Some of her songs sound ambient, others electronic, but they all have strong RnB influences. Her voice is high-pitched and angelic and works well with the slow, drawn out instrumentals of her songs. Nouveau RnB though she may be, she’s an amazing songstress with an incredible capacity for making different sounds and styles work.
Classifying Mary Gold as an RnB singer is a bit of a stretch because classifying Mary Gold is virtually impossible. Her music is elusive and so experimental to the point of sounding like a whole new genre. Some people might be tempted to call her a rapper because she’s signed to Curren$y’s Jet Life crew—but rapper she is not. She’s a wailer and a moaner and a mumbler and a siren. Her songs range from the macabre and creepy to hazy, stoner music. She’s just starting out so it’s likely that she’s still honing her style, but it’s cool how Curren$y seems to be letting her do her thing and let her freak flag fly.
At the age of 11, Brianna Perry was signed to Missy Elliot’s label The Goldmind and in 2011, she signed with Atlantic Records. Why? Her voice. It’s deep and harsh and cold and yet, incredibly sexy, too. It’s perfect for rapping, but perfect for crooning, too. The contradiction between how she looks—incredibly hot—and how she talks and sings is also intriguing. She’s a strong, intimidating woman—both in song and in real life—and you can literally hear her power and energy in her music. Though she raps a lot, it is her slower, smoother RnB jams, like “Interlude” on her mixtape Symphony No. 9, where she shines most. Her cover of Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away” is a refreshing, less pop-y take on the original that, we admit, almost takes our breath away.
Another “Nouveau RnB” artist on this list, Doja Cat combines crooning, rapping and spoken word to create her own unique, spaced-out sound. Her scratchy, smoky voice melds seamlessly with the hazy, ethereal background beats in her music and her lyrics are silly and playful, like her name. The avante garde runs deep in her music and it’s clear that this creative songstress hails from Los Angeles.
Perhaps the least known artist on this list, Tamara Renee is nonetheless one of the most unique. Her classical RnB voice sounds like a hybrid of Jill Scott and a choirgirl and it’s as smooth as silk. Her debut EP Moon Goddess shows off her array of sounds: from lively and fanciful to passionate and intense to sorrowful and plaintive. There’s a shimmery, mystical quality to her music, as well, that makes it sound like it’s been sprinkled with fairy dust or glitter or something not-of-this-world.
An Oakland native, Kehlani makes upbeat, pop-y songs that mesh well with her youthful, energetic voice. There’s an undeniable vibrancy to her music that is in some ways reminiscent of something you’d hear on the Disney Channel and she has quite a few songs that sound like something you’d hear on the radio. Most of her songs are fast-paced and chipper, but she has a few slower, sultrier tracks out, as well.
Stream Freeway & The Jacka's "Highway Robbery"
Stream Freeway & The Jacka's collaborative album "Highway Robbery."
We highlight a slew of female r'n'b singers on their way up, from Tink to Kelela.
In the last few years, a slew of new female artists have flooded the rap game, but the tide appears to be turning. More and more women are emerging as RnB artists, churning out sultry tunes and love ballads, each with their own unique twist. While some of the ladies on this list have a more traditional, classic RnB sound, the bulk of them have made a name for themselves by pushing boundaries and mixing genres. Though they all sing, some of them wail and some of them whisper. Some sing about love, others about death. Many of them rap just as well as they can sing and oftentimes weave bars into their lyrics. Each of these singers has crafted her own unique sound, it’s just a matter now of sharing their sounds with the rest of the world. Take a look at these RnBaes that are on the rise.