by Kimberly Wilson
Throughout the past few years we’ve seen the emergence of some of the most talented R&B vocalists and songwriters of this generation. Though not as publicly recognized as Beyoncé, Rihanna, or even Ciara, there’s a new era of artists that deserve a spotlight for their talents and efforts, yet they are often overlooked by mainstream media and general audiences. These women are innovative, inspiring, and push the envelope in ways that more mainstream artists would never dare.
And because everyone loves an underdog, we want to pay tribute to these women. From a “Mascara” wearing Philly native, to a G.O.O.D girl, here are the black women musicians, singers, and songwriters we hope get more shine in 2015.
Jazmine Sullivan is something special. After abandoning the spotlight nearly three years ago, with a confusing tweet that she was “leaving the music industry,” fans have waited eagerly for the return of the Philadelphia songstress. Thankfully for us, the wait is finally over. Jazmine Sullivan has reemerged with her latest studio album, Reality Show. The LP invites us to ride along her emotional roller coaster of love, life, and brutal honesty, evident by her tracks “Forever Don’t Last,” “Masterpiece” and “Mascara.” The 27-year-old recently spoke about the inspiration behind the new tracks, sharing that she was an in emotionally and physically abusive relationship. The album is due in stores January 13th.
“Forever Don’t Last” by Jazmine Sullivan
After releasing her “Every Girl” EP in 2011, fans were sure that Bridget Kelly’s debut album was right around the corner. The EP release, which featured “Forever”—later released by Frank Ocean—was well received as a fan favorite, and was the perfect introduction for the former RocNation signee’s songwriting and vocal abilities. Yet, no full-length album was ever released. However, her 2013 hit single “Special Delivery” gave her instant popularity—as we have come to love her easily relatable lyrics. Kelly, who announced her departure from RocNation earlier last year, is now working on her independent debut album, All Or Nothing. We can’t wait!
“Special Delivery” by Bridget Kelly
We’ve come to learn that “alternative” R&B chanteuse SZA can can hold her own. Being the first R&B signee to Top Dawg Entertainment is no small feat, as it is the musical home to Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q, Jay Rock, and Ab-Soul. We saw how popular and dearly beloved the St. Louis-bred singer is when we posted a list of Black women music artists who held it down for us in 2014 and SZA wasn't included on this list. Her first three EPs, See. SZA. Run., S, and Z left fans impressed by her unique, yet vulnerable vocal abilities, which separate her from her fellow TDE label mates. With her impending debut album, A, we’re excited about SZA’s upcoming year.
“Babylon” by SZA
Photo: Def Jam
Before joining Kanye’s G.O.O.D. Music roster, Taylor began as a protégée under Pharrell Williams and his StarTrak record label at age 15. You may remember her extravagant 80’s themed episode of My Super Sweet 16 on MTV, but since, we’ve heard very little from the singer-songwriter, with the exception of a few features here and there. Finally debuting her highly anticipated debut album VII at the end of 2014, the Harlem native has proved that she is a force to be reckoned with. The burgeoning talent released what some hailed as one of the best R&B projects of the year. With songs such as a “Maybe,” “Do Not Disturb,” and “Outta My League,” fans were offered a sneak peak at the wide range of abilities that Teyana has to offer. And the best part? The 24-year-old is just getting started.
“Maybe” by Teyana Taylor
Photo: Our Dawn Entertainment
Sure, she’s been the center of a few controversies this year, but there’s no denying the girl can sang. Although she’s bounced from Danity Kane, to Dirty Money, and back to Danity Kane, throughout it all, Dawn has been consistent in showing her undeniable talents as both a solo artist and collaborator. Her lyrical and storytelling abilities are the reason she remains one of our favorite up-and-coming R&B performers. With a new look, new sound, and a new outlook on life, she’s ready to prove to the world what she’s made of. The second album in her “heart” trilogy, Blackheart, is due on January 15th.
“Blow” by Dawn Richard
Kimberly Wilson is a regular contributor at For Harriet.