Archive for the ‘Neo-Soul’ Category

Top 5 Neo-Soul Females


Erykah Badu

One of my favorite albums, across all music genres, is Erykah Badu’sMomma’s Gun.”  I honestly believe it’s one of the last true albums produced; and by that I mean it’s not a collection of singles… it’s a well-arranged production of songs.  Erykah is the mother of Neo-Soul;  I say this because she was the first major female Neo-soul artist, and has also “birthed” a number of new Neo-soul singers.   A couple of her background singers, N’Dambi and Yahzarah, have gone on to be hit makers in the genre as well… like Badu said, “[she] goes on and on and on and on.”

Badu calls her self an “analog girl in a digital world,” but that’s just her modesty.  She’s actually one of the most forward thinking and creative artists in music today.  A good songwriter can express the words and thoughts that you may feel everyday but don’t know how to say on your own; that’s why we love good music, it’s relatable.  A good singer can bring well-written lyrics to life; they have soul and passion.  A musician finds the notes to tie it all together…  but an artist is all this and more.  Whatever has created Erykah Badu, I love it.  She is a fantastic mix of flawed yet unapologetic womanhood.  She strips herself bare, sometimes literally, and shares her soul.  I don’t hear artists paying tribute to Badu or crediting her genius and influence, but isn’t that always the way for women?  The industry may not appreciate her now, but it will.  Maybe what’s really going on is she is the digital girl and we’re stuck in an analog world.

Jill Scott

Jill Scott

When the “Who is Jill Scott” album was first released, I put it in my car’s CD changer and didn’t take it out for like two years.  From her soft vocals echoing hope of lasting love to her screams of celebration, “Who is Jill Scott” is a classic album.  While I obviously love her recordings there is nothing like Jill Scott live.  She writes with the soul of a poet, performs with the intensity of a dramatic actress and sings like a goddess… I would say an angel, but I don’t’ think angels bring it like “Jilly from Philly.”  When her heart is broken, yours breaks too.  When she’s in love, you can’t wait to feel the same way.  That’s what Philadelphia soul has always done and that’s what flows through Jill Scott, from her hair follicles to her toenails.



Not since Sly and the Family Stone has a sound so raw and real come out of the San Francisco Bay Area.  Ledisi’s vocals can make you want to kick off your shoes in celebration or ball up in the corner and cry.  In her music, she asks the hard and serious questions aloud that so many women keep inside like; “How am I going to pay my bills?”  and “Will you be there in the morning?”  She is a down-home “gal” from the left coast and represents for the everyday sister everywhere.


Amel Larrieux

Now here lies the voice of an Angel. From the first time Amel Larrieux sweetly said, “Tell me if you want me to give you all my time,” the answer was a resounding yes from music fans everywhere. This singer, songwriter, musician and producer, began as a member of Groove Theory in the 90’s and has since become a solo, Neo-soul staple. Her sweet, soft and often pain stricken vocals always seem to feel a little melancholy even when she’s singing a happy song. She was a part of pioneering Neo-soul and continues to perform it better than most.


Me`shell Ndegeocello

From the fist time I heard Me`shell Ndegeocello’s low moan over her sensual bass guitar I thought, “Thank you God for sending my generation the music of Ndegeocello.”  She was so wonderfully retro-soul it almost seemed like a cosmic mistake.

Originally from the DC area, she flirts with hints of go-go in her percussion-driven up-tempo songs but is obviously in a serious relationship with soul.  She is a visual and stimulating songwriter; I can see what she’s describing and I can feel what she’s feeling.  My favorite Me`shell song changes from time-to-time, but my top two would be Outside Your Door and Rush Over.  These are literally two of my favorite songs of all time and there are quite a few other Me`shell songs that would easily go in my Top 50.  This musician, singer, songwriter is simply amazing and if you haven’t heard her album “Bitter,” get it immediately.  From the first note to the last, it is one of the most haunting R&B, Neo-Soul, Funk, Soul compilations ever!  And “Bitter” is great after a hard break up… just stay away from all sharp objects while you listen.

Top 5 Neo-Soul Males


D\’Angelo Sample

They say there are events in life so significant that you can remember exactly where you were and what you were doing when they happened.  For me, one of those moments would be the first time I heard D’Angelo’s “Brown Sugar” on the radio.  I, like so many others, knew in that moment that I was hearing greatness.  D’Angelo had one of the most short-lived yet influential musical careers of my generation.  Like with the absence of Lauryn Hill, D’Angelo has also left us with a void that has yet to be filled. He was a musician, singer-songwriter who was so significant that they had to come up with a new genre to categorize his sound… that genre was called neo-soul.


Maxwell Sample

Maxwell is the smooth side of neo-soul.  Because there was a D’Angelo there had to be a Maxwell in order to present that perfect balance and demonstrate the possibilities of this genre.  Maxwell’s sound was a like a fresh breeze cleansing us of the blasé music of the late 90’s.  I remember hearing the “Urban Hang Suite” album everywhere; I literally couldn’t walk from my college apartment without hearing it blasting through the windows of dorms or passing cars.  It was music so good and so different that we couldn’t stop listening to it; not just one or two cuts, but the entire album.  It is a classic, and today we are lucky enough to have this creative singer-songwriter giving us more and more.


Find a Way

I was a Dwele fan long before I even knew his name.  When he was just “that guy” on the keys and singing in the Slum Village video, I thought, I want to hear more from “that guy.”  Then when his first single dropped I was able to piece a name together with the distinct sound that is Dwele’s.  I took a similar path on my way to a love affair with the music of producer J-Dilla.  Detroit just keeps blessing us with the best.  If you don’t own a Dwele album, get one immediately.  This brother is a fantastic singer-songwriter, and musician with a sound that is unmistakably brilliant.


Musiq Sample

From the very first time I heard him hum the opening to “Just Friends,” I knew Musiq would be a star.  I lived in North Carolina at the time and the radio stations there were limited, at best, when it came to R&B.  I remember thinking the DJ made a mistake by playing Musiq and the song would never be played again.  I’m  very pleased to say that radio airplay has never been a problem for Musiq.  Born out of the Roots Crew, this Philly native represents oh so well.  I enjoy Musiq’s music consistently.

Eric Roberson

Eric Roberson Sample

Eric Roberson is one of the most under-rated talents in neo-soul.  Man I’m a fan!  Some call him the King of indie soul, I call him the Prince of neo-soul because he’s so versatile.  His sound ranges from R&B, to hip-hop, to house, to neo-soul and beyond.  If you ever get the chance to see Roberson live – run, don’t walk, to the show.  This brother takes words and or quotes from the audience and comes up with spontaneous songs that jam; it’s so amazing to watch.  He also plays guitar and has a fantastic band backing him up… he’s just a musician’s musician.  I love how he has consistently stayed true to his style of music and waits for the fans to come to him instead of vice versa.  He’s a true artists and I feel like DC can kind of claim this Philli native since he graduated from Howard University, wrote his first hit there (The Moon) and visits DC so often.

Raheem DeVaughn

Raheem DeVaughn Sample

And while this is a top 5 list; I’m going to break my own rule this one time and mention the number 6 artist on my list, Grammy nominated singer, songwriter Raheem DeVaughn.  He’s a Washington, DC native so there is no way I can’t give him props.  Raheem was a stand out as a member of the local DC group Crossroads in early 2000 and has since hustled his way to the top of his game.  I remember him selling his mixtapes out of his backpack on U-Street back in the day.  People often call Raheem a throw back to Marvin Gaye, but I think that’s the easy way out of really describing his complex sound.  Raheem does walk the line between social commentary and sensuality as Marvin did and he does have a banging falsetto as well.  But I believe DeVaughn, like so many of these neo-soul artists, is an amalgamation, as am I and so many other 70’s babies who are music fans.

We are a grand mix of all the R&B, soul, gospel, pop, jazz, blues and rock music that our parents, aunts and uncles listened to.  And it just so happens to be some of the best sounding music ever produced in American culture.  Thus the need for NEO-soul; there had to be a new genre created to categorize this gumbo that we play, sing and listen to.