Stuck with ungainly and misleading monikers like ‘alternative R&B’ or ‘PBR&B,’ the emerging sounds of contemporary R&B are chock-full of digital futures and fascinatingly abstracted sounds. We start with Jhene Aiko and Rae Sremmurd’s gorgeous love letter to ‘Sativa,’ (better luck next time, indica) which crawls through odd noises, languid melodies, and bio-mechanical scuttling too.
Kodie Shane’s ‘Can You Handle It?’ stretches out what would be an amazing pre-chorus, slowly gathering momentum over the course of three minutes. Shane’s voice is warped into a digital ghost, trapped somewhere between echoing drums and mournful keys. Equally haunting is Tory Lanez on Cashmere Cat’s ‘Miss You,’ which has the Canadian crooner panting over a gorgeous top-line lifted from London dancehall.
One of the eternally unchanged parts of the ever-shifting R&B landscape is the reliance on rappers to carry the back-half of a track with a usually lackluster guest verse, which Camila Cabello subverts wonderfully with the ad-libbed duet of ‘OMG.’ The track uses Migos’ main attraction, auto-tuned shouts and yips, to hype up Cabello into a double-time flow before the beat explodes.
The rest of this week’s list is full of tracks that tweak and subvert the formulas and patterns of R&B to create thrilling and vaguely left-field works of art that are ideal for getting stuck into with a spliff in hand, flexing hard or thinking deeply.
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