Hip hop and R&B go hand-in-hand. For that reason, I shall honor my top ten singers of 2018. When a vocalist bares it all it is almost a religious experience in some ways. There’s just something about the human voice that is beyond our comprehension…words can not describe the powerful beauty of it all. So kick your shoes off, cozy up, and recharge your soul to some good ol’ R&B. #ListWeek is here to take care of ya.
– Benny P
10) Kadhja Bonet
My breakout singer from this past year. Her Childqueen album is too damn good. Bonet stands out with a voice decades beyond her age – pure bliss when she hits those notes. Track after track the whole project is intoxicating and is sure to make you fall in love with the singer’s work. Add a feat to the intro of Anderson Paak’s album and Bonet broke through the gate strong in 2018. No looking back now!
Notable Feats: Childqueen, Childqueen Outtakes, ‘The Chase’
TDE in the house! When the label signed talented rising R&B star ‘SiR’ a few years back I had high hopes for him. In 2018 those hopes were fulfilled and then some. His debut full-length on the label November kicked the year off perfectly – some top-tier soul music on that release no doubt. His work on Masego’s ‘Old Age’ also had to be one of my favorite R&B collabs of the past year, chemistry was off that charts when they made that. Top Dawg sure does know how to pick ’em.
Notable Feats: November, ‘Old Age,’ ‘Nothing Greater,’ ‘Fuck Y’all,’ ‘Make it Out Alive,’ Chris Dave and The Drumhedz
8) Kali Uchis
Haunting, hypnotizing, and effortlessly cool stands Kali Uchis. Her voice sucks you in like a tractor beam. At least that’s how I felt throughout my listens of Isolation, her debut album. What a project that is, honestly not a bad song on there. Not only were the vocals immaculate, but the songwriting was incredible too. Kali finally blew up big time this year and it was much deserved. One of the most positive forces doing it in modern R&B right now.
Notable Feats: ISOLATION, ‘Worth My While,’ ‘Paranoid,’ ‘YAKWTFGO’
7) Jean Deaux
Hits upon hits were dropped by Chicago phenom Jean Deaux these past twelve months. She crushed the game with loosies like ‘Due to Me’ and ‘SSN,’ while also dropping a stunner of a project on Krash. To be real, Deaux might have the most unique voice on this list. There’s some certain falsettos only she can hit. One in a million; listen and hear for yourself!
Notable Feats: Krash, ‘Due to Me,’ TEMPO, ‘Let it Go,’ ‘SSN,’ ‘Phone Sex,’ O X, ‘Frequency,’ ‘Rude,’ ‘Feel Right,’ ‘Momma’s Beating,’ NOIR
6) Anderson Paak
It’s not a modern R&B party until Anderson Paak shows up! Onxard continues to grow on me with every listen and Paak’s energy is infectious as can be through the album’s entirety. It’s near-impossible to not have fun and groove to his music – if you ain’t dancing then what are you doing!? Paak one of the freshest voices to hit the scene this decade. With him working so close with legends on the daily, it’s really only up from here…
Notable Feats: Oxnard, ‘Bubblin/Bubblin Remix,’ ‘Bloody Waters,’ ‘Til it’s Over,’ Chris Dave and The Drumhedz, ‘Wrestlemania 20,’ ‘At Least I Know,’ ’20 Below’
5) Janelle Monáe
Janelle Monáe fucked these past twelve months up. That’s all that really needs to be said. Her album Dirty Computer rests in the upper echelon of 2018 – gorgeous, glistening R&B, funk and pop music on that release. Add into the mix a 50 minute short film to go along with the album and Monáe was easy royalty for this past year. Truly an icon.
Notable Feats: Dirty Computer, Dirty Computer short film, Sorry to Bother You: The Soundtrack
4) Blood Orange
What did we do to deserve Dev Hynes? His music and overall vibe are ethereal. Whenever I spun Negro Swan I felt as if it was almost being broadcasted from a different galaxy. Futuristic, nay celestial would be the word. Blood Orange blends genres on a dime, all while maintaining immaculate track presence. On top of that, he always hits his notes and that voice sounds pure as an ocean breeze. Bow down to the waviest…salute the Orange.
Notable Feats: Negro Swan, ‘Margiela Problems,’ ‘Giving Me Life’
3) Mac Ayers
Sleeper singer of 2018! Do not sleep on Mac Ayers. I was absolutely dumbfounded by Ayers when a good friend first told me about him early in the year. Dug into his first album and when he dropped his second this summer it was solidified. Mac Ayers became one of my favorite singers in 2018 and his music filled me with creative energy and warm vibes. One of the biggest compliments I can give. This kid is going places. That’s a guarantee.
Notable Feats: Something to Feel, ‘Falling,’ ‘Forever’
2) Georgie Anne Muldrow
George Anne motherfuckin’ Muldrow. What a year did she have. Absolutely murdered the game with her Overload album…can’t explain how good the music on that makes me feel. Muldrow sounded like a teacher to me – a professor actually. She’s poised, dropping beautiful lines and lyrics amongst transcendent vocals and production. I learned a lot about patience and self-confidence when consuming her art. In all honesty I probably should thank her. So, thank you Georgia Anne Muldrow. Hopefully we all can vitally transform in the year to come.
Notable Feats: Overload, Flowers/Bloom, ‘From the Wall,’ My Oh My It’s Time to Fly, ‘Myrrh Song,’ ‘Heaven My Home,’ ‘Got Your Back,’ ‘The Program,’ She Has Risen, ‘Starruh,’ ‘Tarot,’ ‘State of Mind,’ ‘Find Me,’ ‘Set the Monsters Loose,’ ‘Years to Come,’ ‘Go On,’ ‘We Make it Look Easy,’ ‘Transform,’ ‘Out of Your League’
1) Jorja Smith
The 2018 R&B crown belongs to Jorja Smith. The British star exploded into mainstream light and recognition this past year finally, showing to the world that she is a powerful force in the current scene. I straight up thought Jorja had the best voice in 2018. Every note she delivered hit me – don’t get me started on the masterpiece that is her debut Lost & Found. Still play that album on the weekly. Jorja’s voice almost sounds like ten different lifetimes stacked into one. Sheer power behind those pipes. One thing I wanna shout out too is the content of her music. Take a song like ‘Blue Lights,’ for instance. That’s an important song – a song that needs to keep being made. Not only did Jorja Smith hit all the right aesthetics, but her music also had tons of meaning. Add those two elements together and it’s set it stone. We are witnessing the early days of a legend.
Notable Feats: Lost & Found, ‘I Am,’ NPR Tiny Desk concert, ‘Reason in Disguise,’ ‘Go 2.0,’ ‘Follow the Leader (Acoustic),’ ‘My World’
Honorable Mention (more possibly to come)
The Electric Heart
B.J. the Chicago Kid
images via Georgia Anne Muldrow, Kadhja Bonet, SiR, Hip Hop Dx/NPR, Kali Uchis, Detroit Metro Times, Jean Deaux, Anderson Paak, Rich Fury/Invision/AP, Janelle Monae, Stephen Lovekin/Variety/REX/Shutterstock, Blood Orange/Dev Hynes, Nick Harwood, Mac Ayers, Jorja Smith, Chloe Newman and all rightful photographers/directors
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– Benny P