The transition from summer to fall is the perfect time to change up playlists and add some more laid-back, soulful sounds as the nights get longer. The U.K. has long had a strong R&B scene, dating back before Sade first scraped back her hair and donned hoop earrings. This continues today with a raft of new artists from across the country pushing things forward. From grime-y and futuristic takes on the genre to impeccable ‘90s throwbacks, here’s a guide to the artists you need to know.
Who: 18-year-old Raye released her debut EP independently in 2015 before signing to Polydor and hooking up with Charli XCX, who co-wrote and directed the video for recent single “I, U, Us.” That song is good but her Stormzy collaboration “Ambition,” which shows off Raye’s nonchalant vocals perfectly, is even better.
Start with: “Ambition”
2. Jorja Smith
Who: The soulful teenager with the world at her feet. 19 year-old Jorja emerged earlier this year with the Dizzee Rascal-sampling “Blue Lights” and has gone on to impress with every single release. She has a voice that can silence a room, and boasts an ability to make everyday stories sound romantic. Read her Gen F profile here.
Start with: “Blue Lights”
3. Ray BLK
Who: NAO is one of 2016’s breakout stars, and she worked with Disclosure and A.K. Paul on the way to making her impressive debut For All We Know. Her brand of gospel influenced vocals and modern, bass-heavy production is self-described as “wonky funk.” Read her Gen F profile here.
Start with: “Fool To Love”
5. Samm Henshaw
7. Sinéad Harnett
Who: Harnett has spent the past few years dabbling with major league EDM acts like Rudimental and Disclosure but eases into a more soulful style on her solo material. This summer’s self-titled EP was her most intimate work to date, and includes the great single “If You Let Me.” Check out Sinead’s Instagram for her #SoGoneChallenge and Frank Ocean cover.
Start with: “If You Let Me”
8. Raleigh Ritchie
Who: When he’s not bringing his Queen's vengeance upon the Sunset Kingdoms in Game Of Thrones as Grey Worm, Raleigh Ritchie makes a warm and vulnerable mix of R&B, house, and soul. Producers on his debut album You’re A Man Now, Boy included Sounwave and DJ Dahi.
Start with: “Never Better”
9. Laura Mvula
Who: Laura Mvula’s first album often hinted at wilder times ahead. She realized that rule-breaking potential this year with the release of her second album, The Dreaming Room, a collection of twisted productions that harness Mvula’s classical training and love of idiosyncratic song structures.
Start with: “Phenomenal Woman”
12. Etta Bond
Who: Etta Bond is an outspoken talent, unafraid to vent on female empowerment and body image. She has logged studio time with Skepta and Lady Leshurr and released a slew of material on the way. Probably the only artist on Simon Cowell’s label who smokes weed in their music videos.
Start with: "#Bad4Me"
15. Knox Brown
Who: As a songwriter, Knox Brown has contributed songs to Beyoncé and Mary J. Blige albums. The Jamaica-born musician is focusing on his own powerful and raw material now though, and this year’s Searching EP saw him collaborate with BJ The Chicago Kid and Anderson .Paak.
Start with: “No Slaves”
18. Ella Mai
Who: DJ Mustard knows a hit when he hears one, and earlier this year he signed Londoner Ella Mai to his 10 Summers label after discovering her on Instagram. The first project they have worked on together is the Time EP, featuring “She Don’t,” a Ty Dolla $ign collab that captures Mai in angry form as she sings Push red every time you phone me. Read her FADER interview here.
Start with: “She Don’t” f. Ty Dolla $ign