Last week we put out a list of the city's produce's to watch, honoring a subsection of the industry that often gets overlooked. There was no way we could capture all the producers that contribute to the city's music scene we were able to highlight a few and today we are doing the same with another often overlooked section of the industry.
The R&B genre is powerful, vast, and varying. Though many would say it has diminished over the years it is beginning to see somewhat of a resurgence as the public looks for more singers instead of rappers that dabble in autotune. The list below, presented in no particular order, showcases a few of the Houston artist that are showing the diversity of R&B and the talent that Houston has to offer.
Kam Franklin is the lead singer of The Suffers, the band that had been releasing their Gulf Coast sound since 2011. Franklin is also eclectic creating a variety of music with different artists as well as solo that branch into other genres. She is currently working on the newest release for The Suffers as well as other projects, including a solo album.
Her first single, "Don't Get Caught Sick," details her frustration with the current American Health care system and offers a glimpse into the new music that she has to come. She is also apart of the Bayou City Comeback Chorus, a collection of singers releasing a social justice album inspired by psychedelic funk, jazz, and gospel which will debut on MLK day. It is impossible to boil all that Franklin does into one paragraph (social justice, vocalist, writer, producer, recording academy governor...the list goes on and on) but she uses her influence to constantly push for underserved communities as well as artist and performers in Houston. Fans and future fans should look forward to The Suffers new album as well as her new projects coming in the new year.
Lilly Aviana grew up listening to everything, with her family exposing her to the music of BB King, Selena, Led Zeppelin, Parliament, and more. She began writing and creating music, leaning more toward soul and in 2019 released Late Bloom, an album describing the seasons that she has gone through in life. Her writing transparently reveals her life and her story is one that has garnered her many fans because of her relatable vulnerability. This year she released a deluxe version of Late Bloom which includes new material and visuals. She has an undeniable voice so look to hear more of her in the years to come.
In 2020 Reggie Helms Jr, who usually just goes by Reggie, released "Southside Fade", a soulful ode to the city with an equally compelling video. Since then he has released "Ain't Gon Stop Me", "I Don't Wanna Feel No More", the Smino assisted "Avalanche", and "Traffic", four tracks that have listeners awaiting a full album. There is not a lot of music out by Reggie but what is out should have fans trying to see all that he's bringing in the next few years.
Instagram: @thetiagold Connect With Tia Gold
Tia Gold has been quoted as saying the old adage "Your network is your net worth." A couple of years ago that advice paid off when she attended a writers camp to help perfect her craft. She ultimately ended up impressing the organizers which led to her signing with Jay-Z's Rocnation. Working with producers like Chris Rockaway, she's able to create upbeat tracks like "Answer", uplifting odes like "Cry On Me" or the introspective "SOS." She also has a pretty funny TikTok page so go follow her.
Jack Freeman transitioned from a football career into singing and didn't look back. Wanting to learn the industry and perfect his talents, Freeman spent the earlier part of his career singing hooks for countless Houston rappers, bringing the work ethic he had on the field to the stage. In 2018, he released Find Love followed the next year by Leather. In 2020 he released three tracks on his Blood EP, music created in response to the turmoil felt throughout the country after the murder of George Floyd. Whether touring internationally or singing alongside Scarface, Freeman represents Houston through and through and, even though he's done a lot, there's much more to come.
Peyton grew up in the church, learning how to sing, while also learning how to play the violin at the age of five. Under the tutelage of her grandmother Peyton continued to develop the tools that would help her break into a music career. In 2015 she dropped her first project, Rollercoaster, via soundcloud and followed it up with 2017's Peace In The Midst of a Storm. This led to her 2019 EP Reach Out, an ep showcasing a writing ability of an artist much older than her. In 2020 she graduated college with a degree in fine arts and, as if graduating college during the middle of a pandemic wasn't enough, this year she released her Stone's Throw debut PSA.
Khody Blake is a relatively new artist from Alief who sings, raps, produces, and dances. Getting his start as a hype man for local acts, Blake is now taking the forefront, releasing singles with his Loud Muzik label mates Lil Flip and The Art of Ratchet. His latest single, "Sneaky Link" samples Joi's "Lick" and has him trading verses alongside Dallas' Fat Pimp. Blake's 2020 debut EP, The Khody Blake Show, displays his pop music roots with singles like "Phenom" and "Trouble", which has a sped up flip of "Computer Love". Expect to hear more from Khody Blake in the upcoming year.
In 2019, Lenora released "Relax" a soulful, sultry, '70s inspired jam produced by Beanz N Kornbread. The track caught the attention of Slim Thug who hoped on the remix. After a string of singles showcasing her affinity for the '70s aesthetic, Lenora and her creative partner, RIOT MUSE, not wanting to be boxed into any one sound decided to go in more of an '80s pop direction with her debut Girls. Working alongside Polyester The Saint, Lenora displays her classically trained voice over '80s synths and drums. The album immediately got 30,000 streams on the day of its release, impressive for an artist with no label backing. Look for more of Lenora in 2022.
David Michael Wyatt
Instagram: @davidmichaelwyatt Connect with David
This last year saw Tobe Nwigwe returning to Houston to close his sold out MonuMINTal Tour. The show is not just a showcase of Tobe's talents but also his friends and family. In that company is singer David Michael Wyatt who opened up the show at 713 Music Hall as well as lending his vocals throughout the main show. Wyatt grew up in the church and that influence is felt when he is performing on stage. He can be heard in video games like NBA2k, in Apple commercials, and throughout Nwigwe's projects. Expect to hear more from Wyatt as more and more fans discover his sound.
In 2020, Full Crate released the haunting "Magnetic" featuring Susan Carol and Sergiio. The track, with its slow, steady tempo displayed Carol's distinctive voice over Sergiio's Zap & Roger talkbox style. Carol began writing early, losing her father at the age of nine and using her creativity as an outlet. While dabbling in music throughout her life she began taking it seriously in college, and continuing to showcase her talent via cover videos on YouTube. She even picked up a guitar and began learning how to play to better express herself. Her 2016 debut, Alchemy, showed that Carol is a force in writing, singing, and production. This upcoming year should show even more.
Alexis Finely started her career on the production side of the music industry, graduating from college with a degree in sound recording technology. As she was learning the industry from behind the boards her first passion kept pulling her toward performing. Singing since the age of five. Finely saw it was something she couldn't let go to waste and released her first ep in 2019, Recovery. She quickly followed up with last year's, Sensitive Savage, and continues this year with her latest single "All Me." Look to see more of her as she works her way into 2022.
Instagram: @mrphillwade www.makeproperart.com
Many people know Phil Wade from his viral videos, like the one where he imitates Trey Songz or his Instagram videos where he sings commentary, Baptist gospel style over a child's toy piano. Wade is funny, but he is also a professional artist, trained in the art of performing. He tows the line between comedy and seriousness with projects like K Relly The King of Comedy R&B where he jokingly pokes fun at '90s music tropes while still offering actual '90s music. Look for more from Wade and his Make Proper Art collective in the new year.
Skyrah Bliss works in a few musical genres but right now is leaning heavily toward alternative Hip Hop and R&B. She's influenced by artists like Pharrell, Cee-Lo, Timberland, Ludacris, and Missy on a sonic level as well as visual. She's easily spotted by her brightly colored purple hair and is currently working on her Loud Muzik debut EP, A Purple Girl In A Purple World. Her currently released singles show her diversity of style with slow jams like, "I I I" as well as uptempo cuts like "Hoodrat Shit." Look to see more from her in 2022.
Was Dende already on a list? Yep. Is Dende on this R&B list because he is as equally good a singer as he is a rapper? Absolutely. He dropped A Happy Man at the top of the year, an album that continued the eclectic style that he displayed on his 2019 release DrkMttr. He then returned at the end of this year with a full R&B Ep titled Pregnancy Pack. Get into Dende now because the rest of the world is starting to discover him.
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Houston Press contributor DeVaughn Douglas is a freelance writer, blogger, and podcaster. He is 1/2 of the In My Humble Opinion Podcast and 1/1 of the Sleep and Procrastination Society. (That last one isn't a podcast; he just procrastinates and sleeps a lot.)