"My Dreamgirls behind me, feel like I'm James Early. The type of worship make Jesus come back a day early. With the faith of a a pumpkinseed-sized mustard seed. Hear, for I will speak noble things as entrusted me."
Millennial bedroom music dominates PartyNextDoor 3, the third sensual studio album of 23-year-old Canadian alternative-R&B artist Jahron Brathwaite, a.k.a. PartyNextDoor. Signed to Drake’s OVO Sound label in 2013, the singer-rapper-producer scored his highest-profile songwriting touchdown last year with Rihanna’s patois-infused summertime smash, “Work.” (Brathwaite’s roots: Jamaican and Trinidadian.) But ambient, blues-flavored tracks work seductive magic on PartyNextDoor 3—transforming his behind-the-scenes influence on seminal Drake records into frontman swagger. PartyNextDoor packs his personal brand of atmospheric melancholy into mood music meant for sexy time. It’s an addictive cocktail that reveals his party next door as less “shake your body down to the ground” and more downright erotic.
Jay Z’s Roc Nation inked a management and publishing deal with Nigerian singer-songwriter-actress Tiwa Savage last year, bringing the Lagos-born, London-bred superstar a warranted worldwide spotlight. Singing both in English (“Love Me (3x)”) and her native Yoruba (“Ife Wa Gbona”), Savage spun seven singles from her 2013 debut, Once Upon a Time. Percussive R&B, reggae and Afropop styles all intertwined on her 2015 follow-up, R.E.D., bubbling underneath lyrics dedicated to love and uplift. American audiences soaked up the crossover Nigerian soul of Sade and Seal decades ago; newer voices (Ayo, Nneka, Asa) made their mark in the 2000s with millennials. Now Tiwa Savage officially joins the highlife party.
Mystery comes at a premium in this oversharing age, and teenage R&B vocalist H.E.R. (a sly acronym for “having everything revealed”) commands her secrets well. H.E.R. Vol. 1 comes full of ambient atmosphere and ethereal vocals referencing the likes of Aaliyah (“Losing”) and Floetry (“Wait for It”). Brainchild of Gabi Wilson—a 19-year-old multi-instrumentalist raised in Vallejo, California—the seven-song EP rebranded the former child star by cloaking her in secrecy. Stripping down to simply the music worked highly in H.E.R.’s favor. Dreamy aural arrangements and sharp lyrics pervade most of Vol. 1; the pop potential of a future Vol. 2 guarantees Wilson won’t need her anonymous gambit much longer.
Not only does Tiller have the keys to Louisville, but March 12 is also known as Bryson Tiller Day in the Kentucky town.
Hip-hop’s legendary DJ Premier won’t work with just anyone, so his production on last year’s “Places to Go” says something significant. That stellar single from Malaysian-born, L.A.-based singer-songwriter Yuna (née Yunalis Mat Zara’ai) introduced Chapters, an album featuring even more assists from Usher (“Crush”) and Jhené Aiko (“Used to Love You”). With acoustic soundscapes, an international worldview and an image friendly to Muslim culture (see 14NOV, her line of signature head scarves), Yuna garnered attention from Pharrell—producer of “Live Your Life”—and Being Mary Jane, which featured “Lullabies” on an episode. Representing from Kuala Lumpur to California, alt-R&B has its new global ambassador.