Mac Ayres, a 21-year-old New York native, is an upcoming R&B artist that has shaped his music from legends Stevie Wonder, D’Angelo, and J Dilla. His contemporary take on the elements seen in his inspirations’ work is reflected in his EP, Drive Slow, and album, Something to Feel.
Interestingly enough, Ayres originally wanted to create music similar to John Mayer upon entering Berklee College of Music. After being exposed to multiple genres of music, Ayres strayed away from his original desire to produce Blues-Rock music and gravitated towards soul and R&B. Because of this shift, Ayres dropped out of Berklee to discover his own musical identity.
Ayres first gained recognition on his debut single “Easy,” with the help of Joe Jonas providing a platform for the song on his social media. “Easy” garnered the attention of Fête Records, and with this label, Ayres was able to produce the nine track EP, Drive Slow. The recurring car themes of Drive Slow is a “metaphor for life” according to Ayres. This collection is based on Ayres’ thoughts about how “too many people are rushing through life, and it’s important to remember to appreciate where you’re at in any stage of it.”
Mahalia Burkmar, better known by her stage name Mahalia, is an English R&B and Neo-Soul artist based in Birmingham. Drawing inspiration from Erykah Badu and Lauryn Hill, Mahalia’s euphonic vocals earned her a spot in Asylum Records UK—a record label that released Ed Sheeran’s debut album +. Interestingly, all of this took place when Burkmar was 13.
Her first EP, Head Space, was released July 2012, and is the epitome of an emerging adolescent’s approach to love. Mahalia’s follow-up EP, Never Change, was released in 2015 after the singer went on a hiatus to finish up her education. The three-year gap gave Mahalia time to mature. In a way, Never Change converses with her previous EP since the themes of the songs “Never Change,” “Borrowers,” “Up,” and “Maisie” focus on personal growth, self-worth, and a more jaded perspective on young love. Her 2016 album, Diary of Me, carries the same messages and can be interpreted as a reflection of Mahalia’s journey into adulthood.
Mahalia’s discography is primarily acoustic-based, but her recent music such as the track “One Night Only” in her 2018 EP Seasons and singles “No Pressure,” “Sober,” “No Reply,” and “I Wish I Missed My Ex,” has experimented with synthesized jazzy instrumentals to align with the contemporary R&B genre popular today. Mahalia has also collaborated with artists Buddy and Little Simz in singles “Hold On” and “Proud of Me” respectively.