Marco McKinnis, a Hampton, Virginia-born R&B artist, has slowly risen in the musical sphere with his silky and soulful vocal range. He has featured in Rex Orange County’s renowned album Apricot Princess on “Nothing” and has collaborated with DJDS—duo DJs who have helped work on Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo—on the tracks “Trees on Fire” and “Falling” seen in Big Wave More Fire. These features exhibit his flexibility in different genres outside his affinity for R&B considering that Rex Orange County and DJDS are alternative and electronic musicians, respectively.
McKinnis’ six-track EP, Underground, is saturated with layered instrumentals ranging from synthesized keyboards to acoustic guitar solos. Hit songs “Silence” and “CPR” gained recognition for its down-to-earth lyricism and overall old school vibes. Although many of McKinnis’ songs are reminiscent of the works produced by Babyface, Jon B., D’Angelo, and Maxwell, they still have their own fresh approach to R&B, and are similar to contemporary artists Brent Faiyaz and Daniel Caesar.
“CPR” music video:
Christian Andrew Berishaj, better known by his stage name JMSN, is an alternative R&B and soul artist who was raised by Albanian immigrant parents. JMSN has collaborated with big name rappers such as J. Cole, The Game, and Ab-Soul, and has also worked with renowned producer Sango. His striking vocal range and eccentric discography has infiltrated the music industry since 2005.
Berishaj’s introduction to the music world was before he created the moniker JMSN (pronounced Jameson). Berishaj was originally a part of a band named Love Arcade. He took on the name Snowhite and was recognized as the frontman of the group. At the age of eighteen, Love Arcade signed with Atlantic Records in 2005 and released their self-titled album. The band broke up after three years, but Berishaj still pursued a music career despite the division.
Toronto musician Lou Val is a distinguished SoundCloud artist whose sultry vocals and acoustic guitar-heavy beats have made its mark in the R&B sphere. His music was elevated from SoundCloud to renowned platforms such as OVO Sound Radio, Pigeons & Planes, Noisey, Spotify, and Apple Music.
Lou Val released Lonely In Paradise last May. This EP is packed with tracks that capture the artist’s approach to handling topics such as romance, failed relationships, self-reflection, and nostalgia. Lonely In Paradise is a blend of R&B, Indie, and Electronic beats complemented by Lou Val’s honeyed singing.
Songs off of Lonely in Paradise include the leading single, “The Earth Stood Still” as well as “We Live Fast,” “Not So Naive,” “Float,” “What She Needs,” and “Learn To Love.” Lou Val made sure to create an EP that spotlighted his lyrics by avoiding distractingly synthesized drops. These tracks encapsulate his insecurities about intimacy, the longevity of budding affairs, and finding love from within.
Chicago is one of many cities that has cultivated renowned hip hop artists such as Kanye West, Chance the Rapper, and Vic Mensa. In an area saturated with many people attempting to rise to fame within the music business, Nigerian-born rapper Tobi Lou stands out among the rest.
Tobi Lou incorporates heavily-synthesized beats, R&B-influenced choruses, and exuberant wordplay in his work. This is seen in two of his EPs, tobi lou and the Loop and tobi lou and the Juice.
The music video for “Buff Baby,” which is featured in tobi lou and the Loop, pays homage to Adventure Time’s “Memory of a Memory” episode. The artwork seen in this music video is also consistent with the cover art of his EPs and singles.