The autumn season has finally arrived and things are slowing down. K. Michelle is retiring from R&B, but the OG is indirectly passing the torch to a flood of rising stars. With the help of TA Thomas, Devon Gilfillian, Taite Imogen, Ego Ella May, Elmiene, Jesse Boykins III, we’re able to do just that while keeping our souls and hearts warm.
Thomas issued his solo debut EP as Elmiene, Boykins, Beharie, and May all preview their full-length projects, set to drop in the coming weeks. Imogen’s new EP is an ode to her Jordan year—she actually turned 23 this year. Carvena’s lusty debut single is definitely a babymaker while ZADA’s new single is more on the romantic side of intimacy. Meanwhile, Gregory Porter is gearing up for the holiday season as he shares the lead single from his first Christmas album.
So, if you’re ready for a soundtrack to self-awareness or would rather mark your time with sweet-nothings, comb through VIBE’s new R&B selects and pick your poison.
K. Michelle – I’m The Problem
K. Michelle is the problem and she’s perfectly fine coming to terms with that with her final R&B album. The Memphis native unpacks the “super emotional” recount of personal experiences while also displaying growth through the LP’s 19 tracks.
Last year, she told Rated R&B, “All my albums are emotional but I think this one I’ve been accumulating so many records. I’ve been healing through this album. I have dealt with my relationship through this album. I have dealt with my relationship with my son through this album. I have dealt with where I want to go in my future through this album. I’m at a crossroads in my life right now. So that’s what this is about.”
With this new LP, she also introduces fans to her alter ego, Puddin— ahead of her country debut EP arriving on Nov. 22. This is less a goodbye and more of a see you later as she comes home to her southern roots.
TA Thomas – Caught Between 2 Worlds
TA Thomas’s solo debut EP has finally arrived. After parting ways from NextTownDown, the crooner has returned to the music scene with his love letter to R&B, and he uses his own life to comb through the complex intricacies of relationships.
Featuring prior releases like “June 15th,” and “W.I.A (Where I’m At),” the EP can be aptly summed up through its title track as TA sings, “I ain’t never learned to/ To live with one decision/ Should be mindin’ my business/ But I’d rather ask forgiveness than permission.”
Thomas has dubbed this the “Fall R&B starter pack,” while also alluding that this is his most vulnerable release. “Every song is a World and a chapter in my book,” he stated on Instagram and the Camper produced project is not one to miss.
Devon Gilfillian feat. Sammy Rae – “Love You Anyway”
Devon Gilfillian partnered with the Brooklyn-bred collective, Sammy Rae & The Friends, for a stunning remix of his ballad, “Love You Anyway.” The soulful sensation is the title track from his album, released earlier this year.
“My dream is for this song to bring all communities together to have a conversation,” said Gilfillian in a statement. “There’s so much hate in this world that we could lessen just truly getting to know each other. I’m honored that Sammy Rae has added her incredible voice to this song. I saw her perform at Bonnaroo and fell in love with her music and her message. I know it may be idealistic, but I hope this song brings some change and light to the world.”
Rae added, “It’s my honor to be featured on a song as beautiful, close-to-the heart and relevant as this one. The melody and lyrics speak to any and all of us, and Devon’s compassionate voice and writing are so comforting.”
For those who crave true soul music, this one is for you.
Elmiene – “Marking My Time”
Elmiene, fresh off his Spotify RNB First Nights performance and intimate solo show, has released the title track from his forthcoming EP, Marking My Time. The project is set to arrive on Oct. 20 and is set to further cement his mark on R&B.
“The general theme of this project is trying to mark my time not in terms of history but just for me personally, so I don’t get lost,” the Oxford-based crooner expressed about the EP. “Almost making a checkpoint to anchor myself. Even sonically it’s like I’m marking my stamp that I put on things. Because I’m so deep in looking back behind me, I always found myself stumbling over what’s gonna happen next. So when my life started speeding up massively, I had to learn how to keep an eye on both sides — appreciating the past in order to do the future the right way and do it justice.”
“Marking My Time” follows previous singles, “Mama” and “Mad At Fire,” and his debut EP, El-Mean.
Jesse Boykins III – “Go With The Feeling”
Jesse Boykins III unveiled the latest single from his new album, New Growth. The Chicago native collaborated with Wynne Bennet and NAZ for the hypnotizing fusion of dancehall and soul.
According to Boykins, it is about “the laws of attraction and how it is in our nature to want to
have what is familiar and comfortable but still want to feel spontaneous and desired.” When speaking about the process, he added, “When Wynne and I started the sonic direction, it felt like a journey and was very free-flowing (I was on shrooms). Once we felt the rhythms and soundscapes become one, it became apparent to me that it’s a blend of three things – an indie approach to recording, dancehall and basement influences, and this refreshing arrangement — that brings it all together.”
The singer promises his new LP will leave a lasting impression on fans upon its arrival on Oct. 20.
Gregory Porter – “Everything’s Not Lost”
Gregory Porter is set to release his first holiday album, Christmas Wish, on Nov. 3 and has gifted his fans with its lead single, “Everything’s Not Lost.”
The LP is Porter’s tribute to his favorite time of year and will not only feature covers of festive classics like “Silent Night,” “Little Drummer Boy,” Marvin Gaye’s “Purple Snowflakes,” and Stevie Wonder’s “Someday At Christmas,” but it will also have three original tracks with “Everything’s Not Lost” being one of them.
Porter’s goal for the ballad is to remind listeners to remember the less fortunate during the season of giving. “I’m always thinking of balance” he explained in a statement. “That has been instilled in me and it keeps coming up in a lot of my music. At your highest, at your greatest, at your most pleasant time, don’t forget about other people who are suffering.”
Beharie – “Desire”
Beharie is previewing his debut album Are You There, Boy? (yet again) with his latest single, “Desire.” The track is playful yet bold as the crooner does his best to charm a love interest.
He confirmed that the record exudes confidence as it’s about “insisting on being the right one for someone you like and telling them without any doubt, and being willing to do anything to make it happen.”
The album, overall, allows for the Norwegian singer to explore and nurture various aspects of his own identity as he uncovers his sense of belonging through 12 heartfelt tracks.
Carvena – “Sleep In”
Carvena’s debut single, “Sleep In,” made us a fan from the first note.
Her seductive delivery and request to be slept in is a relatable one. “Have you ever been with somebody you just wanted so bad? It’s like you just want to vibe with this person and be nasty,” the Jackson, Miss. native explained in a statement. “I’m showing a new side of me. I’m stepping into my womanhood and being extremely comfortable with it. The song wrote itself.”
“Sleep In” is the first single from her full-length release, Covergirl, set to debut in early 2024.
ZADA – “Sweet Things In Life”
ZADA’s single, “Sweet Things In Life,” is perfect for a late night drive, hijacking the aux on a date, or romanticizing the soft life. It was written with a group of friends as they took turns singing random melodies. “When it was my turn, I completely let go of everything and sang whatever came out — all the rough notes, the vocal fries, and the raw emotion,” she reflected in a statement. “We started pulling words from my performance and then came back to finish the next morning. We recorded the demo; I remember it as a soft, warm memory; there was so much collaborative energy — I sang well into the night.”
When asked if she was in love, ZADA’s reply was complicated, awkward, and confusing. However, they were able to channel that emotion and she used her truth to sing about how hard it is to succeed in love without sacrificing your dreams.
It’s the second single from her debut album, set to come out in Feb. 2024.
Ego Ella May – “Undone”
Ego Ella May’s “Undone” is perfect for fall. The British-Nigerian singer’s return is utterly captivating as she relinquishes control and finds the power to start again. She sings, “If I’m not creating/ Does it mean I’m wasting/ My God-given gift?/ I think and maybe that’s the problem.” This song marks the beginning of the final chapter in her FIELDNOTES series.
Regarding the single, Ego explained, “The first single from this project [was] inspired by a book I read last year called ‘I May Be Wrong’ by Bjørn Natthiko Lindeblad, a Swedish business executive who swapped his career to become a Buddhist monk in Thailand for 17 years! It’s such a beautifully written book, and it stuck with me for so long afterward that I decided to write a song about it! It’s about letting go of control, ditching the facade that so many of us find ourselves latching onto, the question of what would happen if we simply left it all behind and started again… it’s possible! When I read that book, it opened up so many possibilities and helped me remember that I can start again whenever I choose! This song marks a new beginning for me and simultaneously the closure of ‘FIELDNOTES’ in a way as I wrap up this chapter, and I knew I wanted to lead with this one.”
Taite Imogen – Jordan Year
Taite Imogen’s new EP, Jordan Year, was written back in 2021 when the London-bred songbird retreated inward to explore the nuances of love. With production from Komikamo, LOELASH, and Toch Ejimofor, the singer unapologetically embraces her femininity through a compelling work of art.
“I began creating this project back in 2021 during lockdown, I was 23 and in-between moving from South East London to North London. I was in a weird place for the longest time and I would always dream about creating a body of work that truly felt like me and captured my sound as an artist,” Imogen shared in a statement. “Some of these songs started as seed’s in 2019 when I was thinking of quitting music completely, and since releasing music again in 2023, I’ve experienced and achieved some of things young Taite would always dream of and I’m grateful that I never gave up. 2023 has been my true Jordan Year and this EP is dedicated to the girl that sat in her small shoebox room in Belvedere, beating herself up about how she was never doing enough and to all the amazing people who have helped me along the way, I couldn’t have done it without them”.