This publication is dedicated to independent artists. Being an “indie artist” isn’t just about label affiliations or lack there of but the control that an artist possesses over their content, sonic creativity and desired sound. The projects listed below marvel in the aural idiosyncrasies that only a truly independent artist could produce. From funk bluesy classics like Allen Stone’s Building Balance to nostalgic RnB efforts like Jayla Darden’s Onto Something, the list below will pique the interests of music enthusiasts and includes some of my favorite featured projects of the year.
In September of this year Atlanta based and Detroit native producer, award winning film score composer, instrumentalist, engineer, songwriter and artist released her debut project September Perspective. What makes this project special? Maybe it’s the fact that she wrote, produced, mixed and mastered this body of work or maybe it’s the quality alone or maybe it’s the sonic versatility as she shifts from explosive records like “Godly” to mysterious anthems like “Don’t Bother.” Which ever the chosen reason, this project divorces itself from the masses because of Ashilee’s control over the outcome amid the lyrical and melodic wonders. She doesn’t easily conform to genres and September Perspective proves that, a must listen!
Hip-hop all the way from Germany and its nostalgically pleasant with it’s reminiscent boom-bap style amid classic minimal production. The Frankfurt based duo, consisting of rapper Peter Manns and producer Thelonious Coltrane, released their debut project Undagawds this month laced in 16 sure-fire tracks. As we slide into a new decade of music, it’s creatives like these two that splash hope into the lyrical linings of what to expect in the years to come.
Artist that approach music from an experimental perspective produce this kind of art. Anthony Flammia’s See Attached is a body of work that boasts in personality and penned narratives of love now and then amid stunning executions. Modern meets old RnB efforts like “Damn,” whisper in Blackstreet “Don’t Leave Me” infusions while blatantly original records like “Nothing Wrong” dance in his poignant lyricism. He’s like an Alternative, RnB, Rockstar of sorts.
If you enjoy listening to unconventional sounds and distinct, raw vocals then allow Ama Lou to be your new muse. Her five track EP Ama what ? ‘Ama, who?’ is an orgasmic medley of soul, RnB and distinctive vibes. The 21-year-old London native is an exceptional vocalist, without question, and in this offering she flaunts her rustic, airy, well-ranged pipes amid gifting listeners a lyrically vivid compilation one dipped in narratives of love, pain and evolution. She told Billboard, “This project is all encompassing and totally Ama. I know that’s a bit of a vague description, but the detail lies in the vagueness. Every song is different but all very me. I kind of a start to look into the foundation of my work, who I am and what I can do. It’s just another step forward.”
This generation of musicians loves being more than just that. Jayla Darden, singer, songwriter, artist, producer and engineer, released her EP Onto Something early last month and it’s inevitable that she’d receive some Aaliyah whispers amid her soft vocals and tomboy style. However, although Aaliyah reminiscent, this project is bathed in a sound uniquely her own and she wrote, produced and engineered the project herself as well. From intoxicating tracks like “Be Your Girl” to classic anthems like “Goofy,” she designed this project with originality and 90’s RnB nostalgia in the seams. With previous successful releases including both installments of her Ideas EP and successful singles like “Mercedes Key,” this latest compilation is a worthy addition to her catalog.
Allen Stone, a new flavor to my ears, released his highly anticipated project Building Balance early last month, doused in imperative messages, genre versatility and old time vibes. It’s a quirky listening experience that’s full of surprises. This latest offering was laced in 14 featureless tracks and dips into genre pools of Funk, Blues, Gospel, Soul and Hip-Hop. With a decade in the game, his music hearkens as such from his well-trained vocals to his knack for song structure and ear for fitting production, this body of work isn’t that of an amateur. It’s a medley of sophisticated palates, an album that will stand the test of time.
The winner of the first season of Netflix’s “Rhythm + Flow” competition show. A bilingual lyricist. An instrumentalist. A natural poet. D Smoke dropped off his debut album Inglewood High in October of this year, laced in seven tracks amid features from Tiffany Gouche, Sha’leah Nikole and Tommy Sketch. The California emcee molds an album from the clay of his past experiences, his current elevation, his trials and tribulations and scripts a portion of his narrative, artistically so. More than a rapper, he’s a musician, an instrumentalist and a creative. This body of work marks as the dawn of his reign as a true artist. Of the album’s structure, inspiration and content, D Smoke tells People, “It takes you on a brief journey…It’ll lead with coming up in Inglewood, going back to Inglewood. Then telling the stories of some of my students. When I talk about the street as in Inglewood, it’s really me as a teacher looking at my students and telling their misguided stories. But that’s a project I’m really proud of and I can’t wait to see how people respond to it.”
Another artist that released a captivating debut – London’s own Just Charlii. Her premier EP Phoenix listens with personal anecdotes amid intoxicating vocal performances. She creates vibes with her music, something you can smoke to, meditate to or just simply enjoy. Stuck-in-your-head records like “Take Note” and unique offerings like “Do You Right” set the tone and carve a path of smooth, soulfully bluesy tendencies; a must listen!