it would be easy to assume that neo-soul artists started to emerge in retaliation to the commercial and ostentatious r&b scene we’ve had since the late 90s.
in fact, neo soul’s inception was much earlier, sometime in the early 90s. suddenly there were artists who weren’t new jack swing, they weren’t 8os, and they didn’t really complement the g funk scene. their closest contemporaries were the jazzhiphop and daisy age movement, but this sound was based on a classic soul sound updated for the new decade.
polished, note perfect vocals and overproduced instrumentals were replaced with more organic sounds and melancholy vocals. one of the things i really love about neo-soul is that whilst the lyrics are generally more intelligent and so better crafted than most r&b, there is an honesty and accessibility that speaks directly to you.
d’angelo – brown sugar
one of the few comnmercially successful neo-soul artists. the naked image on his second album didn’t hurt.
des’ree – feel so high
default brit nominee des’ree started her career with this track in 1992, and has bubbled under ever since. last year she took on beyonce after she rerecorded ‘kissing you’ without permission. can’t wait to see how that one turns out…
jazzyfatnastees – unconventional ways
girl duo formed in 1992, originally with four member but now going strong as a duo supporting the likes of jill scott and alicia keys.
jhelisa – friendly pressure
didn’t receive that much attention on release but was revived a few laters with popular uk garage mixes by sunship.
lauryn hill – ex-factor
who knew the girl hailed as the saviour of soul would end up looking and acting like a circus freak? she had everything going for her, maybe the pressure to deliver another ‘miseducation’ was just too great?
lynden david hall – the jimmy lee story
sadly departed, and i’m glad he had that cameo in love actually or he might have been forgotten in a decade’s time. criminally underrated.
me’shell ndegeocello – if that’s your boyfriend
as difficult to categorise as pronounce, i heard of me’shell years ago but never quite got round to hearing her music until recently.
oleta adams – rhythm of life
best known for ‘get here’ but this was actually her first single in 1990.
omar – something real
a later track from omar lye-fook, who all but invented neo-soul with ‘there’s nothing like this’.
rahsaan patterson – crush on you
later reworked by lil kim and biggie. rahsaan has been a consistent figure since the early 90s.
seal – future love paradise
i never did get why seal rereleased ‘killer’ a year after adamski’s original version with him on vocals. i still think of ‘killer’ as an adamski track and cetainly this track and ‘crazy’ were a millions miles from the rave scene.
shara nelson – one goodbye in ten
not sure what happened to shara. after rising to fame with massive attack, she had commercial success with her first album in 1993, then promptly disappeared.