finally, after the copycat 80s and highs and lows of the 90s, british soul was ready to take on its own identity.
one of the first ways in which it achieved this was by redefining soul. house and garage were big business in the 90s, but the urban clubs and superclubs rarely mixed. typically, r&b was a smaller room adjacent to the the cheesier, townie clubs and didn’t even get a look in at cream, renaissance and the ministry of sound.
the speed garage scene that took off in the late 90s eventually slowed to a two step beat, and created a completely new sound. r&b vocals were married to stuttering, club-friendly beats and for a few years, between 1999 and 2002, uk garage was the sound of young UK.
after the inevitable drop in demand, uk hiphop and r&b were faced with a decision. either they could continue to emulate their US counterparts or they could use elements of uk garage to make their output distinctly british.
now we have traditional soul, copycat r&b, grime and some artists that defy classification and confuse the hell out of the yanks. we’re back in business…
twelve very different uk tracks from the 00s – download here
lemar – if there’s any justice
the only good thing to come out of the dull fame academy, simon cowell surely wishes he’d been able to get to lemar first. lemar, like girls aloud, has truly transcended his reality show beginnings and is pretty much the best current british male r&b act.
misteeq – why
south london girl band who leveraged links with the so solid crew to create a successful career in the early 00s. swiftly shook off their uk garage roots by the time they reached their second album in 2002. the group split largely due to their label, polydor, sinking after investing way too much in tone deaf victoria beckham. that’s got to hurt.
unklejam – love ya
relative newcomers who have been blessed/cursed with the ‘sounds a bit like prince‘ tag. time will tell if there is more to them than this track, but the odds are in their favour with the hype reaching all corners of the globe right now. another myspace success.
sadie ama – so sure
shola’s little sister had a valuable induction into the industry at an early age, and she’s making some good choices production-wise, collaborating with the likes of kano and terror danjah amongst others. looks and sounds exactly the same – with shola expected to relaunch anytime soon, could be interesting.
conner reeves – oughtabelaw
irish soul boy who first came to prominence in the late 90s. this track from last year deserved way more attention. possibly one of the breed of artists that has suffered greatly from the download revolution as his image doesn’t quite fit his music. i always think people navigate this poor fit by just grabbing the audio.
emmanuel and terri walker – flirtin’
always tipped to break through. hopefully it will happen for her before she is talked into a beverley knight-style commercial compromise. this track is from emmanuel‘s 2006 project that featured numerous british soul artists on his productions.
keisha white – open like so
came through around the same time as keyshia cole, and is far more talented, but received about 5% of the promotion. so, keyshia collaborates with p diddy and is set to release her second album whilst keisha‘s future is unknown. harsh. a good example of why leona lewis has been whisked off to the us.
nate james – universal
actually received some promotion around his debut in 2005, and it did ok. i’m going to be lazy and say he’s a hybrid of stevie wonder and lenny kravitz and worthy of your attention. hopefully an association with next big thing, sway, will catapult him back into the limelight.
craig david – seven days with mos def
back in 2000, referring yourself in the third person was even more ridiculous than it is now. the ensuing bo selecta parody may outlive his music in the nation’s consciousness if he doesn’t pull his finger out soon. craig, unfazed, still refers to himself in the third person when appearing on mtv cribs showing us how all his cash has enabled him to construct a state of the art pulling den. no women in sight though, and you can’t swing a jocasi bag round london without hitting someone he’s tried it on with.
ms dynamite – fall in love again
made a good contract choice and got the promotion other uk artists would kill for. this resulted in numerous awards for her debut album which, although nice enough, sounds dated only five years later. this track, from her largely ignored second album, will hopefully age a bit better.
spl2rge – scuse me
like unklejam, appear to be on the verge of big things, promotion notwithstanding. i never hold my breath on these things anymore.
taio cruz – i just wanna know
mario soundalike who can’t be accused of trying to create a british identity. which is fair enough. we don’t want to end up like the irish, who have to be irish all the time.