SXSW Music: Must-See R&B
Rhythm and blues and everything in between
Solo WoodsWed. 15, Ibiza, 9:50pm
Solo Woods has yet to release an EP, but the Chicago guitarist and soul singer shows enormous potential. Traces of D'Angelo, Prince, and Michael Kiwanuka emerge in his modern R&B, but a lyrical nod to Funkadelic on "Powers" demonstrates a wider range of influences.
TinasheWed. 15, 800 Congress, 12mid
Son of an Iowan mother and Zimbabwean father, both college professors, this singer/dancer/producer was born in Kentucky and grew up in a quiet L.A. suburb. She's recently opened tours for A-listers Justin Bieber, Nicki Minaj, and Katy Perry, and was tapped to pay tribute to her hero Janet Jackson at the 2015 BET Awards. Full-length mixtape Nightride saved singles and guests (Chris Brown, Young Thug) for forthcoming Joyride.
Tunde OlaniranThu. 16, Sidewinder Outside, 8pm
Flint, Mich., artist Tunde Olaniran concocts a nimble and progressive brand of electro R&B on debut LP Transgressor, leaning on everything from synth-laden Afro-futurism to primal percussion. Sometimes singing and sometimes rapping in a quick staccato, he shape-shifts compositions from spacey jazz to swag-filled funk to thumping club bangers and back again.
L.A. SalamiThu. 16, Latitude 30, 9pm; Fri. 17, Valhalla, 11pm
London singer-songwriter Lookman Adekunle Salami's debut LP, 2016's Dancing With Bad Grammar, connects the dots from Bob Dylan to Saul Williams. "The City Nowadays" begins with a hard-driving blues riff as Salami drops political bars in a cockney accent: "You can hear the protesters chiming/ The suits say they simply whining/ But the cardboard signs seem to observe the rights when thoughts go silent."
SassyBlackThu. 16, the Iron Bear, 11pm
Formerly the singing half of the now defunct Afro-futurist hip-hop duo THEESatisfaction, Seattle singer SassyBlack brews hologram funk, singing jazzy riffs over downtempo synth beats. Debut No More Weak Dates explores shitty dating experiences and unadulterated nerdom of Emerald City Comicon.
Durand Jones & the IndicationsThu. 16, Barracuda Backyard, 11:05pm
Leon Bridges-like breakout potential? Look no further. Louisiana-bred soul man Durand Jones grew up singing in a bayou church and linked up the Indications at Indiana University. Stellar debut full-length recorded in a Bloomington basement on a shoestring budget, they ply gritty Southern soul in the mold of Lee Fields with punchy horns and dirty fatback drums. Don't sleep on Durand.
Benjamin BookerThu. 16, Cedar Street Courtyard, 12:50am; Fri. 17, Banger's, 10pm
New Orleans rhythm and blues rocker Benjamin Booker is equally versed in Bad Brains and Blind Lemon Jefferson, dishing out dirty grooves with a purely punk ethos. As his eponymous debut attests, Booker can rattle a riff until the whole track shakes with a "Violent Shiver."
StellaFri. 17, Malverde, 8:50pm
Daughter of Carlos Santana, Stella conjures smoky and ethereal R&B in the vein of Jhené Aiko and Nelly Furtado (or Sade, if you're old). Debut 2016 LP brims with anti-love songs and breakup ballads. "You First" implores girls not to settle, while "Burn" compares her relationship to a flaming house, ultimately leaving her partner to incinerate inside. "Go Alone" sums it all up: "If you wanna get there fast, you gotta go alone."
OshunFri. 17, Russian House, 12mid
Brooklyn-based duo Niambi Sala and Thandiwe mesmerize with a blend of spiritualism and fly rhymes. The group's name pays homage to the Yoruba water goddess as they celebrate womanhood, blackness, and spirituality with eccentric neo-soul.