Although rap has ushered in a new era of MCs and styles in the last couple of years -- a la Drake  or this week's No. 1, Wiz Khalifa  -- R&B basically has had the same cast in place for five or six years now. But that scenario looks like it's about to change thanks to the Internet and the age of the free digital mixtape as new R&B acts generate their own buzz and online followings.
In the wake of Billboard's March 19 cover featuring Odd Future , the Los Angeles-based group's resident R&B singer Frank Ocean released his "Nostalgia, Ultra" mixtape on his Tumblr page  despite his team's desires for a proper rollout of the project. Spurred by his brilliant songwriting, intriguing production and uncanny ability to take classic records and make them his, like standout track "American Wedding" laced over the beat from the Eagles ' "Hotel California," Ocean has become an Internet darling and garnered praise from Lupe Fiasco  and Sean "Diddy" Combs .
Toronto-based singer the Weeknd is following in the same footsteps with the March 21 release of his nine-song mixtape "House of Balloons." After fellow Toronto native Drake posted the haunting Weeknd line "Bring your love baby, I could bring my pain" on his Twitter account  and then linked to his blog  featuring the "Wicked Game" cut it comes from, the Weeknd's social media and musical stock has multiplied: Since joining Twitter on Feb. 21, he has racked up 12,800 followers and counts 10,900 likes on Facebook. With hypnotizing production and a sultry yet painstakingly honest take on romance in the 21st century, the 20-year-old singer is bringing R&B into the new millennium.
With the DIY market gaining in prominence every day, expect to see more artists of all genres breaking new ground.
- The Juice