H.E.R. Reigns As One of the Year's Lowkey R&B MVPs
Let’s be honest: Social media has turned some fans into entitled vultures of unbridled access to their favorite artists. But when R&B singer H.E.R. (an acronym for "having everything revealed") anonymously released her seven-track debut EP H.E.R. Vol. 1 in September, it reaffirmed that fans only deserve what the artist chooses to share, and nothing more. "You have easy access to what everybody’s doing 24/7 and [the mystery] was kinda my way of getting away from that," the RCA recording artist tells Billboard. "[I want people to] feel they could relate to [the music] without having to look at me. I just want them to realize that I’m like them."
The slow-burning, sensual project, on which she carried most of the writing and production credits, sneakily crept onto the R&B/soul radar and caused a bit of a ripple on timelines. It was refreshingly honest, from the perspective of a woman in search of her worth amidst a rocky relationship. She even tossed in a cover of Drake’s “Jungle” for added emphasis on today’s wayward romances. Given her potent musicianship and striking lyrics, fans rifled through Google and social media in search of facts about the concealed chanteuse -- but to no avail, making the underground-style drop much more appetizing.
Within a week of the release, though, Genius’ investigations resulted in a pretty good idea that H.E.R. is 19-year-old Gabi Wilson, the former child phenom who had performed on talk shows such as The Today Show at just 10 years old. Later, she signed to MBK Entertainment/J Records and performed at the 2014 BET Awards on the BET Music Matters tour. All speculation considered, H.E.R. isn’t "confirming or denying" the news, but when asked how she feels about the media connecting the dots, she says, "I definitely had a feeling it was gonna happen but I didn’t think people were going to dig that deep into that. I didn’t think they would care as much. People are gonna listen to the music whether or not I reveal myself."
While the first installment was cathartic for the rising star, she’s already hard at work on the follow-up. "Vol. 1 was very emotional [for me]. I remember saying, 'Ah, I’ll never be the one that falls for the wrong guy. I’ll never be that girl,' but I became her," she says, mentioning that an even better understanding of how the story ends is coming soon. “Vol. 2 is gonna explain that better than I can, but it’s more upbeat. The mood changes slightly, but it’s optimistic. It’s happier and it’s the positive side of love. There are few surprises lyrically."
Some are still overly consumed with her elusive Instagram posts and pinning down her identity, but H.E.R. -- influenced by Lauryn Hill, Hiatus Kaiyote and James Blake among others -- is solely focused on serving up more musical heat. And while she can’t divulge who she’s working with, she does say she’s writing on the side "for other artists that have been excited about my mixtape." “Maybe after Vol. 2, I’ll talk about features and collaborations and all that," she says.
No exact release date is set for her next release but she expects to drop "at the top of 2017." It’s incredible timing since H.E.R. Vol. 1 recently landed on iTunes’ Best Albums of 2016 list, alongside Solange, Rihanna and Anderson .Paak. So does that mean she’ll eventually join the ranks of seen celebrities? "Yeah, I think so," she says. "We’ll see."
Listen to H.E.R. Vol. 1 via Spotify below.