Artist on the Verge Kwabs Goes From YouTube Fame to Next Big Thing

James Marcus Haney

Billboard caught up with Kwabs, a next-generation English soul singer, before the release of his debut full-length.

Emerging U.K. Artist Kwabs Talks Twitter, Music & More (Q&A)

From: London

Age: 24

Soundalikes: Kwabs' windowpane-rattling baritone has drawn comparisons to Seal and Aloe Blacc, but it's his ability to traipse across genres (wine-soaked R&B, stomping retro-pop) that distinguishes him.

Kick-Start: Kwabs, born Kwabena Adjepong, trained formally as a member of the jazz chorus at the Royal Academy of Music. After his first YouTube uploads -- a Corinne Bailey Rae cover and an original titled "So" -- went viral in 2011, he linked with Austrian producer SOHN to produce brooding electro-soul and signed with Atlantic Records in 2012. "Music is my outlet," he says. "I want to give a sense of what's going on inside my head."

Big Leagues: The title track to October's Walk spent 16 weeks on the Billboard Twitter Emerging Artists chart, reaching No. 5, and its video has lodged almost 13 million clicks on YouTube. His year is off to a strong start: "Walk" topped the German chart, and the BBC included him on its Sound of 2015 list alongside James Bay and Raury.

Future Moves: His debut full-length effort, which features collaborations with Cass Lowe, Al Shux and Royce Wood Jr., arrives this spring. "It's going to be the fuller picture of my journey so far," he says. "Any style of music is on the table."

This story first appeared in the Jan. 24 issue of Billboard.