R&B/Hip-Hop Fresh Picks of the Week: Braxton Cook, Khamari, Sylo & More

Happy Monday! This week’s column is proof that R&B, in all its forms, is alive and well. From buttery ballads by Elmiene, Kenneth Cash and Khamari to the alt-R&B offerings of Sylo and deem spencer, lovers of the genre are in for a treat for the next seven days. Be sure to share the wealth with our Spotify playlist, linked below!

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Freshest Find: Elmiene, “Why (Spare Me Tears)”

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This week’s freshest find goes to London-based artist Elmiene. “Why (Spare Me Tears)” is the new artist’s second solo single of his career and showcases his soft, buttery vocals. Last year, the singer-songwriter’s debut song “Golden” was featured in Virgil Alboh’s final Louis Vuitton fashion show, a moment that created a buzz around the singer as it was his first introduction to the world. Co-written and produced with Jamie Woon, “Why (Spare Me Tears)” serves as the gleaming start to Elmiene’s career and is the first taste of his forthcoming project coming soon.

Sylo, “Air”

An acronym for “a– in rotation,” Sylo’s new single “AIR” is a velvety story of getting caught in a comfortably imperfect routine, unable to break the cycle. The Korean-Canadian alt-R&B savant provides a ballad full of orchestral swells and a playful kind of sexiness. “Forcing yourself to stay when you know you gotta go is always tumultuous,” Sylo said of the song in a press release. “AIR” is the first single off his upcoming EP blanket.

deem spencer, “To have it all”

“To have it all” is minimally optimistic. On the new alt-R&B/pop offering, deem spencer contemplates his relationship with fame. “When I wrote ‘To have it all’ I was in a period where I needed something to shake. I felt stagnant and lost the optimism for this dream that I dedicated myself to,” spencer shares in a press statement. “I was questioning why become famous at a time like this? Why become another rise and fall story? A lot of times when you come from nothing you can be consumed by desire. I want people to think about what they do have and recognize the value in it.”

Braxton Cook feat. Masego, “90s”

Emmy Award-winning musician Braxton Cook connects with Masego for a refreshing, jazz-R&B take on Black love, as the two kindred spirits serve up a smokey homage to the ‘90s Black love they grew up seeing in film, TV and art. “The protagonist is asking to be loved like a classic ’90s Black film,” said Cook. Adding Masego, “I’ve spoken to many women about the dating market, and it’s ghetto out here. We need healthy relationships shown in media, and a realistic view on what a sustainable partnership looks and feels like.”

Kenneth Cash, “Catnip”

Kenneth Cash just wants a little bit of love. On “Catnip,” the rising R&B artist likens love to catnip — he only needs a little bit for it to hit. “Just a little bit/ A little bit of love gives a little hit/ It’s better than the drugs, now I’m giving it up/ So why I feel the buzz,” he sings.

Kenzo Balla, “Krash Out”

Kenzo Balla is yet another emerging voice out of New York City’s drill scene right now. In his new single “Krash Out,” the Bronx rapper delivers quick bars about getting sturdy and keeping his foot on the gas. He also makes it known that he’s been making moves long before gaining notoriety, rapping, “N—as cap in they rap, what’s that bout?/ I been doing s–t before I had clout.” “Krash Out” will appear on Kenzo Balla’s upcoming EP Mr. Ready to Blitz, due out Nov. 15.

Archy Moor, “Have It In My Hands”

Nigerian-born, Dublin-raised rapper Archy Moor is speaking his unfiltered truth on his new single, “Have It in My Hands.” The new artist is embracing a fresher, braver side of himself while creating his own lane in hip-hop. Nick Mills provides a chilling-yet-calm chorus, heightening Moor’s personal reflections embedded in the track.

Nolan fka, “Houndstooth”

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On “Houndstooth,” Nolan fka is making nods to lo-fi. The Detroit rapper-producer deviates from his usual boom-bap, soulful production to create a dreamy, downtempo track dedicated to Black women. “‘Houndstooth’ is a product of my admiration for outlets such as Soulection, Godsconnect, etc. It has that downtempo soul feel but also shows influence from the lofi community,” Nolan says in a press release. “My aim is to always keep things classic in my work. In other words, preserve culture. Houndstooth is a classic global design but nobody wears it like a woman does. Not to mention a black woman! And although the lyrics may suggest some toxicity, this track is really for the ladies!”

Obai, “Missed Call”

Rebel/Geffen Records’ newest signee Obai is here with debut single “Missed Call.” A mid-tempo ballad about the disappointment when a romantic relationship does not turn out as planned, “Missed Call” embodies the essence of Obai’s sound: a blend of R&B melodies inspired by the artist’s Sudanese roots, along with a catchy pop flair that seeks to recapture R&B’s own art of storytelling and distinctive vocal delivery. 

Khamari, “Tell Me”

Fresh Picks mainstay Khamari is back with another tender single. “Tell Me” blends R&B and soul with a hint of alt-rock as the Boston native reminisces on the way things were in his relationship, over a minimal and stripped-back beat. “‘Tell Me’ is about that feeling of insecurity you get in a relationship while watching it deteriorate from the inside,” Khamari says in a press release. “Dealing with the vacuum of doubt and confusion that bad communication leaves, but not acting on it because you’re hopeful it’ll work itself out.”