Chicago has always been a hub for hardcore rappers to launch their careers into the mainstream, but there has also been a steady flow of soulful singers who are creating their own lane. Johari Noelle, a rising R&B artist from the city’s South Side, is ready to elevate the genre with her debut EP Things You Can’t Say Out Loud, exclusively premiering three days early on Billboard today (May 29).
Within only five tracks, Noelle travels through the delicate complexities of love — from the act of finally letting go (“Release”) to learning how to vulnerable (“Show Me”). The EP’s storytelling is reflective of the singer’s knack for acting, as she’s previously appeared on series like Chasing Destiny, Empire and Proven Innocent. Noelle wraps you in her velvetly-warm vocals as the lush production rocks like a lullaby, leaving you yearning for more music once the EP is over.
“This music is about getting out how I feel and being very present in that moment. It’s important for me to embrace myself in a way that empowers me to feel each emotion and remain in touch with myself,” Noelle tells Billboard about the EP’s purpose. “I want people to know that they aren’t alone in what they are feeling. I want to convey a sense of relatability. I feel like a lot of music isn’t within reach for listeners. It sounds good but people can’t connect to it deeply. “
“If I perform a song about quitting my job, they can latch onto it because they’ve quit a job over some B.S. or wanted to quit a job and couldn’t. Maybe they’ve been in love and didn’t understand how to express it,” she adds, “or are in a relationship with someone and they don’t understand how to love that person or how they receive or prefer to give love. They don’t speak their love language. My story connects to yours. My songs are meant to touch people. I want you to feel peace and comfort. I want to create something that creates conversation or community through shared experiences. It isn’t a niche message for a niche crowd. I’m reaching for humanity in my music.”
Stream Things You Can’t Say Out Loud three days early below.