Get to know: FLO
The U.K. has had its fair share of girl groups. Over the years, we’ve had the Suga Babes, Atomic Kitten, the Spice Girls, Little Mix and more. Their music has graced radio waves and despite hiatuses or disbanding, their music still remains memorable to the British public’s ears. It’s safe to say that girl groups are not a new phenomena, but RnB trio FLO are and it’s been a stellar year for them.
FLO consists of 3 friends, Renée Downer, Jorja Douglas and Stella Quaresma who have made waves across the internet in a few months. Their early 2022 hit, Cardboard Box went viral on social media and has played a huge part in their success today. The April release of Cardboard Box currently sits with over 5 million views on YouTube and over 1 million accompanying videos with the sound on Tiktok. They’ve been featured in numerous publications including a Pitchfork and most recently, longlisted by BBC Radio 1 on their Sound of 2023.
A lot of praise comes from their harmonised vocals which has resulted in comparisons to early Destiny’s Child and the nostalgia for an era long past. So early on in their career, it’s easy to fall into the trap of comparison and modern rebranding, however the girls remain a valid and important group in their own right. It makes sense for their sounds to reflect the music they grew up with as the trio who were born in the early 2000s and have cited influences of the time. Signed to Island Records in 2020, the year has seen the girls amass a following on social media both within the U.K. and internationally across 183 countries. They’ve received recognition from known and established artists including Missy Elliott and more recently, Rodney Jenkins (Darkchild). In the past few months, they’ve given performances on Jimmy Kimmel, the MOBO and Soul Train Awards as well as a VEVO DSCVR performance. Their trajectory in such a short space of time has resulted in the kinship that often exists among fans of the same or similar artists. Known as ‘Flolifers’, this following has created an international community for the group with only an EP out.
At such an early time in their career, Flo are a standout girl group in many ways. Across the years, conversations have propped up about the RnB genre as a space dissimilar to what it once was. While it’s too premature to chart Flo’s path, the group have mentioned the impact of their mothers’ love for the genre as integral to the music they put out today. There’s a level of freedom, authenticity and light-heartedness in their approach to music, their performances and the videos that accompany. The videos for both Summertime and Cardboard box are particularly fun and do well in showing the girls’ personalities. This varies from Immature, which takes on a darker and more sultry tone while staying true to who the girls are establishing themselves to be. So early on in their career, it would be very easy to market themselves in a particular way but the involvement and connection of social media means they get to develop themselves as a group, as a community and also as individuals. This also comes across in their live performance arrangements in the ways they synchronize themselves while also recognizing individual style and vocal ability. The most interesting part of Flo is how much more they have to offer and how exciting it is to witness and grow with them. Their headline tour has already sold out and the trio are set to release their debut album in 2023.
Photo credit: Shenell Kennedy
afropunk premiere: bells atlas ‘salt and soap’
Any release from the Oakland Afropop group Bells Atlas is a sumptuous feast for the ears. It is the sound of a band reveling in unexpected tones and rhythms, whether that’s the waves of reverb that drip from Sandra Lawson-Ndu’s voice, Geneva Harrison’s polyrhythmic bursts of noise and percussion, or how Derek Barber’s guitar work flits from jagged edges to smooth licks like vogue.
The latest Bells Atlas EP, Salt and Soap, is full of the torn-paper rhythms and ethereal hooks that make the band so unique, hiding universes of depth beneath the waves. It’s “inspired by cleansing rituals and preservation methods,” the band explains in the press release. “When you’re not accustomed to releasing your most personal stories, the idea is to take a moment to prepare for this shift—this new way of being open.”
There’s not a bad song in the bunch, running from the sumptuous “Overshare” to the haunting “The Mystic.” But the highlight is the simultaneously focused and expansive “I Do Remain,” which builds from a distorted sample into one of the best tracks of the band’s career.
Stream the whole thing exclusively at AFROPUNK.com, and look for the release this Friday 9/21 via Tender Loving Empire. Check out the band’s website for upcoming tour dates.
you’ll be dancing like it’s a throwback to gallant’s soulful r&b jam
Tell me you don’t wonder what your feet look like on private beaches…
Especially when taking in the soulful R&B sound of Grammy-nominated crooner Gallant’s latest single ‘Haha No One Can Hear You’. If it’s not the throwback beat with soulful melodies, it’s the irresistible lyrics, transporting us to worlds outside the club, bar, car, etc… The R&B singer brings a balance of introspection and critique to the world he is creating for while creating the kind of music that made us fall in love with it. Pure talent!
As his next release “This Does Not Fit” inches closer to its release, Gallant’s released music teases an actualized body of work that will offer fans a listening experience that will feel like the man has been in the game for decades. He may think he “does not fit” in the world that urban music necessitates but if he keeps up this momentum, space will be made for him.
Check him out.
common’s emmy-winning supergroup ‘august greene’ just released a killer remix of the sound of blackness’ ‘optimistic’
Common, Robert Glasper and Karriem Riggins have formed a supergroup called ‘August Greene’ which came about after they won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics for their song ‘Letter to the Free’, featured in Ava Duvernay’s critically acclaimed documentary ’13th’. They just released a joint album on March 9th through Amazon Music and they are already booked and busy.
The group just dropped a remix of “Optimistic” featuring Kirk Franklin, BJ The Chicago Kid, and Kierra Sheard. The song is an empowering combination of upbeat Hip-Hop and smooth R&B, grounded with ad-libs of a pastor preaching in earnest while Common preaches in verse. The song is eclectic and layered while also being easy and enjoyable.
August Greene will be playing at AFROPUNK in London when we take over Brixton on September 8th! Catch the them there and listen to the ‘Optimistic’ remix below.
mysterious songstress h.e.r peels back the layers in magnetic new ep ‘i used to know her: the prelude’
H.E.R may be shrouded in a cloud of intrigue but every new release feels like a peeling back of a new layer of the songstress’s musical offering. Her latest EP, ‘I Used to Know Her: The Prelude’ is a 6-track build-up to the singer’s debut album. H.E.R has managed to carve her own piece of sultry paradise in modern R&B yet her latest offering reveals more of her influences while still maintaining ethereal vocals and a solid production.
The EP opens up with ‘Lost Soul’, a spoken-word rendition of 90s favorite, ‘Lost Ones’ by Lauryn Hill. The singer is making it known that she’s got some things to say, coming out guns blazing with the line “Confusing self-conscious with self-confidence,” going to town on toxic-masculinity while propping up women empowerment. As much as the track is a slight departure from H.E.R’s primarily vocal offering, the rhythm of her rapping paired with the chopped and screwed Blues guitar riff feels right at home in her discography.
H.E.R sprinkles spoken word sermons throughout the EP, interspersed with the kind of songs with smooth backing vocals and a seductive beat that had us falling in love with H.E.R from the beginning. The last few seconds of ‘Against Me’ offer pearls like ‘Intuition can see through elusive intent. Listen to it,” forcing us to not gloss over her poignant lyrical content when we get transported by her luring vocals. ‘Could’ve Been’ is a distinct H.E.R track featuring Trap Soul prince Bryson Tiller, delivering alluring layered vocals undergirded by a simple yet effective beat.
H.E.R gives us an EP that consists of the essential sound that brought her onto our radars, but what it also does is eloquently introduce us to a part of the songstress that feels like it’s been there all along. She manages to make her listener experience feel familiar and brand new all at the same time, which is why we will stan forever.
H.E.R will be performing at AFROPUNK Brooklyn (which is in just under 3 weeks yasss) so if you haven’t gotten your tickets already then i’m sorry beloved.
premiere: like a ‘chariot’ for a wary soul, british soulstress mega’s stirring vocals feel like home
North London soulstress Mega’s musical journey began in a local choir but was sidelined by devastating vocal issues experienced in her youth. She never let that deter her, vowing to one-day unleash her talent on the world and that day has finally come. Mega’s debut single ‘Chariot’ is a vulnerable and evocative showcase of the songstress’ measured vocal prowess. The simple strumming of the guitar, building to a percussive peak of nostalgia, power and catharsis is an experience only heightened and deepened by the rich tones of Mega’s voice.
She tells AFROPUNK: “Chariot was inspired by thinking about what I really needed to hear and imagining those words and lyrics being spoken and sung to me.”
A student of Whitney Houston and Amy Winehouse, Mega’s own undeniable sound shines through with her ability to weave understated lyrical poetry through an equally poetic sonic landscape. Every second is honest, embracing you till the echo of the final strum bleeds away, bringing you back into world. Bringing you home.
We cannot wait to witness Mega’s inevitable rise.
Listen to ‘Chariot’ above.
premiere: stir your soul with singer gabrielle sey’s black af record, dripping with african rhythms
“It is what it is… just feel it.”
This is Gabrielle Sey’s response when asked to describe the genre of music she “fits” in. The thing is, Sey’s sound doesn’t fit into a specific genre because she has managed to create tapestry of sound that reflects her roots, influences and individual flair. Her individuality shines through and delivers a layered debut EP, from the way voices come together to fill the sonic space or the way she finds ways to stretch and play with her voice to give each song its own emotional signature.
I was fed up of being placed in a box and conforming to an industry stereotype. People often assume that being black means I sing R&B and soul. However, I wanted my music to reflect my African heritage as well as the music I love and enjoy. As the sound of the EP developed I realised that what I was creating couldn’t be defined by a specific musical genre. So, I decided to sum it up with these words: “It is what it is… just feel it”
‘Break My Silence’ is the perfect introduction to the LP, opening up with layered voices that fill up the chest of the listener as Sey’s raspy-smooth voice guides the song through its journey from a harmony of voices to a guitar that emits the same undeniable energy you’d find in South African ‘Maskandi’ music. Sey’s African roots are ever-present and elegantly woven throughout the EP with each song toting an infectious rhythm that can be traced back to many parts of the continent.
Photo by Tayo Lee Nelson
Sey manages to deliver a balance between soulful R&B and irresistible African panache that truly places her in a league of her own. Her ability to bring raw acoustic energy and produced sound together under her vocal prowess is truly a masterclass.
Her EP is out now.
sampha produced & features on london singer rose gabor’s entrancing ‘illusions’
If you haven’t heard of Roses Gabor then it’s likely that you have heard her. The North West Londoner’s voice can be found featured on club/pop stylist SBTRKT’s biggest track “Pharaohs” as well as Gorillaz’s mammoth hit “DARE” live on tour with Damon and co. Gabor’s vocals have been making the round and in now in 2018, she is launching her solo career, sharing her own vision with the world with first single ‘Illusions’ featuring Sampha.
A child of Grenadian parents, Gabor’s musical upbringing consisted of “new jack swing R&B, classic Stevie Wonder, soca and the commercial sounds of Capital FM blaring from her carpenter father’s van driving through London.’ Her first musical love was Mary J Blige, which comes through in her distinct vocal timbre.
Sampha’s meditative production underscores the heady combination of his euphoric crooning paired with Gabor’s R&B soprano, delivering a track with surprises at every turn. The off-kilter digital ad-libs, piano and wistful voices in the background build a sonic landscape that gives us a taste of the individualistic sound we’re likely to experience from this songstress.
‘Illusions’ is out now.
premiere: reach your higher self with r&b sensation chanti darling’s dance-tastic new lp
Chanticleer Trü would like yall to know that “R&B ain’t no joke.” As a self-proclaimed retro-futurist, Trü is a walking well of influences, extracting the essential elements of Disco, Boogie Funk and House music to produce a thirst-quenching gospel of R&B that verges on sonic alchemy. The gospel in question is Trü’s new LP ‘RNB Vol. 1’ which Trü describes as an “homage to the full spectrum of the genre and it’s many sub genres. It’s an experiment in classic songwriting and retro futurism. On this album you’ll get classic R&B, Disco, Boogie Funk, Freestyle, New Jack, and 90’s all pushed through a contemporary lens.”
Trü’s upbringing consisted of a steady diet of Jazz, Soul and his mother’s Boogie Funk collection. He continued to pursue music outside of his mother’s living room by leading local vocal groups at the age of 10 as well as studying opera, musical theatre and composition, establishing himself as a more than capable multi-instrumentalist. Trü was eventually pulled in by the primal energy of the club scene where he first made a name for himself as a promoter, performer and DJ. “I was always drawn to the power of music to make people dance” says Trü. “There’s some innate, ritualistic pre-human thing within us, engrained on our DNA. The metaphysical combination of melodies, rhythms, lyrics and ideas; it’s what our very consciousness is made of. It is creation itself.”
“This record is built upon a sort of string theory of RNB sounds” says Trü. “THE RNB is a type of place that exists in another plane. It’s another dimension. A place beyond dreaming that is the totality of your highest vibration. All the rest though… is just mundane.” – Chanticleer Trü
R&B’s growing popularity has meant that the faces at the forefront have gotten lighter but that hasn’t stopped Trü from exploring with his own brand of creationism outside of the mainstream in the LP with the help of Natasha Kmeto and Damon Boucher. “Natasha and I have lots of conversations about unsung heroes of popular music” explains Trü “RNB musicians that don’t get the shine that they deserve because they are women, or black, or queer. Then a blonde haired blue-eyed dude from someplace trendy literally “borrows” from this genre and all the sudden RNB is cool. No. It’s never not been cool.” Trü, Kmeto and Boucher have come together to create a sound that celebrates the lost voices – often silenced like Disco was by white male supremacy – and condense the raw energy of the band’s live performances into a album that courses through the veins and taps at the primal urge to just move
“I wanted to create a record that people could be absorbed by. Something to hold them and envelop them. The world… the world itself has gotten so dark. That darkness bleeds over into everything that we create. Which can be amazing. But, I felt my call was different. I wanted to create a shift to positivity and light.” – Chanticleer Trü
Recorded in Portland, Oregon, the album is the sonic embodiment of neon, late Summer and everything you love about dancing from sundown to sunrise. It’s another opportunity to lose yourself in the nostalgia of Summer and all those tracks – whether they belonged to your parents, old flames or friends – that made you fall in love with R&B and the immense catalogue it boasts in its heritage. Songs like ‘Pillowtalk’ with its near-falsetto vocals and mesmerizing synth underscored with a groovy beat transport you to a club in the 80’s while remaining comfortably in the present with its uncanny modernity. The album is musical history and it is light and if you’re looking to immerse yourself in both this Summer then let it be your soundtrack.
find strength in love and community with r&b/soul collective the suffers’ new lp
Few acts have deserved their rise to success like the Houston 8-piece The Suffers. The soul outfit has been hitting the bricks since 2011, earning a reputation as one of the most electrifying live acts out there. Their self-titled debut earned them a string of accolades, including spots at AFROPUNK Brooklyn and Paris. Now two years after their debut, they’re back with their sophomore effort, the dynamic groove-filled Everything Here.
At it’s core, Everything Here is an album driven by community. “After the storm,” reflects the resilience of their hometown after the devastation of Hurricane Harvey. “I wanna see you / after the storm / you live right next to me / I can see over your fence / If you need anything / just call on me.” It’s a community-minded ethos that permeates the entire album, from the interludes that feature hometown icons like Bun B and Paul Wall to the powerful “A Word From Our Mammas,” which features words of encouragement from the mothers of each band member. Lead single “Do Whatever,” meanwhile brings in a crew of children chanting over the intro before ending with a kid declaring “that was fun!”
While much of the album’s run time is devoted to its community, the highlights tend to revolve around relationship. From the infectious single “I Think I Love You” to the infatuated “The One About Sace” to the closing heartbreak of “You Only Call.”
Though often lumped in with other throwback soul and R&B bands, The Suffers spend Everything Here expanding and refining their sonic palette, particularly on the standout ballad “Sure To Remain” which rides a minimalist drum machine pattern into a stunning string-driven climax, while singer Kam Franklin delivers one of her most nuanced emotional performances on the record. The album closes with its only real throwback jam, “Won’t Be Here Tomorrow.” It showcases a band whose subtle innovations set them apart.
Everything Here is out now. Stream it above, and don’t miss them on tour. More info at http://www.thesuffers.com/