The exciting thing about Canadian music lately is the surge of R&B/soul inspired artists popping up on the scene. Indeed, when it comes to the urban music landscape in this country, the future is indeed looking bright. Here are three Canadian artists that you should be keeping a close eye on for 2014 and beyond …
The Toronto-based artist has been touted as the future of R&B and for good reason. Since catching crazy attention for a clever reworking of Drake’s Marvin Room, the UK-born singer-songwriter went on to drop the electronic soul of 15-track album ROJO. Working with LA-based producers Klash, Jordan has crafted a uniquely stark and minimalist R&B vibe that draws comparison to the sound of late singer Aaliyah; Jordan herself has also cited Missy Elliot, Faith Evans and Michael Jackson as key influences. The followup 12-track mixtape Pressure released in late 2012 continued to play within that 90’s R&B inspired sandbox — layered beats with haunting vocals —to even stronger results. With a cool sound, a cool vocal style, expect Jordan to continue to make waves in 2014.
Rochelle Jordan on Twitter: @Rochelle_Jordan
Hailing from Hamilton, Ontario, Jessy Lanza’s slick sound is clearly inspired by R&B music but takes on an electronic/dance meets pop bent. As a singer-songwriter and producer, Lanza studied jazz piano and musicology at Montreal’s Concordia University and infuses elements of Motown, disco and pop to create a wholly unique sound. Released in September, album Pull My Hair Back was co-produced by Jeremy Greenspan of Junior Boys and is steeped in R&B but not beholden to it. Currently with UK indie label HyperDub, the Lanza sound could be termed electro-R&B — her vocals are vivacious, the lyrical content strong, and the funky-synth musically is sonically on point. Expect big things from the Steeltown singer-songwriter.
Jessy Lanza on Twitter: @jessy_lanza
The career trajectory of one Zaki Ibrahim has been fascinating to follow. Born in British Columbia, the singer-songwriter was based in Toronto in the early-2000’s — singing backup for artists like K’naan — and built up a strong underground following with her Orange and Purple EPs. With roots in both Canada and South Africa, Ibrahim has spent a lot of time living in Cape Town and Toronto; her genre-bending sound incorporates elements of soul, folk, electronic, dubstep and hip-hop funk. The solid album Every Opposite — which was shortlisted for this year’s Polaris Music Prize — was originally released in South Africa late 2012 before getting its official release in Canada this past summer. As a vocalist, Ibrahim’s sound is strong and as a songwriter she brings poetic lyricism with playful melodies to create a layered and rich musical sound.
Currently on tour, Ibrahim is reportedly working on a new album tentatively slated for release next year. She’s definitely someone to watch.
Zaki Ibrahim on Twitter: @zakiibrahim