WILLOW, Lalah Hathaway, Coco Jones, And More New R&B To Express Those Big Feelings

This week in R&B is about a shared experience. Whether you’re processing a friendship breakup, gushing over a new love, talking yourself out of falling back into bad habits, or just needing an anthem to remind you of who you are, these new offerings are ready to be poured into you.

Lalah Hathaway shared the lead single from her new album while Coco Jones is formally teasing her debut album. WILLOW has arrived and is here to stay as Kenyon Dixon is getting listeners in the mood for a summer of good ol’ R&B. J. Valentine reunited with Chris Brown and 4batz made his official long-form debut. Rounding out this week’s top new selects are Kaiit and Dana Williams, whose sounds mirror that of neo-soul and Ella Fitzgerald, respectively.

Ready to dive in? Here we go.

Lalah Hathaway – “So In Love”

Lalah Hathaway released the lead single, “So In Love,” from her new album, VANTABLACK.

The mid-tempo song of endearment was one that the singer was initially going to give away, but after incorporating it into her shows, it became “one of the most beloved pieces that we perform.” It’s such an intentional love song that explores romantic love as well as self-love. Not to mention, it’s the kickoff to the next magical music era from Hathaway.

Vantablack is known as the “blackest black” on Earth and when piecing together the album, Hathaway shared in a statement, “VANTABLACK was always the name of the project. The word itself has so much weight on it […] I started reframing how I saw color, in terms of being the blackest I’ve ever been, and even though I’m steeped in who I am, it doesn’t exclude the other things that make up the sum of me. Similar to how all the music around me informs the Black music that I create. So it’s all a melting pot and this song truly exemplifies that.”

The LP includes features from WILLOW, MC Lyte, Rapsody, Common, and more. It is slated for release on June 14.

WILLOW – empathogen

Before you say the obvious thing, we know what you’re thinking—”tHiS IsN’t R&B; tHIs iS a jAzZ aLbUm.” We know and we still need to talk about it because not only is WILLOW embracing the genre that’s the driving force behind R&B, but this may also be her most evolved album to date.

WILLOW’s empathogen is arguably one of the best albums from 2024 thus far. Preceded by singles “symptom of life” and “b i g f e e l i n g s,” the vibrant, eclectic album is a melting pot of playfulness, and exploration. The versatile artist paired with the “explosive” and “methodical” Jon Batiste—her words, but we agree—as well as St. Vincent as she uncovered new musical depths and put her well-rounded talent on full display. WILLOW has successfully evolved beyond her “Whip My Hair” days into a passionate, vibrant, fearless musician.

Coco Jones – “Here We Go (Uh Oh)”

It’s debut album season, and Coco Jones is gearing up with her new single, “Here We Go (Uh Oh).” She once again brilliantly flips a classic sample; this time it’s Lenny Williams’ 1978 soul ballad, “Cause I Love You.”

The song spotlights the daunting and occasionally impossible path to moving on from certain relationships and people. Of the record, the Grammy winner explained to Rated R&B that the intention behind it was “urgency.” Adding, “When I heard the Lenny Williams sample, I immediately was like, ‘Huh?!’ That was urgent. The record in itself just feels like a whole world — a whole thing is happening, you know? I just ran with that feeling.”

Following the meteoric success of “ICU,” this is such a delightful taste of what’s to come and proves yet again that Jones isn’t a one-trick pony.

Kenyon Dixon – “Still”

Kenyon Dixon is getting fans ready for an R&B summer with his newest musical offering, “Still.”

Loosely reminiscent of Donell Jones’ “U Know What’s Up,” the record is perfect for kicking back with your crew or getting up under your lover at a day party. Per Rated R&B, “This record, to me, is a celebration of the timeless essence of true R&B,” said Dixon. “You often hear a lot of complaints about either a lack of tempo in R&B music or the music no longer feeling like traditional R&B if it does have tempo. This one, though, has the energy and never loses the soul. [It] captures the carefree vibes of those R&B summers we remember.”

“Still” is part of the extended editions of his last album, The R&B You Love. Fans will be familiar with the sound without anyone’s need to regurgitate what’s been done already.

J. Valentine, Chris Brown – “UnLonely”

J. Valentine is working on his next album and is reuniting with Chris Brown. Following the latter’s appearance on the R&B Money podcast’s 100th episode, Brown and Valentine joined forces for “UnLonely,” the fourth single from his new album, Conversations With Women.

Produced by Tank, the record is an anthem for “bad b***hes” that interpolates Akon’s “Lonely.” The men previously worked together in 2011 for “UP!.” Of the record, Valentine explained to Rated R&B, “Just because a woman chooses to be alone, doesn’t mean she’s lonely.”

4batz – u made me a st4r

Budding phenom 4batz has released his highly anticipated debut mixtape, u made me a st4r. The vulnerable project is likened to a series of diary entries as he unpacks emotions associated with heartbreak and romantic delusion.

“act i: stickerz 99” was based on a true story about how he was “stuck to someone who wasn’t stuck to me,” and he also enlists the help of his friends to work through his feels. The mixtape is more R&B-leaning despite him (and his aesthetic) having rapper written all over it. However, he credits the women in his life for introducing him to the soul of the ’70s and cultivating his love for ’90s R&B—both of which heavily influenced the mixtape.

Dana Williams – End Of The World

Dana Williams’ newest release is the next step in her path of healing and emotional growth. It’s more introspective than past releases and highlights her personal development as she ponders on the woes of life and tries to hold onto fleeting joy.

“Imagine the world is ending, how would you like to spend your time?,” Williams questions on the EP aptly titled End Of The World. “What matters in the end?” Preceded by singles like “Feels Like” and “Growing Up,” Williams realized that writing about heartbreak wasn’t enough, and she wanted to open the world up to the human she is while delving into topics like grief, mental health, platonic breakups, and existentialism. The most personal song would be “Everyone I Love”, where she sings about losing her father, legendary guitarist David Williams—marking the first time she’s ever been able to make music about him.

She notes, “‘Everyone I Love’ is about grief and the anxieties surrounding it; the obsessive-compulsive tendency to dwell on impending doom. Over the years I’ve struggled with grief and haven’t been able to put it into words. This song is my first attempt at writing about grieving the loss of my dad.” It’s not just about a moment of healing for her, but a communal one for us all.

Kaiit – “Space”

Kaiit, a Papua New Guinean-born soul singer with co-signs from Jill Scott and Erykah Badu, has caught our attention. She ended a four-year hiatus with the arrival of her new single, “Space.”

The introspective record represents an “audio bookmark” of the lessons she learned during moments of reflection as Kaiit cheekily expressed. “When I start getting into old patterns I play this song. The deep exhale at the end of ‘Space’ feels like a release, because the song is that to me. I’ve kept going back to this track, continuing to heal from it, which is a confirmation for me that other people need to hear it and hopefully heal from it too,” she explained in a statement.

This is the first single from her upcoming “rebirth” album.


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