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2023 Projects That...

a chronological year’s-long guide to listening based on how you feel, what you’re doing, and how what you’re doing makes you feel

2023 Projects That.jpg
Jyou | Living On The Edge

Jyou | Living On The Edge

January 16

A project that will give you faith in how wide-ranging hip-hop’s next generation is


There’s a clear juxtaposition between the instrumentally-rooted Southern jazziness in production and the angst-ridden, hard-hitting lyricism and delivery that are at play from the very moment the Nashville Jyou opens his new project.  It’s a comparative gap in his music that defines much of the ensuing thirty minutes, though that juxtaposition defines itself in different ways pointing towards different boundaries of a dichotomous creative identity and relationship with self for the artist. Even through the mire of the emotional and energetic shifts throughout the project, Jyou feels now more refined - and at times angrier, angstier, and yet still more emotionally and musically nuanced than before.

Biig Pigg | Bubblegum

January 20

A project that everyone will like, no matter what they listen to

Biig Piig | Bubblegum

Technically her debut album, the indefinable Irish vocalist, lyricist, and all around musical enigma has for years been stretching genre and musical definability at a grand scale. To no surprise, Bubblegum is predominantly an encapsulation of that. Her misty vocals punch through twisting experimental production by way of a barrage of stylistic nuance to bring what may very well be the least expected collection in al of 2023.

Sabrina Claudio | Archives & Lullabies

February 10

A project that is as calming as it is sensually explosive

Sabrina Claudio | Archives & Lullabies

Creative freedom never sounded so good. Sabrina Claudio, whose timeless, soothing high-notes and immersive poetics have submerged listeners in a fluttery state of R&B-induced emotionality for years, is free of her studio restraints. As such, her new album - her first as an independent artist - bleeds of something deeper and somehow even more emotionally nuanced than she - or just about anyone else in R&B’s still shining new Golden Era - has delivered in recent memory.

Sincere Hunte | ROADMAN

February 17

A project that proves raw, imperfect rap is still the blueprint for stylistic growth

Sincere Hunte | ROADMAN

Not all titles feel form-fitting. But just like the nature of his deadpan, dead-on flow, Sincere Hunte’s new album is titled with purpose. Born in North Carolina, raised in Huntsville, Alabama, and now in Nashville, his is a roadmap of Southern locales that have unavoidably left many marks on his expanding creative persona and versatile sound. Reminiscent not of any artists whose sounds represent a particular place, Sincere Hunte is instead reminiscent in many ways to different musical moments, and to the ways in which all of us have experienced and consumed those spaces in time.

Adi Oasis | Lotus Glow

March 3

A project that you should listen to while traveling somewhere with perfect weather

Adi Oasis | Lotus Glow

Adeline to Adi Oasis, the Parisian-born, New York-based soulstress’s new project is a cementing stamp of her moniker shift, steeped deeper in the now-clear signature definition that years of prolific features across the globe, and solo efforts spanning soulful influence from the Caribbean, France and her now home in the US, have brought into focus. The bass-wielding, multi-hyphenate, multi-passport mosaic has been an unsung heroine of a rangy, instrumentally rooted Soul, R&B, and Funk renaissance reshaping the larger scope of music for a decade or more. And yet, it’s this album that feels penultimate in its exercise as an (re)introduction for Adi Oasis.

Kali Uchis | Red Moon in Venus

March 3

A project that bridges all things, including genre, culture, and language


There's not much to say. It's Kali Fuckin' Uchis, and she continues to evolve and be one of the greatest - in multiple languages at that. Go lsiten to it.

Larry June & The Alchemist | The Great Escape

March 31

A project that was made for Summer, but sounds just as good out of season


It would be outlandish or at the very least controversial to say that any one specific project is Larry June’s best. But that argument has to be taken up for The Great Escape if for no other reason than that it, above all others, is a statement of his pinnacle position atop the game as it has never been displayed before. He’s always had great collaborations, and he’s always earned a mystical stature within the ranks of hip-hop itself, where artists respect the unique effortlessness of his prolificity. But The Great Escape is stacked. It’s stacked by so many measures that it’s a testament to his leadership and to The Alchemist’s guiding hand that it even works at all.

Daniel Caesar | NEVER ENOUGH

April 10

A project that you should listen to while falling in and out of love and everything in between


Caesar has always been a little self loathing, for no good reason from a musical standpoint, but seemingly heartbroken just enough in perpetuity to instill in his listeners some sort of endless emotional provocation. And as always, with the balance between his exceedingly unique contributions to the musical spaces he inhabits and the passionate tumult all of them convey, he strikes auditory gold.

Dinner Party | Enigmatic Society

April 14

A project that proves a bunch of old dogs can learn (and teach) a bunch of new tricks


Hip-hop isn’t dead. It’s just changing at a wider scale and quicker pace than can be comprehensible to a listener that isn’t readily paying attention to its evolution. R&B’s Golden Era bridged the 90’s into the early 00’s, but a renaissance in Neo-Soul with a tinge for retro-futurism has reignited a modern scene that may very well come to be every bit as influential as its predecessor. And jazz is also alive and well. If it weren’t, and if in fact hip-hop, R&B, and Neo-Soul weren’t either - Dinner Party wouldn’t be crafting the groove-stricken, funk-loving, soulful improvisation, composition, and collaboration that it is with what is now its third project.


April 21

A Project that can soundtrack every positive moment when you don’t know what to play


In Suté’s words, ULTRALIGHT is “a journey that takes you through a range of emotions, from the high energy and excitement of life to the introspection and self-reflection that comes with it… [his] goal was to create music that speaks to the heart and soul, to evoke feelings of love, hope, and inspiration. Each track on the album tells a story and takes the listener on a journey through soundscapes that are both familiar and new.”

Baby Rose | Through and Through

April 28

A project that will make you feel every emotion of a rocky, beautiful relationship


There’s something innately powerful about the little things when they’re given the space and attention that they need to in order to bloom and flourish. The microcosmic, too, can be cosmic when you really focus in on the details. For Neo-Soul flower child, Baby Rose, and her unparalleled ability to hone in on one syllable - one note - one moment’s minutiae - and breathe the life into it necessary to expand its bounds into a sonic universe all to itself, the little things take center stage. And across her new album, that expansion of auditory spaces, and an ability to fill them with emotionally intuitive world-building, drives her decidedly different sound into a new realm for modern Neo-Soul.

IDK | F65

May 5

A project that you should play in the fast lane


Eclectic has always fallen short as an adjective when describing the vast sonic breadth - and even wider artistic reach - of PG County, Maryland’s IDK. Ignorantly Delivering Knowledge, the 30-year-old rapper, vocalist, designer, collaborator, and more than anything, alchemist, is well-aware that what he’s delivering most is boundless stylistic experimentation. Timelessly raw, pleasantly unpolished, and indescribably nuanced, his fourth studio album spans 22 tracks, at least as many musical motifs, folds in a swatch of creations in the physical world ranging in collaborations from Nike to Mercedes-Benz - and is loosely - and of necessity - tethered by a racing theme that itself is also stretched to its limits.


May 5

A project that will make you think pop music, soul, and the 80’s peaked in 2023


No one is questioning that Soul’s presence in modern music is still very much alive, but in tandem with the funk and unendingly danceable groove that swept across the soundwaves of the late 70’s and early 80’s; along with the presence of a later 80’s disco wave that rollerskates on synth-soaked wood grain; hand-in-hand with the sultry vulnerability of Golden Era R&B; and bathed in a retrofuturistic soultronic boldness, Q’s debut album bleeds, rejoices into modernity on the back of his emergent genius.


May 19

A Project that proves that everything sounds better with tropical house behind it


KAYTRANADA and Aminé working by their respective, indivdual selves would be reason enoguh to celebrate a project release. But working together? That's a little unfair, and the result lives up to the hype. Aminé continues to be one of the more underappreciated upper-echelon rappers of the modern era, and teaming up with one of the best producers and DJ's not only of his generation, but of any, period, makes the album one of the most sought-after, listenable collaborations in memory.

BLK ODYSSY | Diamonds & Freaks

June 9

A project that will introduce you to something – or a lot of things - you’ve never heard before


It is an hour’s long diary entry of struggles with pain, self-worth, masks, addiction, and bloom, all in the orbit of sex. For BLK ODYSSY, this album was supposed to be exactly what it ultimately is. One sex addict’s coming-to-terms is another person’s collection of sultry, soulful baby-makers and emotionally immersive ballads, after all. And for those people - for the fans of all that it is that makes Neo-Soul, R&B, Funk, Jazz, Rap, and the Blues so honest, so sexy, so human - Diamonds & Freaks is a masterpiece in more ways than one.

Kiana Ledé | Grudges

June 16

A project that will make you fall in love and in lust, and feel terribly heartbroken all at once


Kiana Ledé has been one of the hottest emerging names on the modern R&B circuit for years. But with Grudges, her rise is risen, her signature signed, and her crown cemeneted firmly atop her head as one of, if not the most, important and unique soulstresses anywhere in music.

PHABO | Don’t Get Too Cozy

June 16

A project that will make you rememeber that sometimes R&B doesn’t need to be so serious


It’s within the book-ending structure of eighteen tracks that now, with his sophomore album, Phabo expands and evolves what it is that he is bringing to a spectrum in need of his indefinable sonic seamlessness and tangible emotionality leaning heavily on a sensual sense of storyline and self-aware poetics between a 90’s Golden Era and the technological influences on R&B all the way to the early 2010’s.

$avvy | bunny!

July 28

A project that will make you feel cool and confident in a thrifty kind of way


Spoken with retro fervor into a landline and projected overtop some vintage R&B, $avvy picks up the introduction to his new album, bunny!, right where we’d have expected him to leave off any backroom conversation amongst creative confidants, with which, the Birmingham-raised, Nashville-footheld, LA-based rapper, vocalist, and all around curator of spaces vibrant and unique, surrounds himself in patterned, concentric circles.

Adekunle Gold | Tequila Ever After

July 28

A project that will never, ever let the party stop


Adekunle Gold never had to put any extra emphasis on the fact that his Highlife-twisting, Altè-nodding, Afro-Fusion was always designed - or at the very least was form fitting - to soundtrack the summertime. Positivity and warmth orbit the natural sound at the core of his signature blend of stylistic nuances, sourcing the Yoruba Highlife sounds of his early life, the Afrobeats renaissance, and a global collection of modern music from around the world. And yet, like a well named agave cocktail, he took that extra step to ensure that his ratios were just right. He did it for all of us…

Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah | Bark Out Thunder Roar Out Lightning

July 28

A project that will make you question everything about jazz, even the word jazz itself


The most adept, inventive name with brass, New Orleans's Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah again reinvents his musical space with a dynamic infusion of expectedly unexpected nuance ranging from African and Caribbean roots to altogeter new sounds for a project that will make ou question your own understanding of jazz music - and even the pejorative term itself for something much greater and more grandiose in the hands of an artist like Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah.

The Philharmonik | Kironic

July 28

A project that will show you that one artist can do just about anything


He feverishly creates and oversees every step of his music from ideation and conception to production and mastering, so his is a command and control over the process allows safe passage through whichever unpredictable waters he chooses to weather. 60’s Soul, 70’s Rock, 80’s Funk, 90’s R&B, and timeless raps were his many cornerstones five years ago when his debut felt bold, unwavering, and unapologetically unique. And five years later, that’s exactly where his music still stands, albeit sharpened in every way - which is saying a lot for an artist that has always had the calming, creative nature of a veteran.


August 18

A project that will satisfy your itch for 90’s R&B


Formerly one half of VanJess, where the legendary, nostalgic R&B duo once stood, now stands the nostlagic, reminsicent AMAKA. For the one sister who kept her craft going solo this year, AMAKA dazzled with a debut that is as starkly global tethered to her West African upbringing, as it is downright reminiscent of a 90's R&B era that she once captured in duo, and now continues to encapsulate alone.

Grandace | Lavalamp Cosmic

September 1

A project that immerses you in retrofuturistic flora, and reminiscent bliss


There is a certain cyber-softness that exists buried, albeit deeply influential, within the broad, dynamically conceptual nature of Grandace’s post-genre maneuverings. He says that his music is born of some sort of Sega Dreamcast nuance, and that very description — derivative of something before it, yet newer, and simultaneously rooted in a time not of quite ultra-modernity — delineates a tunnel of grey area madness that leaves a listener suspended in flight, or time, or something else unexplainable.

Greg Bussie & Enrique1x | Old Friends

September 29

A project that will introduce you to the New South’s new era


Old Friends feels like the kind of project that tethers Greg Bussie’s past to his present through the lens of his music. It feels rooted in memories, influence, and a past version of himself — and reaching back through the plane of Southern hip-hop — while simultaneously inhabiting the most modern and focused take on his sound to date. Where The Art Gallery meandered across the horizontal plane, his new EP is a straight shot into space. Honed particularly on his lyricism and a flow that has come to represent his innermost rap id, Old Friends is a six track, 18 minute project that feels at once like it could be one long, cohesive run-on sentence, or one quickly moving short film tethered akin from beginning to end.

Ron Obasi | Thirty Sunz

October 9

A project that will make you contemplate deeply on self-growth and self-acceptance


“Thirty Sunz is intentionally dedicated to the young knucklehead me obsessed with black heroes and black powers - who eventually grew into his own,” Obasi wrote upon the project’s release — on the morning of his 30th birthday. And from beginning to end, it curatedly tightropes past with presence, exploring exactly that connection and continuation of his innermost id, without sacrificing just how unique he and his sound have become, even when weighed against prior versions of themselves.

The BlackSon | Do Something Important

October 23

A project that will motivate you


The title has been a mantra of The BlackSon for a while now. In the build-up to his recent short film, Take Some Time For Yourself - entered in The International Black Film Festival, and that exists separately from the new project, albeit in the same socio-creative self-renaissance he’s been inhabiting all of 2023 - his ardent focus on making the most of one’s time is crystal clear. Growth only matters if it actually grows towards some kind of Sun. And for The BlackSon, with his space as a teacher, an artist, and the many grey areas of a human being that exist somewhere in between, everything he’s been doing has been in the effort to do something bigger and more broadly interconnected.

Smile High | The Vibetape

November 24

A project that anyone can dance to


From Smile High and The Main Squeeze – a keyboardist and his band, to simplify the equation – imagination bountifully overflows. The Vibetape – a 10-track, half-hour collection spilling over from beginning to end with sultry basslines, instrumental Neo-Soul bliss, playful keystrokes, and an unparalleled manifest of collaborating features – is at once worthy of the expansive opacity of the word, while also pinpointing so many iterations of what the word can specially come to mean. The Vibetape is a vibe, I reluctantly write.

Brian Brown & Carmine Prophets | BBGonProfit

November 28

A project that you should listen to anywhere in the South at any time


As a whole, BBGonProfit expands on a directional change from Brian Brown who has been methodically evolving from a more downtempo, jazz-rooted, backpack aesthetic that defined his early canon at large to one bouncing with more bass, more boss, more braggadocio, and ultimately, more creative risks well taken. And he’s making all those shifts without forgoing any of the lyrical dynamism, anecdotal gait, or melodic willingness that has long made him one of the more adept storytellers and emotionally intuitive lyricists anywhere across the modern rapscape.

Sean Leon | In Loving Memory

December 1

A project that will make you feel everything


Half-satiated by reminiscent musical motif yet eternally yearning back to the high emotion of its intro through a gauntlet of stylistic shifts, an In Loving Memory listener cascades through Leonian changes of pace and explosions of post-genre gravitas that only its creator – in a modern scene where raw, unapologetic invention feels scarce and rarely authentic – could create while maintaining its north arrow.

Night Lovell | I HOPE YOU’RE HAPPY

December 8

A project that will allow you to wallow in your own negativity without feeling bad for it


It’s been more than two years since Night Lovell released an album, but with his latest, I HOPE YOU’RE HAPPY – a title that feels innately sarcastic – the emo rap kingpin spins murderous allegory and trunk-rattling bass into a mosaic of nostalgia that ties reminiscence on golden era hip-hop to a bombardment of emotionally unstable motifs drenched in early oughts alt. His aesthetic is rare, not because it builds a bridge between two scenes which aren’t necessarily at odds, however differentiated they may be from their sounds to the audiences; but rather because he does so with deft authenticity.

Blvck Svm & Pilotkid | jetsvm

December 15

A project that will make you confident in the present & future of lyricism


Solus understatedly underlines jetsvm, drenched in cool tones and a subtle melancholia that leaves the EP energetically grounded, while simultaneously lyrically high-minded to a level unparalleled elsewhere in the modern scene. Blvck Svm’s defining ornamentation has always been that of the overtly lyrical. His ability to pen a punchline with such meticulous detail sometimes feels like a post-graduate thesis. And yet, his last project – 2022’s  mangalica mink – brimmed equally with some bass-thudding braggadocio that underlined the whole thing with more rap-traditional machismo than seems implemented here, in 2023. Instead, his new project opts for mellow throughlines, and special attention allotted to the words. Much of that has to do with who’s behind the curtain.

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