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And Just Like That, Chicago's ALIAH will ‘BRB’ After Dropping Another Retrofuturistic R&B EP

Evan Dale // February 29, 2024

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Six tracks and just under 15 minutes, the ever-elusive ALIAH’s new project is her career third, and like the others, imbibes in her audience a greedy desire for even more music from the Chicago soulstress. But much more importantly – and akin to all her prior work to date – the aptly titled BRB inspires a sense of hope for the state of modern and future R&B – a scene that continues to pump out inventive, influential, and always fluid projects by way of a spectrum of artists spanning its upper echelon superstars to its mosaic of boundary breaking emergent names.

Synonymous with ALIAH’s own are a few defining traits that sign themselves as signature to her one-of-a-kind sound. There’s the unmistakable throughline of a school of modern Chicago production, where reminiscent names like Monte Booker and Phoelix, alongside a smattering of other producers in the city, infuse digitally experimental cyber soul nuance into quick percussion that seamlessly bleeds in and out of bars, hooks, and bridges. It’s one of those things that has differentiated the Chicago R&B and Neo-Soul scenes – spearheaded by artists like Ravyn Lenae and Jean Deaux – from all the others over the course of the last half-decade especially. Then, there’s the omnipresence of romantic thematic discourse that immerses a listener in the rangy emotionality of ALIAH’s own experiences transcending love and lust. But most importantly, there’s ALIAH’s voice.

Since her 2017 debut EP, Being first introduced listeners to the lullabying highs of the artist formerly known as Aaliyah Allah’s silky register, there hasn’t been anyone else that quite sounds like her. Her duetting cuts with fellow Chicago artists, like 2019’s I’ll Be Yours with HXRY, have only continued to make her a force as both a solo artist and a collaborative one. And with BRB, ALIAH is clearly at her best in both regards.

Leading off with 2022 single, DMX, ALIAH sets a project in motion that picks up where she left off with her last project, 2020’s Flux/Flow, albeit dynamically more refined as a vocalist and a storyteller; as a soloist and a collaborator. It’s a hit brimming with clever lyricism and expectedly creative maneuverings of her own vocals around the beat. ICU is a fervent exhibition of the kind of wordplay and vocal prowess that can match anyone else in the game, effortlessly floating overtop a some particularly bubbly production with an addicting hook and a whole lot of well-placed poetics. Fading in and out of one another, ALIAH and Chicago emcee, Myquale make I Want You– originally released as a single in 2022 – the kind of dynamic, immersive duet that simultaneously continues the soulstress’s tradition as an adept collaborative artist, while also immersing listeners in a relatable tale of the power struggles in a relationship. And with the addition of the EP’s titular closing track, BRB rides into its sunset on the foundational pillars that continue to keep all of us hooked the whatever ALIAH does next, no matter when that may be: her intangible register, and her all too tangible ability to convey it to her listeners.

As she would say, BRB.

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