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WHAT ACTUALLY IS NEO-SOUL?

December 30, 2015

Many have had a hard time using words to describe music, myself included. Especially when it comes to something so new and fluid as neo-soul. The Hip Hop movement is constantly evolving and expanding as new artists emerge, creating their own sound often making it difficult to place them in any specific genre. With the endless stream of talented artists and new music emerging daily, it can be overwhelming to keep up with all the new, innovative things being created. Sometimes artists delve into multiple types of music, incorporating eclectic styles and sound to create a neo-infused genre of music, dumbfounding even the most well-versed music lovers.

 

Basically, neo-soul is a sub-genre of soul (which is often considered a sub-genre of American gospel) with infused elements of jazz and R&B. Neo-soul is often associated with fluid, organic, instrumentally driven sounds with subtle hip-hop influences. This sub-genre is especially unique because of the social implications it has created since its inception in mid-90s America. Because of its more alternative and elemental tones, artists who participate in this genre tend to be reflective of this style in more ways than just music. Neo-soul is taken as an alternative to mainstream hip-hop where rap music is mostly dominated by hedonistic and misogynistic lyrics and visuals.

 

Neo-soul offers women a creative and musical platform unadulterated by a demeaning and patronizing male community which smothers creativity and keeps talented female artists in the dark. Thereby, the presence of women in neo-soul is much stronger than men, allowing lyrics and instrumentals to be sinuous, sensual and coquettish, creating an earthy and natural texture of music without losing its multiple roots in jazz, soul and R&B.

 

 

Women have built and developed neo-soul and are even more prevalent today. Artists such as Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill, Jill Scott, Floetry and Sade are only some of the first creators of neo-soul music. Today, however, there is a stronger presence of technology which influences the ability for the manipulation of sound for many creatives. Artists such as Kehlani, Jane Macgizmo, SZA and Wafia are just a few examples of the women expanding neo-soul into a more dynamic style of music today, reaching even more audiences as the sub-genre becomes increasingly popular.

 

One musical example is a song by Kehlani and Mr. Carmack called “All In” off of the Songs From Scratch project. At the beginning of the song, you can hear Carmack’s electronic force behind Kehlani’s velvety smooth vocals, blending together into an innovative take on R&B. The song builds to the climatic chorus, with layers of soft, background vocal tones and notes. The instrumental sounds ethereal, with piano surfacing halfway through the song, a nice transition for a final full string orchestra to finish it off. This song not only has a R&B feel but classical and electronic beats fusing together. It’s utter innovation. I would say this is my favorite record by Kehlani and possibly my favorite track from this year. Each time I listen to it, a new wave of shock and pleasure envelops me. It is interesting to imagine how this sub-genre will continue to expand as time goes on, influencing the social atmosphere that permanently surrounds the music world.

 

 

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- WRITER / VIBE CREATOR -

NATASHA ZASTKO

SOUNDCLOUD: @tashaze

INSTAGRAM: @tashaze

TUMBLR: @nastko.tumblr

 

 

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