The Top 20 ATL Soul Songs of 2016

Photo: Dejah Greene. Model: Raven Best.

Photo: Dejah Greene. Model: Raven Best.

The year 2017 is gonna be a big one for Slo*Mo Media. Now, that’s not some flippant prediction or straight-up boast — it’s just a fact, based on some carefully considered strategy. In other words, we ain’t bullshittin’ you.

Looking forward to next year, although we can’t reveal all our plans, we can safely say that you’ll be seeing a lot more of us: in print, on the web and in the flesh. Keep your eyes and ears peeled to all the stuff we make (the zine, the Mo Audio podcast, the website, our social media content, etc.) to stay in the loop on all of the newness and expansions.

But before we go knee-deep into 2017, we thought it would only be right to look back at the year in music — specifically the soul music that came out of Atlanta this year.

Without a doubt, 2016 was a major one for hometown soul, with tons of releases by a wide and varied cadre of singers, musicians and producers. Some material came straight from the artists and other stuff came via labels. One label in particular made a huge impact this year: Atlanta Records — an offshoot of Ropedope. The partnership between these two imprints has yielded some of the best music we’ve heard in a long time by artists based in the A and beyond. Here’s hoping there’s much more dopeness in store from the Atlanta Records crew in the new year.

One quick aside: Although the group is from Philly, Killiam Shakespeare — on the Ropeadope label — is one of our favorite discoveries of 2016. The crew rocks a hard-to-categorize sound, but it’s cinematic and laced with touches of funk, soul, hip- hop and other good stuff. More than that, their songs are brimming with pure musicality; it’s anything but minimalistic. Pick up Killiam Shakespeare’s latest (featuring DJ Jazzy Jeff) here: killiamshakespeare.bandcamp.com/album/killiam-season-1.

OK, back to local soul … yes 2016 was an epic one for the scene. Don’t believe us? Check out our list of the Top 20 ATL Soul Songs of 2016. This special edition of our zine presents a diverse compilation of all the good stuff that’s percolating in the city, just below the surface. Take a look, and then follow the links to get your hands on the tracks for your damn self.

“Confession” — DJ Kemit: This melodic collaboration between producer DJ Kemit and vocalist Josh Milan succeeds at being dancefloor-worthy and heartfelt at the same time. The track, in fact, is indicative of all the material on the EP it was taken from — “Together,” Kemit’s first release for Milan’s Honeycomb Music label. In other words: Buy the album. honeycombmusic.bandcamp.com.

 

“Br’er Rabbit” — Waking Astronomer: Although this electronic/soul/jazz/ psychedelic/etc. band is on an indefinite hiatus, we still can’t get over “Br’er Rabbit” — a super-hard-driving, spaced-out and trippy tune from Waking Astronomer’s self-titled debut (and hopefully not last) project. wakingastronomer.com.

 

“Mistakes” — Cleveland P. Jones: Singer/songwriter Cleveland Jones is, song by song, staking a claim to ballads — and the weepy “Mistakes” furthers his rep as the go-to guy for love songs … even when they’re sad as hell. www. facebook.com/ClevelandPJones.

 

“Love I Can Sing About” — Latrese Bush: With “Love I Can Sing About,” Latrese Bush has another bright, mid-tempo, radio-ready track on her hands. www.latresebush.com.

 

“Booed Up” — Anthony David: Our favorite song from singer/musician Anthony David’s newest album — “The Powerful Now” — blends his gravely-yet-smooth vocals with a Motown-esque beat for an instant, tongue-in-cheek, vibey classic. rollingmojo.com.

 

“Samara Smiles” — Khari Cabral & Jiva: Bassist/producer Khari Cabral Simmons brought the soul-bossa sound back this year with his newest collection of songs: “Heaven & Earth.” The track “Samara Smiles,” however, is the project’s standout, cementing not only Simmons’ Brazilian-tinged rep — but also a sound that’s all his own. atlantarecords.bandcamp.com/album/heaven-earth.

 

“What Am I Here For?” (Kai Alce/NDATL remix) — The DangerFeel Newbies: “What Am I Here For?” may have originally appeared on the debut album for the ATL- based trio The DangerFeel Newbies (released in 2014), but DJ/producer Kai Alce gave the record a thumping, housed-up second life on this Defected Records remix. www.facebook.com/dangerfeelnewbies.

 

“Mammas & Pappas” — Maleke O’Ney: Singer, and self-styled “Pentecostal Girl,” Maleke O’Ney channeled a choir of her funk ancestors for this falsetto-powered anthem. www.reverbnation.com/malekeoney.

 

“Beauty Speaks” — Chantae Cann: Chantae Cann’s entire album (titled “Journey to Golden”) is a thing of understated and subtle beauty, but the aptly named “Beauty Speaks” is perhaps the most glorious example of the singer’s ultra-pretty voice and songwriting prowess. chantaecann.com.

 

“Better” — Kipper Jones: Superstar songwriter/vocalist Kipper Jones says he released his latest EP as an “experimental” foray into the wilds of indie recording. His experiment, however, gave the world a bevy of incredible material … like the funky-yet-timely “Better.” kipperjones.com.

 

“Find My Way” — Tasha LaRae: Along with a booming T-shirt line (i.e., Racism Sucks) and her work with the beloved band Arrested Development, singer Tasha LaRae served up some dope solo music in 2016. Case in point: the ultra-melodic house cut “Find My Way.” www.tashalarae.com.

 

“Contradiction” — Heston: Heston croons a dope slow jam, but the beat- heavy “Contradiction” — with its almost “steppers set” groove — is the perfect showcase for his famed pipes. www.hestonmusic.com.

 

“LoveStruck” — Nai Br.XX: The follow-up to singer Nai Br.XX’s “Wasted Callaway” EP, “LoveStruck” (featuring bars by Caleon Fox) is a love song that packs a mean thump to go with its smoldering, sensual vibe. naibrxx.com.

 

“Throw the Rest Away” — Kameron Corvet: Kameron Corvet dropped this dope one near the tail end of 2016 as a way to kick off the crowdfunding campaign for his newest EP, “The Early Riser,” and honestly it’s one of his best songs ever. Seriously. And that’s major for a guy with SO many great tunes. Buy “Throw the Rest Away,” and support the campaign: www.gofundme.com/KamCorvetEarlyRiserEP.

 

“Blue Skies” — Michael Murani: Producer/musician Michael Murani made a return to recorded music in 2016, joined by the “Queen of U.K. Soul” Julie Dexter, sporting this modern-day jazz-funk classic. www.meditativefunk.com.

 

“Alright” — Djeff Afrozila featuring Miranda Nicole: Atlanta’s own Miranda Nicole sprinkled her vocals on top of a production by Djeff Afrozila — the result is an ethereal dance track fueled by a driving percussive backdrop and Nicole’s smoky, soulful stylings. www.facebook.com/glamsoulstar.

 

“Feel the Same” — Jermaine Hardsoul: At a time when cats like Bruno Mars are releasing throwback tunes that evoke the best of 1980s-era soul, for- real funky cats like Jermaine Hardsoul show how it’s really done on body-rolling tracks like “Feel This Way.” hardsoulsound.com.

 

“Up From Here” — Leaf Newman: After a years-long hiatus, singer/ musician/former TV personality Leaf Newman made a triumphant to the music industry with the album “Flowers & Grass.” And the third track on the 12-song collection, “Up From Here,” is the one we’re digging the most; it’s breezy, guitar-driven with a touch of spoken word … and optimistic as all hell. leafnewman.bandcamp.com.

 

“Shooter” — BOSCO & Speakerfoxxx: BOSCO continues her musical victory lap, this time teamed with ATLien Speakerfoxxx, on this fun banger that rocked the summer. foolsgoldrecs.com.

 

“What I Needed” — Jimmy & June: An avant-garde duo on the rise, Jimmy & June’s creative collaboration reached its apex on this song of love and pragmatism. www.facebook.com/jimmyandjune.

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