This was originally published in our print issue on April 1, 2019.
In the realm of artistic and cultural expression, Toronto is one of the cities that never sleeps. In particular, this city’s up-and-coming R&B artists have proven themselves to be some of the most talented and unique musicians in the industry. With sounds ranging from classical soul to the newly popularized lo-fi, various styles of melody can be found across the spectrum of this genre.
But while alternative R&B artists showcase smooth vocals that float over unorthodox tempos, it seems like they haven’t received the attention they deserve at the forefront of Toronto’s R&B scene. This city’s culture is intertwined with the influences of Drake, The Weekend, R&B duo Majid Jordan, and even Daniel Caesar, who’s currently paving his way to becoming one of Toronto’s stars. And while these respective artists are undoubtedly talented at their craft and deserve all the hype, I think it’s time to support budding Toronto’s R&B musicians as well.
We’re grateful that Drake had a part in putting us on the map — but what’s the point if we aren’t going to show love to the rest of Toronto’s homegrown talent? Let’s not get too caught up with this city’s big names. Instead, we should start shifting our focus to the deserving Toronto R&B artists, some of which are listed below. Whether these artists arrived on the scene fairly recently or have been working on their craft for a while, they’re definitely worth a listen.
Top tracks: “Lowkey,” “Return to Sender,” “Follow Me.”
This UK-born, Toronto-raised artist has been in the underground R&B scene for a few years now. Her album, 1021, is reminiscent of the late-’90s sounds of Aaliyah, with smooth, soulful vocals over 808-drum beats.
Top tracks: “Let Her,” “Broken Telephone,” “The Reminder.”
Born and raised in Toronto, Allie’s exposure to different cultures translates into her music, which caters to a wide variety of sub-genres within R&B. Her debut record, Nightshade, includes an eclectic range of soulful ballads, or what she calls “experimental soul music.” If you’re into slow jams for late night drives or a night in with your girls, be sure to check her out.
Top tracks: “L.I.M.B (Liquor In My Brain),” “True Love,” “Colours,” “Ocean.”
I stumbled across Adria Kain’s music on Spotify a few years back, and I don’t get why her nostalgic sound still isn’t recognized in Toronto. She’s opened for BJ The Chicago Kid and performed alongside Daniel Caesar and another one of Toronto’s up-and-comers, Sean Leon. She also landed a voice replacement on “Thirsty” by PARTYNEXTDOOR. Her dusky vocals and lyricism beautifully capture the essence of her experiences with depression during her hiatus in 2017.
Top tracks: the whole EP.
M.I.BLUE’s soothing vocals not only set off a super relaxing and jazzy vibe, but also make you want to listen to them when you’re all alone — engaging in deep thoughts with yourself. Her EP, Black Tea and Mint, came out about three years ago and consists of three songs that she said are “meant to be listened to in an isolated environment with a spliff in one hand and a cup of tea in the other.” I haven’t had much luck finding any other projects she’s been a part of, but I do hope she comes out with more.
Top tracks: “Float,” “Mi Amor,” “Bold,” “We Live Fast.”
This OVO-affiliated artist made his debut last May with his album, Lonely in Paradise, which highlighted both the intense highs and lows of being in a teenage relationship. He’s another sultry vocalist who we can expect late-night music from.
Top tracks: the whole album.
If you don’t have any MorMor in your playlist, I don’t really have any words for you. MorMor’s become one of my favourite artists to listen to literally anywhere and anytime, so much so that I’m just going to recommend the entire Heaven’s Only Wishful album — which is only five tracks long. He writes, plays, and produces almost everything you hear in his songs, and his piercing falsetto over those chord progressions can seriously get you out of any funk, even if it’s only for a little bit.
Top tracks: “Natural Feels,” “Caution,” “Bad Habits.”
Desiire is a Congo-born, Toronto-based artist whose creativity knows no bounds, especially with his tendency to blend R&B and Afrobeats to deliver layered melodies and instrumentals. His EP, As I Go Along, only came out last year and offers a range of emotional perspectives and intimacy through heartbreaking vocals and unique beats.