Elle Varner, The Weeknd, K. Michelle, and the recent 3 time Soul Train Award winner Tamar Braxton all have some thing in common: All are notable alumni of the SoulTrain.com R&B Freshman class. This year is no different. The freshman class of 2014 is primed and ready to take over the R&B charts!
For hardcore fans of Jhene Aiko, this has been a long time coming. The singer/songwriter was discovered by Chris Stokes, and subsequently signed to Stokes’ TUG label through Epic Records. Jhene was first featured on B2K’s 2002 remix album. Her vocals were featured with various TUG artists before parting ways with the label to continue her education. In 2011, Jhene released her first mixtape Sailing Soul, and signed with noted Producer No I.D.’s Atrium Records in 2012. In 2013, Atrium and Def Jam Recordings released Jhene Aiko’s debut EP, Sail Out. The set was met with positive reviews from fans and critics alike. Set to release her debut album in 2014, Jhene Aiko is poised to usher in a new era of R&B.
The 12th season winner of reality TV juggernaut American Idol, Candice Glover, is primed to continue the legacy of black Idol alums such as Ruben Studdard, Fantasia, Jennifer Hudson, and Jordin Sparks. Originally slated to release her debut album in July 2013, the album was thankfully pushed back to a 2014 release. A wonderful result of this delay is her first single, “Cried,” which was written by her idol Jazmine Sullivan. In the midst of all of the drama between Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey during her AI season, Candice Glover emerged as a new princess of R&B.
When the greatest songwriter of the 2000s endorses you, you may be on to something. Grammy Award winning singer/songwriter Ne-Yo signed RaVaughn to his Compound Entertainment imprint in 2011. The burgeoning songwriter had success early on by penning songs and recording demos for the likes of Brandy, Jennifer Hudson, and Celine Dion. Once aligned with Ne-Yo, RaVaughn secured a deal with Columbia Records. Her first single, “Best Friend,” received moderate airplay and was featured on VH1’s Love And Hip Hop. Parting ways with Columbia in mid-2013, RaVaughn is now free to pursue new opportunities. The new year looks bright for RaVaughn.
Mack Wilds has been on our radar for quite some time. Initially known as an actor under his government name Tristan, Mack Wilds caught our attention via televisions series such as HBO’s The Wire and 90210. Releasing his debut album, New York: A Love Story, in September of 2013, Mack Wilds’ offering was nominated for a Grammy in the Best Urban Contemporary Album category. If that’s how 2013 ended for Mack Wilds, we can’t wait to see what will happen in 2014!
Our young black actors are showing their versatility in entertainment. Known for his role a Tay Sutton in the hit drama Lincoln Heights, Mishon Ratliff is ready to show the world that he is not just a one-dimensional entertainer. Signing a deal with Columbia Records last year, Mishon was paired with legendary producers Jermaine Dupri and Bryan Michael-Cox. With Dupri tapped as his executive producer, Mishon looks to bridge the gap between the R&B of the 90s and now.
I know what you’re thinking. Yes, this is the same Claudette Ortiz from the Grammy winning trio City High, but as we came to learn on TV One’s R&B Divas LA, this is the dawn of a new beginning for the now solo artist. Claudette Ortiz has been fighting her entire career. She’s fought through tension in her group. She’s fought through rumors and assumptions of her character from fans and industry peers alike. In all of the fighting she has done, one thing that has never changed is her angelic voice. We were reminded of that in the first season of R&B Divas LA. Now the time is right for Claudette. With a new season of Divas coming and a renewed energy about music, Ortiz can finally give us the album we’ve waited over 13 years for.
This is the year of second chances for R&B, and no one seems more deserving than the former member of R&B groups TG4 and Richgirl, Sevyn Streeter. This determined singer first made her debut with the aforementioned TG4 after signing a record deal with Chris Stokes’ TUG label in 2001. A lone single, “Virginity,” was released, and the group disbanded not long after. After being discovered on Myspace by producer Rich Harrison years later, Streeter was placed into the group RichGirl, who shared a similar fate. Sevyn kept herself busy as a songwriter, crafting hits such as Chris Brown’s “Fine China,” Tamar Braxton’s “All The Way Home,” Fantasia’s “Get It Right,” and her own hit single “It Won’t Stop.” Apparently it won’t stop for Sevyn, as she released her debut EP via Atlantic Records in December of 2013.
New Orleans native August Aslina took urban music by storm with the release of his debut single “I Luv This Sh*t” on Def Jam Recordings in 2013. His brash lyrics and melodic delivery show that not only could he hang vocally with his R&B counterparts, he could also keep up with the streets. August Aslina sticks out over most of the newer R&B crop because he incorporates the aggressive nature of hip-hop marketing into his music. We are eager to see what 2014 holds for August Aslina.
There was no reality show behind R&B singer John Michael. There was no TMZ drama, and he didn’t have to get shot nine times. The truth of the matter is, John Michael’s magic was a tried a true formula: a great singer, with a great song, backed by a great team. Virginia native John Michael set the R&B world a blaze with his debut single “Sophisticated Lady” in 2013. A remix featuring Talib Kweli was issued, followed by his debut album. John Michael puts us in the mind of a young Eric Roberson. His success will not be determined by a Billboard chart position, but the impact he has on fans for 2014 and years to come.
Patience is a virtue. For Rocnation R&B singer Bridget Kelly, it’s also a reality. Bridget has been easily qualified for past Freshman Class lists; however, the timing was not right. In a perfect world, she would be on her second or third record by now. Signed by Jay-Z to his Rocnation label in 2008, Bridget has been working diligently on her craft. Having worked on her debut album for the last couple of years, she has released singles and EPs, while building the anticipation for her debut album Something Different, slated for a 2014 release.
Nick Eden is a singer/songwriter/R&B junkie based out of Atlanta, GA. He is a winner of the Steve Harvey New Star Project and appeared on Season 1 of BET/Centric’s Apollo Live. His new EP #FLIGHT1980 is available for FREE download HERE. Follow him on Twitter @nickeden and on Facebook.