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Top 10 Neo-Soul Acts We Miss

Jim Spellman, WireImage | Evan Agostini, Getty Images | Angela Weiss, WireImage

Sitting comfortably within the vastly experimental era of late ’90s “urban” music is neo-soul. The sub-genre is one that has taken on many forms since the term was first coined by former Motown Records president Kedar Massenburg to describe what his artist Erykah Badu was accomplishing at the time. An amalgam of sounds ranging from soul, subtle hip-hop and new school R&B, neo-soul soared past the “headwraps and kufis” label it was deemed to wear. While the movement has since faded — everything is considered “neo-soul” these days — a handful of artists penetrated the era and vanished. The BoomBox compiles a list of 10 top artists we miss. Consider this a musical milk carton.

10

Jazzyfatnastees

The dynamic duo of Tracey Moore and Mercedes Martinez were largely instrumental in the Roots’ New York-Philly-D.C. live music revival known as Black Lily. A combination of soul-glazed sounds backed by thorough percussion — after all, they did work with Questlove — the Jazzy’s arguably set the tone for future artists’ styles. Their debut album, ’99′s ‘The Once and Future,’ featured production from the then Roots keyboardist Scott Storch. Tracey and Mercedes dropped 2002′s ‘The Tortoise & the Hare’ and have since been on permanent hiatus. Come back, ladies!

09

Melky Sedeck

Being the younger siblings of Wyclef Jean, Blandina Melky and Farel Sedeck got their big break almost immediately following the reign of the Fugees. However, their fusion of hip-hop and R&B in such a non-intrusive way made for the pair’s automatic success — with or without a Jean surname. Melky Sedeck rocked romantic soundtracks like ‘Love Jones’ and ‘Love & Basketball,’ while also covering a soundtrack classic ‘To Sir, With Love’ on their debut ‘Sister & Brother’. Unfortunately, their buzz faded once the Fugees parted ways. What’s up with that?

08

Cody ChestnuTT

The Roots’ ‘Phrenology’ was a critically acclaimed fan abused classic that dropped at the heart of the neo-soul era. On it, the track ‘The Seed 2.0′ featuring one Cody ChestnuTT, leaned sonically on Cody’s song ‘Look Good In Leather.’ Cody became one of the poster boys for the genre — alongside Martin Luther — with his new approach to soul that incorporated clever rock riffs and slick funk. Cody has consistently dropped albums, his most recent was 2010′s ‘Black Skin No Value,’ which flew under the radar. The crooner was supposed to drop ‘Landing On a Hundred’ this year. We’re still waiting.

07

Angie Stone

Truth be told, Angie Stone‘s been doing her acting thing most recently. However, for an artist with such deep roots in music — from the Sequence to singing backup for Lenny Kravitz and D’Angelo’s seminal ‘Brown Sugar’ and later ‘Voodoo,’ (the two also share a child), it seemed like singing would be Stone’s priority. Her ‘Black Diamond’ solo debut in ’99 came during a movement when soulful women were taking a front seat (i.e. Lauryn Hill, Jill Scott, India.Arie). You can still catch Angie on film, but hearing her on wax would be equally as sweet.

06

Martin Luther

In 1999, Martin Luther dropped ‘The Calling.’ He became part of the neo-Soul movement the Roots were building in conjunction with Cody ChestnuTT. His funkadelically-fused sounds became the backbone of the genre, and by his 2004 album ‘Rebel Soul Music,’ Martin Luther was channeling his inner Jimi Hendrix. The irony there is that Luther portrayed “Jo-Jo” — a character inspired by Hendrix — in the Beatles musical ‘Across the Universe.’ That was in 2007, and while every year since then we were promised his comeback album, ‘Love Is the Hero,’ we’re still waiting for that hero to pop up.

05

Amel Larrieux

Surely everyone remembers Groove Theory’s classic hit ‘Tell Me.’ Amel Larrieux and Bryce Wilson were a duo destined for stardom. They split, Bryce started acting and Amel joined the ranks of contemporary female vocalists bringing dramatically different, smooth sounds over the airwaves. Her song ‘Get Up’ is forever woven into the thread of the start of neo-soul, and her collaboration with the Roots on ‘Glitches’ held up the ‘Down to Earth’ soundtrack. Rumor has it Ms. Larrieux is gearing for a revival in 2012, with the tentatively titled effort ‘Ice Cream Every Day.’ How’s that for a treat?

04

India.Arie

India.Arie is arguably one of the more successful female vocalists to emerge from neo-soul music outside of Erykah Badu. Her debut single, ‘Video,’ off 2002′s ‘Acoustic Soul,’ introduced a rich-voiced siren backed by her acoustic guitar, geared to take over the world. Arie had a strong run over the years, causing the same level of controversy Lauryn Hill and Badu received when they all chopped off their locks. She reflected those sentiments in ‘I Am Not My Hair.’ Her assistance in the John Lennon cover of ‘Imagine’ earned her a Grammy this year. However, an album is still up in the air. Perhaps ‘Open Door’ will drop in 2012 as planned.

03

Floetry

Yes, we know that Marsha Ambrosius and Natalie Stewart both have respective careers outside of Floetry. However, their effort ‘Floetic’ set the stage for a female pairing of MC and singer that hadn’t really happened since TLC stepped on the scene in the early ’90s. By 2007, Floetry were splitsville and the role of Natalie Stewart was briefly portrayed by Amanda Diva. Now, with both Marsha and Natalie having significant careers outside of their initial union, wouldn’t a reunion be apropos? That’s something that most Floetry fans wouldn’t fight if it ever happened. We’ll have to wait and see.

02

Jaguar Wright

Jaguar Wright arrived around the same time as the Jazzyfatnastees during the Roots’ Black Lily era. Her no-nonsense music delivered razor-under-the-tongue biting wit focusing mainly on relationships. Jag appeared on the hook of the Roots’ ‘What You Want’ off ‘The Best Man’ soundtrack. She was also the hook singer for Jay-Z’s MTV Unplugged album — with the Roots on the beats. In 2005, Jag Wright dropped ‘Divorcing Neo 2 Marry Soul.’ Was that a message? Did she permanently divorce neo-soul to aim for a more “traditional” sound? Whatever the motive was, we haven’t heard a full-length album from Jaguar since.

01

D’Angelo

Oh, D’Angelo. This one goes without saying. The elusive Mr. Archer has teased us with more promises of reappearing ever since he was rotating naked in the ‘Untitled’ video off 2000′s ‘Voodoo.’ While the father of ‘Brown Sugar’ endured some legal hardships throughout his troubled hiatus, it was with the greatest hope that one day D’Angelo would resurface. We’ve heard random raw cuts as they circulated the internet, and his ‘James River’ LP continues to come up in conversation. Couple that with a bunch of random remixes and live albums, and well, it’s pretty clear that people still want to hear the crooner. Put some clothes on — or don’t — and release more music, please!

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