If contemporary rap is an industry that creates only slightly varying carbon copies of its performers, today’s R & B scene is the woke cousin from out of town trying to set rap free. There is a new class of singers, many of them women, who are setting the soundtrack for Tumblr cool kids, #carefreeblackgirls (and boys), and music snobs alike. Too futuristic to be neo soul, but still too soulful for the pop crowd, these indie artists are tapping into a cross-section of market that's only focused on the music being good.
The term “indie” doesn’t necessarily mean an independent artist or one signed to an independent label. It’s true that artists are less reliant on major labels to attain success. Musicians are building followings on social media large enough to sustain their passions without the bureaucracies of big record labels. Some of them are winning Grammys in the process. This has opened up the market to a diversity of creative sounds, and it's taught record execs a thing or two about putting all of their eggs in one basket. As such, some of these artists have been scooped up by labels.
So what do I mean by indie? It’s a genre that encompasses artists with unique personal styles. Some of these artists have exchanged the powerful runs and high notes of Beyoncé for softer, waspy notes. They reject the idea that marketable R & B only exists as a hybrid of pop or hip-hop, like much of Rihanna’s catalogue. These artists experiment with sounds and draw inspiration from both the past and the future. They’re the musical embodiments of old souls and new waves.