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Neo soul (also known as nu soul or Underground soul ) is a sub-genre of contemporary R&B. The main difference between neo soul and the more popular sub-genres of R&B is that it is the most ethnocentric type of R&B. Neo soul artists tend to be very well-informed on world culture and politics, as well as spiritual discussions. The music itself is usually a hybrid of 1970s-influenced soul music with influences from jazz, funk, hip hop and occasionally house music, although since 2000 there's also elements of broken beat and L.A. electro-soul hybrids(J Davey).

The term neo soul was initially coined by Kedar Massenburg of Motown Records in the late 1990s as a Market description, following the commercial breakthroughs of artists such as D'Angelo, Erykah Badu,India.Arie, and Maxwell. Neo soul's audience tends to be underground, since the music favors lyrical substance, real instrumentation (sometimes),and "soulful integrity" over mainstream "pop" sensibilities. Some musicians who create what is described as neo-soul prefer to disassociate themselves from the tag, due to the term's buzzword-like usage. As a result, some refer to themselves as educators, artists, musicians or simply as "soul" artists. Altering social conditions and multiple diverse musical influences have merged together to create this style of artistic expression that is both hot and cool at the same time.


20th Century

In the USAmarker, some consider the genre to have been influenced by the 70's-era work of Legendary artists like Roberta Flack, Al Green, Sly Stone, Jimi Hendrix, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Gil Scott-Heron, Donny Hathaway, Jazz musician Roy Ayers, & the Philly Soul sounds of producers Gamble & Huff. Later, during the New Jack Swing era bands such as Tony! Toni! Toné! and the R&B/hip-hop band the Fugees, along with U.K. soul artists Omar Lye-Fook & Vannessa Simon laced the airwaves with a retro-soul sound in the early 1990s, but the genre really began to garner exposure after the releases of singers Meshell Ndegeocello, Erykah Badu, and Joi's debut album Pendulum Vibe, which contained elements of 1970s style arrangements along with Funk Rock elements. It continued with releases by singers Dionne Farris, Eric Benet's 1996 CD True To Myself, Lauryn Hill, Maxwell, & D'Angelo's 1995 LP Brown Sugar, the work of the duo Groove Theory, which included the members Amel Larrieux and producer Bryce Wilson. The UK's progenic Sade broke thru in the late 80's with albums such as Diamond Life, Promise , Stronger Than Pride and later Love Deluxe which created a jazz-soul sound and style. Other artists that had that Retro soul/R&B vibe during this period were the Young Disciples, D'Influence, Urban Species, Jamiroquai, The Brand New Heavies, Soul II Soul and Carleen Anderson.

The first soul revival artist to make a major impact on the mainstream was Lauryn Hill, whose 1998 The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill LP was a critical and commercial success, garnering five Grammy Awards. Her success influenced a number of other Signed & Indie neo-soul artists such as Angie Stone, Musiq Soulchild, Eric Roberson, Jill Scott, Goapele, India.Arie, Davina, Pru, Alice Smith, Jazzyfatnastees, Ursula Rucker, Rhian Benson and Martha Redbone. Other soul artists include Lucy Pearl, Floetry, Glenn Lewis, Res, Anthony Hamilton, Bilal, Hill St. Soul, Rahsaan Patterson and Dwele, some of whom became staples of R&B radio. Recent major neo soul artists include Stephanie McKay, Malina Moye, Emily King, Raheem DeVaughn, Sy Smith, Ledisi, Cleveland, Ohio's Conya Doss, Cincinnati-Bred artists Ja'Meze & the Spoken word soul collective Shades of J, Big Brooklyn Red, Antonia Jenae, The Square Egg, Britain's Julie Dexter, Laurnea, N'Dambi, Gaelle, Rachael Bell, Joy Denalane, Aya, Divine Brown, Asa and Angela Johnson.

In general, neo soul has remained almost exclusive to R&B outlets such as urban radio and Black Entertainment Television (BET), as well as TV One and a plethora of websites & podcasts. Most of its artists are unfamiliar to mainstream ( Pop ) audiences, and have yet to cross over. Several neo soul artists prefer to remain underground in comparison to most commercial R&B acts.

21st Century

Since 2000 artists such as Jill Scott, Alicia Keys, India Arie, Musiq Soulchild, Sy Smith, Eric Roberson, Dwele, Goapele, Omar Lye-Fook, Platinum Pied Pipers, Erykah Badu, Bilal, Raphael Saadiq, Raheem DeVaughn, Van Hunt, Maxwell, Eric Benet, Anthony Hamilton, Leela James, Chrisette Michelle, and Kem maintain the Neo Soul music genre.

Many indie soul artists are hardly known at all except within a certain geographic region. Some artists have garnered exposure on the music video channels MTV2 and VH1 Soul, while others like Maxwell, Erykah Badu and D'Angelo, are known by mainstream America through Major Label promotions (Radio/Tv/Print Media), and live appearance such as D'Angelo's performance on VH1's Men Strike Back 2000 and Badu's role in the movie Blues Brothers 2000. D'Angelo's critically acclaimed 2000 album Voodoo has been recognized by many critics as a masterpiece and the cornerstone of the neo soul genre.

In the last 10 years or so there has been a plethora of Underground soul podcasts, Online radio stations & 'pirate radio' outlets that have sprung up across Europe, Asia & the U.S., particularly in London with, Lightning FM, Sweet FM, Hot 96, Juice FM, Sister V from Galaxy Radio and DJ Destiny from Roots FM who have been supportive of Neo Soul music for years and remain dedicated to the genre with a focus on up and coming Indie-Soul artists worldwide.

Neo Soul radio, clubs and books that pioneered and defined the sound

In October 2003, neo soul was given an outlet in commercial radio in the city of Charleston, South Carolinamarker. WPAL 100.9 FM changed their format from R&B and classic soul to neo-soul under the lead of program director J.R. Rivers. Later, Rivers later went on to Web radio station Warrior FM, founded by UK Soul DJ Paul Aaaron in 2006 on Martin Luther King day. Paul Aaaron, JR Rivers, Sanpanico, DJ Angle, DJ Diesel & Johnny Blaze continue to push new & current releases by Signed/Unsigned Neo Soul artists on both sides of the Atlantic.

In September 2009, neo soul was the subject of a book by journalist and soul music chronicler Chris Campbell entitled "The Essential Neo Soul." The book was said to take a detailed look at the development of neo soul as a music genre as it traced its roots to late 1960s/early 1970s soul music by artists such as Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Donny Hathaway and Minnie Ripperton on down to artist works from D'Angelo, Maxwell, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, Eric Roberson, Sy Smith and Conya Doss. The book also was said to offer a countdown of the top 125 neo soul albums through colloquial thumbnail essays, extensive track listings, back stories and artist website information. The book was said to be the first of its kind about the neo soul music genre.

See also


  1. Shapiro (2006), p. 105.
  2. Leader of the Pack:: The Memphis Flyer
  3. Warp + Weft: D’Angelo :: Voodoo: Reveille Magazine
  4. Neo-Soul's Familiar Face; With 'Voodoo,' D'Angelo Aims to Reclaim His Place in a Movement He Got Rolling


External links




  • [30490] - The Essential Neo Soul: an in-depth look into the modern progressive soul music movement - By Chris Campbell

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