The title of this playlist may be misleading: Some of these artists won't achieve mainstream ubiquity. Nevertheless, it's an opportunity to look at a group of upstarts buzzing with potential, and it seems like there's more of them than in recent memory.
Much of this resurgence can be traced back to 2011, and pioneering mixtapes by Frank Ocean (nostalgia, ULTRA) and The Weeknd (who later collected his three EPs into Trilogy). They weren't the first R&B artists to use a medium long favored by rappers: Trey Songz's Anticipation series deserves mention, as well as Jhené Aiko's Sailing Soul(s) and many others. But Frank Ocean and The Weeknd's creative achievements brought new critical respect and audience attention to a genre too often maligned as a bastard child of hip-hop tropes and pop aspirations.
Some of the artists included here fall into that nebulous category of "experimental R&B," including JMSN, who is best known for his work on Kendrick Lamar's Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City. August Alsina ("I Luv This Sh*t") and Jonn Hart ("Who Booty") have scored radio hits, while Shaliek bounced around the industry for years before reaching a breakthrough this summer with "The Past." There are electronic artists who use R&B-inspired arrangements, like Phlo Finister, and pop singers influenced by urban music, like Ariana Grande and Leah LaBelle. And there are names mostly familiar to watchers of R&B blogs and fan sites, like Mateo, Luke James and Sevyn Streeter.