Label: Fade To Mind

There's short—a hair under a decade—history of esoteric electronic producers sampling singers like Aaliyah and Cassie and turning them into apparitions. The DC-born, L.A.-based R&B singer Kelela is the manifestation of that charm. Her mixtape Cut 4 Me, released by one of the most exciting labels, Fade To Mind, sounds like lost SWV vocal tracks paired with some of the most interesting production of the year.

There's the machine-gun synths of Nguzunguzu-produced "Enemy" and the haunting "Floor Show" with a beat from Girl Unit. The crowning jewel is "Bank Head," a collaboration with FTM head honcho Kingdom. She flies over its deep bass, singing about secret love, before wailing, "I need to let it out" like she's finally been set free. It's the right emotions for the song, sure, but it functions like a mission statement, too.

Electronic producers may use a ton of R&B samples, but Kelela's here to show you how it's done with a real-ass singer. While EDM snakes its way into R&B and electronic producers continue to use Ciara vocal tracks to bolster their music, Kelela is fleshing out all of these to make something insurgent and new. She needs to let it out. —Claire Lobenfeld