10 British R&B/Soul Artists To Watch In 2017

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British R&B and soul continues to thrive following its renaissance a few years ago. At the upcoming Brit Awards, a number of established artists are nominated for their efforts over the past year, such as Michael Kiwanuka, NAO, Emeli Sandé and Lianne La Havas. The achievements of these artists have led to a seemingly greater interest in the genre's stars of tomorrow, with two of the most promising receiving high critical acclaim more recently: bluesy soul singer Rag'n'Bone Man won the prestigious Brits Critics' Choice award and R&B songbird Ray BLK won the coveted BBC Sound Of 2017 poll, where the entire top four featured R&B/soul musicians. But this domination isn't coincidental; it simply reflects the quality of music coming from British talent.

Whilst the artists on our ones to watch list last year (including Ray BLK) are enjoying mainstream success, there are even more up-and-comers bubbling under and waiting to explode. Here are the 10 singers you need to watch out for. 


Ella Mai


Singer Ella Mai originates from south-west London and is signed to producer DJ Mustard's 10 Summers label. Initially competing on The X Factor as part of girl group Arize, she was discovered by the heavyweight producer—who has worked with everyone from Rihanna to Krept & Konan—when she began uploading cover versions of popular songs to Instagram. With DJ Mustard at the helm, her sound is slick, polished and bass heavy; a winning combo and the perfect backdrop for her smooth and refined vocals. Two EPs have already been released in the past year, with standout tracks such as "10,000 Hours" and "She Don't" indicating that Ella could genuinely become one of R&B's next big stars. Not just in the UK, but globally.

A must-hear: "10,000 Hours"

"'10,000 Hours' is about putting necessary time in to master love. It's a very heartfelt song and one of my personal favourites. I fell in love with the beat straight away when I first heard it and knew I could really take the record somewhere." —Ella Mai



Being the daughter of famed reggae musicians Toyin Adekale and Klearview Harmonix, it's no surprise Tottenham's Taliwhoah has embarked on a music career. With sounds that pack enough punch to hold up against the trap-infused R&B made popular by the likes of Bryson Tiller, Taliwhoah is bound to make big moves in 2017 when her upcoming EP is unveiled, particularly given that her most recent tracks are her best yet. The SNE-assisted "Fast FWD" samples Mary J. Blige's "I Can Love You" and depicts trap-soul at its very best, whilst latest single "Alright" is the perfect self-empowering soundtrack for when dealing with any BS. With new music on the horizon, we're not foreseeing a let-up from the north Londoner anytime soon.

A must-hear: "Fast FWD"

"I remember having the Mary J. Blige sample stuck in my head, and when I sat down to write 'Fast FWD', the sample just flowed so nicely in there, so I wrote the track fairly quickly. Both Levelle and SNE came in and added a natural sauce to it that I feel made it a song both men and women can relate to."—Taliwhoah

Bobii Lewis


Bobii Lewis has crafted a sound that's playful, bouncy, and catchy, which has been honed and developed with his right-hand producer KZ, who has created sultry soundscapes for the likes of Jeremih, Emeli Sandé, and K. Michelle. The other big draw to Bobii Lewis is his vivacious vocal delivery, flexing his voice to show real character, personality and the right amount of swagger to bring his songs to life.

When all these elements come together, it's an extremely enjoyable listening experience, as proven with last year's Blind In The Summer EP, which saw him incorporating different styles that echo some of the artists he grew up listening to, such as Bob Marley. The Stefflon Don-featured "Friends And Lovers", for example, is a reggae-inspired R&B jam and a highlight of the EP, alongside "Day By Day", his most popular track to date. Bobii promises a debut album later this year.

A must-hear: "Day By Day"

"After a day of rehearsals, energy was good, so me, KZ, and Mike Keys started a vibe. I was getting inspired while they were building and laid some freestyles down. The 'She been seeing me in new places' intro line stuck. I think the concept overall playfully comments on being single and going in and out of short-term relationships or whatever you call it."—Bobii Lewis

Jelani Blackman


With the boundaries between genres becoming increasingly blurred, it can be a redundant task trying to pigeonhole an artist into only one type of music. The willingness to explore and blend different genres is part of the charm of listening to those musicians who do this well. This is true of Jelani Blackman, an emerging artist from London, who exists somewhere between R&B, rap and spoken word. It's this blend of eclectic sounds that led to the critical acclaim of his debut EP, 1-4.

It would've been easy then to replicate the same sound and style for follow-up project Jelanji, but instead it saw him rapping ferociously over chopped-n-screwed jungle records. With two completely different-sounding projects under his belt, it'll be interesting to see what sound he goes for when he releases new music later this year, but it's the hazy R&B of debut track "Twenty//Three" that has been his most captivating effort so far. 

A must-hear: "Twenty//Three"

"'Twenty//Three' started off as more of a feeling than a proper idea. I started writing it while the producer, FRED, was playing around with the beat. It just sent me into a mood that feels like home to me—late nights when it's too late to really be the day before but definitely not the next day yet. Everything is hazy and open."—Jelani Blackman

Liv Dawson


Liv Dawson is a versatile artist, one who strays successfully between the genres of pop, soul, and R&B. On debut single "Tapestry", her striking tone lures you in from the get-go, and it becomes immediately apparent that this is a singer who knows her voice very well, oozing the confidence of an artist well beyond her years. While "Tapestry" is a modern slice of R&B, follow-up track "Still" has an electronic undercurrent, with latest single "Open Your Eyes" sitting somewhere in-between.

One thing that remains consistent is Dawson's vocal delivery, which is heavily inspired by soul and R&B—not surprising, given that she lists Lauryn Hill, Amy Winehouse and Beyoncé as influences. With a great impression made last year, 2017 looks set to bring even more quality music from the rising talent, having recently racked up studio time with the likes of Jimmy Napes (Sam Smith) and Tobias Jesso Jr (Adele). 

A must-hear: "Tapestry"

"'Tapestry' is about that person in your life that makes a huge difference. That person who helps you become who you are. As soon as I wrote it, I fell in love; it was the sound and feel I'd been looking for in my music."—Liv Dawson

Fabian Secon


If you recognise the surname, it's probably because the Secons have a rich music history dating back decades. Fabian's granddad, Paul Secon, was a songwriter and wrote for the likes of Nat King Cole, and his father, Lucas Secon, has written and produced for the likes of Christina Aguilera, Olly Murs and Toni Braxton. Given the positive response to last year's debut EP, Don't Disturb, he'll have no problem continuing the Secon musical legacy, especially if he has more tracks as good as the trap-influenced "Sensei" up his sleeve. Expect collaborations with AJ Tracey, Tayá, 5iveBeatz and more in the coming months.  

A must-hear: "Sensei"

"'Sensei' was a sonic experiment. I wanted to fuse a cinematic, oriental theme and a trippy trap feel. The song is about a female lover who teaches me throughout life and our relationship to make me a better person. That's why I used 'Sensei' as a metaphor."—Fabian Secon

Rachel Foxx


Rachel Foxx cites Erykah Badu, Sade, Maxwell and Jill Scott as influences, and these come through potently on much of the vocalist's material which tends to steer towards '90s and early-00s R&B, helping to set her apart from many of her contemporaries. Take the Evil Needle-produced "Pink and Green", for instance, which instantly catapults you into the yesteryear of US R&B and neo-soul with its slow tempo and Rachel's emotive vocals. It's not the only style she does well, however, as last year's Blue Moon EP saw Rachel Foxx offer up something more contemporary, with tracks such as "Make You Say", whilst still keeping what has become her signature throwback sound intact on standout song "To You", which showcases the east Londoner at her divine best.

A must-hear: "To You"

"I heard the instrumental for 'To You', and, 20 minutes later, the whole song was written. I finished it and had it sitting there for ages. I like this song because it's a very stripped-back Rachel and reminds me of my first EP with all the classic sounds."—Rachel Foxx

Louis Mattrs


There aren't many artists aside from Louis Mattrs that can say performing at Glastonbury was only their second live gig, but the Brighton singer found himself thrust into the upper echelons of UK music when he took to the Glasto stage in 2013 to perform "Lost & Not Found", a collaborative single with Chase & Status. His debut EP, Beachy Head, didn't embrace the D&B sound of the aforementioned single, but instead boasted smooth, downtempo R&B and tackled darker subject matters. Follow-up EP Slow Waves offered lighter tones and really highlighted just what a knack Louis has for writing catchy melodies and singalong hooks—part of what makes his latest single, "Bow Down", such a warming listen. With his debut album being released later this year, expect to be hearing a lot more of Louis on the airwaves in 2017.

A must-hear: "Surf Party"

“‘Surf Party’ is about the summer memories of having a few too many down on Brighton beach. When producing the song, I tried to create the feeling of the ocean late at night."—Louis Mattrs

Jamilah Barry


A member of the popular IDREAMBIG collective alongside rapper SNE, Leeds native Jamilah Barry has been steadily building a name for herself for a while now, with a series of off-the-cuff SoundCloud releases and collaborations with some of the UK's most promising underground singers, rappers and producers. Barry's latest track "Dance Moves", billed as her official debut single, was released earlier this year. The minimalist, piano-led song showcases Jamilah's best asset—her delicate yet captivating voice, which is stunning to listen to without it being over the top or try-hard. With numerous singles slated for release in the lead-up to her debut EP, 2017 looks set to be a very promising year for the budding songstress.

A must-hear: "Fly Wimme"

"'Fly Wimme' was the product of a trip to Amsterdam in 2014, believe it or not. It's based upon the feeling of intoxication; the compelling high of the powerful combination of love and drugs and a verbal depiction of flying to another country with your other half and being content."—Jamilah Barry

Jordan Max

jordan max

Hailing from Oldham, Greater Manchester, Jordan Max blends elements of soul and alternative music that marry together perfectly with his soulful and raspy voice that wouldn't sound out of place in the '60s soul era. The 24-year-old's vocals are undeniably the highlight of his debut EP, Only One Is King, released last year. Although written and recorded in his bedroom, you'd never know it, with lead track "Hell" receiving radio spins from some of the world's leading music tastemakers, such as Zane Lowe, and propelling him all the way to the BBC Introducing Stage at Glasto last summer. It's strange now to think that Jordan Max once lacked the confidence to sing, starting out as a UK garage and drum & bass producer, before the discovery of Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come" convinced him to start singing. Judging by his early offerings, it's safe to say he made the right choice. 

A must-hear: "Hell"

"The inspiration for 'Hell' just comes from my life growing up in Oldham and from how I feel about the world. Even though the song and lyrics are quite dark, to me, the track is about putting all the bad pain and shit behind you. We all get burned in life but we turn it around."—Jordan Max

Listen to the SoundCloud playlist here.

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