UK R&B Acts To Watch In 2021

Even with the unprecedented times we’re living in due to COVID-19, the UK R&B/soul scene has shown no signs of slowing down. Meet the new kids on the block.

uk r and b artists to watch in 2021

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uk r and b artists to watch in 2021

From Twitter to Clubhouse, UK R&B has been a popular topic for discussion recently, but people aren’t always informed enough when offering their various hot-takes as many are still unaware of just how deep the talent pool in this scene actually is, which can partly be attributed to the genre not being supported by mainstream outlets like it once was. Regardless, the talent is undeniable, and the music is the healthiest it has been since we first launched our annual list of artists to watch in 2016.

Even with the unprecedented times we’re living in now due to COVID-19 and artists not being able to tour and record as they usually would, UK R&B has shown no signs of slowing down, with artists from our previous lists continuing to take major strides. Mahalia and Tiana Major9—from our 2018 and 2019 lists, respectively—both received Grammy nominations last year, and the likes of Jorja Smith, Ella Mai, Sinead Harnett, NAO and Cleo Sol have also represented on a global scale. Now, though, we have even more artists looking to propel the scene to greater heights.

Here are 12 UK R&B/soul acts to watch in 2021.


Scribz Riley

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You’ve probably been familiar with Scribz Riley’s music for years without realising. He’s written and produced for a wide array of international acts, and his work with Cardi B and H.E.R. led to him winning two Grammy Awards in 2019. In 2020, however, we saw him step out from behind the scenes as an artist in his own right, remarkably hitting the ground running with debut project Wish Me Luck. Polished and sophisticated, the EP ties together his thoughts and experiences over the past few years and captures an amalgamation of sounds and influences, including R&B, drill, garage and Afrobeats. This versatility will only increase his appeal among R&B fans, with Scribz able to navigate from the club-ready, R&Drill-flavoured “Impress Me” with Headie One to the mellow, guitar-driven “East Side” with ease. “Never hit the MOBOs but I won a Grammy” is a striking lyric from EP track “Dim My Light”, but that is likely to change in 2021. 

A must-hear: “Mandy”

“When I was making my project, I wanted it to be honest and give the world an insight to life from my perspective. ‘Mandy’ was one of the songs where I’m just being completely transparent and putting my personal experiences into song form. It’s sick to see the world resonate with it. I co-produced ‘Mandy’ with the production duo DJDS, and it was one of the quickest songs I’ve ever made. It wrote itself, and I was finished in under an hour. Now it’s one of my favourite songs I’ve done.”—Scribz Riley


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Bellah has risen up the ranks in the UK R&B scene over the past two years with several top-tier releases that have given her momentum for 2021. It’s not hard to see the appeal, with each of her three projects—2019’s Last Train Home and 2020’s In The Meantime and The Art Of Conversation—boasting addictive, radio-primed hooks and relatable lyric content. After studying and admiring the songwriting skills of artists like PARTYNEXTDOOR and Bibi Bourelly, Bellah has developed her own conversational style of storytelling—which inspired the release of The Art Of Conversation. Her most impressive project to date, it features several hit-worthy earworms, such as “Something U Like” and “If I Were U”. Both of these tracks showcase Bellah’s vocal ability and knack for strong melodies, which will go a long way in the contemporary R&B space and help solidify her position in the UK music scene as she continues to release new music. 

A must-hear: “Something U Like”

“‘Something U like’ is a real ‘bugaboo’ anthem. Sometimes women aren’t always madly in love; sometimes they just want to have fun and be a little more in control. So I thought that I could have a conversation about that whilst hyping myself up in the process.”—Bellah


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There are many facets to 21-year-old Odeal. Born in Germany and raised in London, amid stints living in Spain and Nigeria, he sings, raps, writes and produces, resulting in a dynamic sound that captures several different styles. Odeal’s DIY approach (producing much of his own material) has allowed for a frequent stream of new music over the past couple of years, resulting in a dedicated fanbase, but it was last year’s OVMBR: Roses project that really grabbed people’s attention—from the mid-tempo R&B of “24/48” to the Afrobeats lean of “Benzimma” and UKG-licked “Answer Me”, Odeal served up a varied collection of songs. What’s impressive is that he’s equally comfortable in all styles without it sounding like his authenticity is being compromised, and this cross-genre appeal will work in his favour as he builds his fanbase further. 

A must-hear: “24/48”

“I had a week of sessions with different producers, and ‘24/48’ ended up being made the night before my last session of the week. Me and YKKUB, who produced the track, decided to stay at the studio overnight and listen to new beat ideas he’d started at the time. The chorus came to me as soon as I heard the chords—a couple takes and the song was done.”—Odeal

Rebecca Garton

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Born to a British father and Ghanaian mother in Ghana and raised in Nigeria before moving to the UK, London-based Rebecca Garton had a taste of mainstream success back in 2015 after featuring on Krept & Konan’s The Long Way Home album. But it was in 2020 that Garton unleashed her full potential as a lead artist with the release of her debut EP, Take Me Home. The project incorporates influences from her African roots and also ‘90s R&B, like on the song “Comfortable” with Jeremih and “All Me (Pt. 2)”. The latter track features fellow rising UK talents Ling Hussle, Alana Maria and Tia Carys, and with all-female collabs not being the UK norm, “All Me (Pt. 2)” has the potential to blaze a trail and inspire more team-ups of this kind in the future. Having made such an impact in 2020, Rebecca Garton has plenty to build on in 2021.

A must-hear: “All Me (Pt. 2)”

“‘All Me (Pt. 2)’ is massively influenced by ‘90s R&B. I wanted to pay homage to that time of R&B, while also adding a modern-day vibe. This song was really super organic. From the features to the video, everything just flowed and was fun. I think it was a very important moment in the UK—having an all-black female song and showing that unity even through we’re all completely different. I feel that’s what made this song what it is today.”—Rebecca Garton

Kwaku Asante

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North West London native Kwaku Asante has been bubbling on the underground for a while now, with his smooth, funk-influenced R&B sound as heard on debut EP Honeycomb. You’d be forgiven for thinking he was an established act with several projects under his belt by the way he packages his artistry—from the songwriting to production and visuals—and that’s before even mentioning the star attraction: his deep, husky baritone voice. Occupying a similar space to rising U.S. singer Giveon and fellow British crooner Kwabs, Asante’s baritone hooks you in from the first note and helps to accentuate each of his songs, such as Honeycomb highlights “Molasses” and “Primrose”. What’s exciting is that both tracks are undoubtedly impressive, but Honeycomb is still only his first offering so it would be safe to assume the best is yet to come. 

A must-hear: “Primrose”

“‘Primrose’ is about the first time I experienced love in a romantic sense. I went on a walk through Primrose Hill with my then-girlfriend, and it was the first time I had been there. It was surreal. I couldn’t believe the views and the setting. Her and I were very, very much in love—a young love. It was in the middle of spring too, so the colours and imagery were astounding, which I think is why I painted the picture so clearly.”—Kwaku Asante


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Mnelia really came into her own in 2020 with breakout track “Say Yeah”, an undeniable club spinner. Millions of streams later, she dropped her sophomore EP, After 6, which made it clear “Say Yeah” wasn’t a one-off and that she’s an artist with a bright future. Her music is consistent and her sound is well-defined, which is a result of having a main producer that she works with: StevieBBeatz. It’s very clear there’s a lot of synergy between the pair; alongside the club bangers, they’ve shown great versatility with cuts like the heartfelt “Ro’s Lullaby” being another highlight in Mnelia’s early discography. In fact, it’s the songs with a slower tempo that really amplify and showcase her warm and alluring voice. Mnelia’s growth from debut EP 2:4 in 2018 to last year’s After 6 is evident, so it’ll be interesting to see what her next release brings.

A must-hear: “Say Yeah”

“‘Say Yeah’ was written from the perspective of a self-empowered female demanding what she wants from a male that’s caught her interest. My right-hand, StevieBBeatz and I managed to piece together such a feel-good instrumental that I felt the only right thing to do was write an anthem that people wouldn’t hesitate to scream from the top of their lungs.”—Mnelia

Santino Le Saint

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Last year, 23-year-old South Londoner Santino Le Saint released three EPs in Blue Pill, Red Pill and Rage Of Angels, which generated lots of buzz for him online, and as co-founder of his own label, Cloud X, he’s been able to develop his style at his own pace. Having grown up listening to the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana and Linkin Park, Santino adds some variety to the UK scene with a rock-influenced brand of R&B. Introduced to many rock and R&B greats as a child by his father, Charlie Parker (a music producer and member of the ‘90s hip-hop collective 57 Dynasty), Santino uses the contrast of the two genres to his advantage, like on the hypnotic “Cigarettes & Alcohol”, which starts out as a buttery-smooth R&B jam and ends with an exhilarating electric guitar solo. Expect more of that in 2021 as he builds on his growing momentum.

A must-hear: “Cigarettes & Alcohol”

“I actually wrote ‘Cigarettes & Alcohol’ two years ago. I was at a studio in LA with a producer duo called cut&dry. It was the first time I’d been away from my girl for a serious amount of time, and we were arguing more than ever. I guess the distance, lack of communication and me partying was getting the better of us—or so she said. I wanted to write about a destructive relationship where you constantly fight and argue and blame it on booze, yet no matter what you do or say or what happens, you’ll still love each other forever.”—Santino Le Saint


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Tora burst onto the scene only last year—March 2020, in fact, the same month the COVID-19 pandemic began to escalate. Fortunately, she was still able to make an impact throughout 2020, which began with debut single “Vein”. Interlacing her gorgeous vocals with a trippy production by producer Courage, it’s a song that demands attention but keeps you intrigued for more. The track was boosted by its accompanying music video, which stands out for its creativity in a time where creativity is being challenged. These sentiments were emphasised further in Tora’s follow-ups—she ended 2020 releasing visuals for four of the five tracks on her debut EP, Cavalier, including the outstanding “Escape Room”. Having been able to deliver so much quality content amid last year’s craziness, watch out for Tora once the world opens back up.

A must-hear: “Escape Room”

“’Escape Room’ was written about the beginning of the end in my relationship, where I’d realised that we both had created this codependent environment that was as suffocating as it was a safe haven. So, it was time to go, and at this point, there was no ill will between us. It’s simply: ‘I wish you the best, but I need to do my best and get to stepping!’”—Tora

Pip Millett

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Manchester’s Pip Millett is a name you’ll be hearing a lot more of in 2021. Her early releases, which include two EPs, have resulted in a rapidly growing fanbase and millions of streams on Spotify—thanks to stunning tracks such as “Like It Like That” and “Make Me Cry”. Her voice is deceptively subtle, as the emotion and vulnerability it exudes are striking enough to stop you in your tracks. It works well with her unembellished production and is perfect for an intimate live setting, making her a must-see when the live industry starts up again. Already one of the most exciting talents in the British R&B-soul scene—without an album released, it’s only a matter of time before Pip Millett scores a major breakthrough.

A must-hear: “Make Me Cry”

“When I wrote ‘Make Me Cry’, the lyrics kind of fell out of me. I’d written down how I was feeling, as I was in a bad place, and I’d always found writing down my feelings helped ease some of the weight of any sadness. I’d just moved to London to go to uni, and it felt like I was alone properly for the first time. It was almost like I now had the space to confront all of this shit that had built up. Eventually, I put these words to some chords and started creating a melody.”—Pip Millett

Tiana Blake

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Born in Bournemouth and raised in South East London, Tiana Blake may only have three singles to her name, but what can be heard so far is more than enough to gauge her talent and recognise what a great addition she is to the British R&B scene. Inspired by many ‘90s R&B greats, such as Brandy and Mary J. Blige, Tiana made an impactful entrance last year with first single “Cut Ties”, an empowering, ‘90s-tinged R&B anthem about getting back that confidence after leaving a toxic relationship. Its nostalgic production was an instant winner, bolstered by Tiana’s sweet, honey-dipped vocals and addictive melodies. Any doubts of whether she’d be able to follow it up were quickly snuffed out when she returned with “Hit The Spot”, making it abundantly clear that Tiana Blake is here to stay. 

A must-hear: “Cut Ties”

“‘Cut Ties’ came about when I was feeling down. You know, sometimes we have those days, and I was thinking of how I could get myself in a more positive mind-frame. So, me and my girlfriend were bouncing ideas off each other one day, and then this concept came to mind for the track ‘Cut Ties’. The actual idea is based on me treating my negative mind-frame having got rid of a toxic person.”—Tiana Blake

Ling Hussle

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Ling Hussle is a triple threat act—she sings, she writes, and she raps, positioning herself as an artist to watch this year off the back of several collaborations and well-received projects released over the past couple of years, including 2020’s Spirit Soul EP. Typically kitted out in streetwear and representing her South London origins, there’s an irresistible swagger to Ling and her music; from the bass-heavy trap beats to her sing-rap vocal delivery and boastful lyrics, it’s music to crank up and have a good time to. She’s already caught the attention of U.S. super-producer Rico Love, who featured Ling on his Emerging Women Of R&B album, evidence that the right people are locking into her wave. Watch Ling Hussle’s star rise as the year unfolds.

A must-hear: “Summer Nights”

“Honestly, the beat for ‘Summer Nights’ was the main inspiration. The song’s concept came to mind as soon as I heard the beat, and my pen just started moving.”—Ling Hussle


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Brighton-born, LDN-based IYAMAH began singing at an early age under the tutelage of Adele, Alicia Keys, Lauryn Hill and Erykah Badu. These influences have unquestionably trickled down into IYAMAH’s own music, where she writes candidly about her experiences. The two EPs she’s released so far, Truth EP.1 and Truth EP.2, are expressive bodies of work inspired by her Nigerian roots. Co-written with fellow singer-songwriters Mullally and Maverick Sabre, Truth EP.1 standout “Cryptic Love” is one of her finest tracks to date—which places the spotlight firmly on her smoky vocals. After the success of these early offerings, IYAMAH is someone you should definitely keep an eye on this year as her catalogue grows.

A must-hear: “Cryptic Love”

“We have all been victims of some kind, whether it be oppression, miseducation or propaganda. That’s why I think ‘Cryptic Love’ resonated because what a relief it is to be able to speak your truth and know that it’s okay.”—IYAMAH

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