NPR R&B/Soul

Before she was painted alongside Duke Ellington in a Washington, D.C. mural, Kelela was the daughter of Ethiopian parents, growing up in the DMV suburbs. As a kid, she took violin lessons. She soon moved on to experimenting with punk and heavy metal as well as singing jazz. Eventually, she settled on her signature electronic R&B sound.

"This is your final warning / You know I give you life / If you try this s*** again / You gon' lose your wife." — Beyoncé, "Don't Hurt Yourself."

"Look, I apologize, often womanize / Took for my child to be born / See through a woman's eyes / Took for these natural twins to believe in miracles." — Jay-Z, "4:44"

Soul music savant Leon Bridges has announced a new album, Good Thing, and with it, two new tracks.

Sampling the thousands of bands playing South By Southwest each year is like trying to take a sip from a tidal wave: It's hard to find an entry point, and you're more than likely going to wind up flattened.

Next week, the annual music festival kicks off in Austin, Texas, so All Things Considered weekend host Michel Martin requested a digestible primer — five songs by artists worth hearing this year.

I moved from my hometown of Toronto, Canada to Philadelphia to work at WXPN's World Cafe in October 2016. Remember October 2016? The election cycle had reached fever pitch,so there was a lot of political coverage to keep up with and make sense of. At the time, the NPR Politics Podcast was releasing daily dispatches that became part of my essential audio diet.

Harrison Lipton is a Brooklyn singer and producer with a limited digital paper trail. There was the 2014 collaborative Bandcamp loosie with Dayspired that ambled through the mood music Rhye once perfected on Woman. Then there was Lipton's appearance on songs from electronic music producers Mister Lies and Giraffage.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released.

"As we go into the well of the black pool of genius," Common intones during the opening bars of August Greene. It's a fitting incantation for a time in which black culture increasingly defines America's pop consciousness, even as black people are defiled by the sociopolitical will of a restless nation.

Hometown: Los Angeles, California

Genre: Folk / Funk / R&B

Why We're Excited: When singer and violinist Sudan Archives discovered the way the violin is played in Northeast Africa, she overhauled her sound to accommodate it. Now, her slippery pop and soul music incorporates sharp and hypnotic violin lines like the ones that animate the irrepressibly clattering "Come Meh Way."

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Hometown: New Orleans, Louisiana

Genre: Funk, R&B, Bounce Music

Why We're Excited: Winners of the third annual Tiny Desk Contest last spring, Tank and the Bangas' many members have spent the past year winning over the rest of the world. The band's brassily kinetic, genre-smashing energy absolutely must be witnessed live, but "Quick" shows that it's possible to contain Tank and the Bangas' immense allure on a recording, too.

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Hometown: Chicago, Illinois

Genre: Pop / Hip-Hop

Why We're Excited: Producer and singer Knox Fortune got the spotlight of a lifetime when Chance the Rapper featured him in "All Night" a couple years back. Now, Knox Fortune — real name: Kevin Rhomberg — has earned himself a much larger platform for his own woozy, intricately layered summertime soul.

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Hometown: Los Angeles, California

Genre: Pop

Why We're Excited: It's hard to describe The Marías without using the adjective "smooth" in every sentence. That's the farthest thing from a put-down: Led by singer Maria Zardoya, the band employs maximal slinkiness in the service of jazzy, gauzy, utterly charming, slyly funky pop.

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Hometown: Birmingham, Alabama

Genre: R&B

Why We're Excited: Recording under the name Love Moor, Erica Andrew makes assured and ingratiating R&B that doesn't hit a nerve so much as slide under the skin when no one's looking. Producer Suaze gives Andrew's intimate vocals a smoothed-out, ethereal quality, as their shared songs often breeze in and out in two minutes or less — just enough time for them to set a mood, plant a thought and disappear.

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Hometown: Bronx, New York

Genre: Hip-Hop

Why We're Excited: Kemba's 2016 album Negus offers up a deep and scathingly provocative examination of race relations in America. But the Bronx rapper bares his plaintive side — and his vulnerable, expressive singing voice — in "LoveGoes," which crackles with romantic tension.

Hometown: Bloomington, Indiana

Genre: Soul

Why We're Excited: In recent years, we've lost several modern-day standard-bearers of vintage soul, including Sharon Jones and Charles Bradley. So it's a heartwarming treat to hear the torch passed to a new generation of spirited future stars like Durand Jones, a Bayou-bred belter whose recent debut rings that much truer for its $452.11 budget.

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Hometown: Brooklyn, New York

Genre: Neo-soul

Why We're Excited: Adrian Daniel's modern R&B slithers and shape-shifts alluringly, propelled by a commanding falsetto that's practically engineered to make knees quiver. In "This City," Daniel performs with the commitment of a veteran balladeer, but his sonic surroundings situate him firmly in the present day.

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Hometown: Montreal, Canada (born/raised in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo)

Genre: Funk / Pop

Why We're Excited: Congolese Canadian Pierre Kwenders sings in five languages — and incorporates at least that many genres into his sultry, swaying, busy, funky pop music. Named for a Henry Miller trilogy, "Sexus Plexus Nexus" brings sex talk and saxophones together, where they've always belonged.

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Hometown: Austin, Texas

Genre: R&B

Why We're Excited: The daughter of Ethiopian immigrants, Mélat Kassa grew up on her parents' lovingly curated mixture of African pop and American R&B. It shows in her own sleekly rendered soul sound, which fits right in with the likes of SZA while still making room for a song sung in Amharic. "Push" (produced by Janspot J) radiates lovestruck desire in a busy mix that exudes confidence and style.

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As a Sim, Kelela is just as striking as the real deal, rocking her signature bubble-beaded locks, shedding a single tear over her break-up in the beginning of the clip. While the human representation has been taken out of the equation in favor of digital love, betrayal and neglect sting just the same.

Ever since he released his 2009 solo debut Pink Strat, I've always thought of Afie Jurvanen, better known as Bahamas, as a captain of cool breeze sound — easy, inviting and a little sideways. But this time around, Bahamas recruited the rhythm section featured on the album Black Messiah by D'Angelo and the results on his latest album, Earthtones, rest firmly in a funky pocket of groove.

How many relationships do you know of that have lasted for 70 years? If you're coming up short, I'll help you out; Clarence Fountain and Jimmy Carter, the two surviving original members of Blind Boys of Alabama, who began touring together in the 1940's.

Tom Misch is a U.K.-based beatmaker well known among fans for his prowess behind the boards. But in 2018, the 22-year-old stalwart doing his best to show off the many facets of his artistry. That includes pushing his sound, booking U.S. tour dates and releasing an adventurous music video in which he does his own aquatic stunts.