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With absolute madness occurring in the world on what seems like a daily basis, fans are most likely needing some comfort music. No genre is more comforting to listen to than R&B. Although it took a little time, 2022 has been a “Renaissance” for R&B and pop music. There’s been the gifts of albums and singles from Steve Lacy, Brent Faiyaz and DaniLeigh, a new sneaky link anthem from DVSN and some new global jams from Burna Boy. Oh yeah, and Beyoncé dropped probably the biggest album of the year.
Struggling to find a list of the Hip Hop Albums that have been shifting the culture? Take a look at our lists for Hip Hop, Rap and R&B to get a complete survey of the projects that are dictating the conversation within Hip Hop.
Need some new songs to throw in the rotation but Spotify and user-created playlists are way too long? We kept it simple and added only the best of the best songs from each month to make sure you get the songs you need without a hassle. Peep the lists below.
Looking for some up and coming rappers and underground gems? We’ve done the work for you and highlighted the short EPs, mixtapes and projects to check out if you’re tired of the mainstream album cycle.
Editor’s note: Songs from this list were released between December 1, 2021 – December 31, 2022.
“Toxic” – Realest K
Realest K’s song has made its way from Tik Tok trend into a mainstream hit. There’s no denying the catchiness of the hook or the relatability of the lyrics for anyone who has been in a toxic situation before.
“Wonder Woman” – John Legend
“Shirt” – SZA
As SZA gears up for one of the most anticipated albums within recent memory, she has given fans just enough to get them through the wait. Shirt is a mellow offering with potent lyrics that can serve as Instagram captions for multiple situations. The album is real and will arrive this month!
“FOREVER” – Jessie Reyez F. 6LACK
“Queen Space” – Ari Lennox F. Summer Walker
Now more than ever, the R&B girlies are all about collaboration rather than competition. With Ari Lennox and Summer walker previously combining their mastery for delectable heart-break ballads on “Unloyal” from Walker’s 2021 album Still Over It, the two reunite for a similar, otherworldly collab. And fortunately, Ari knew it was time for another. This week, the two collide on “Queen Space,” the debut single from Ari’s long-awaited sophomore debut, age/sex/location, released this month. Ari and Summer’s use of unrestrained storytelling mixed with real-life chemistry they’ve developed over the years strings together a sensual ballad. With reflection, they touch on the hardships of self-love and finding it when dealing with the “wrong” beaus. The new single reflects on being the only thing you need while on the road to self-love; being in that queen space is the only and certain priority. Hence the spicy lyricism Ari sprinkles on the bridge, “Come correct, or disappear.” With age/sex/location just around the corner for the release, Ari serves a delicious bite for what’s to come.
“Nothing Else Matters” – SIR
“Energy” – Beyoncé
Renaissance is officially here. And as Beyoncé gifts the most anticipated record of the year, she draws fans to the dance floor, paying tribute to legends and legacies left behind at the ball. And, of course, it would be nothing without the admiration Bey’s given to the Black L.G.B.T.Q.+ community for manifesting the project entirely. So it’s only fitting that the three-act project wavers from eclectic sounds: to disco, soul, trap, hip-hop, and dancehall—to even a Donna Summer sample—across 16 tracks aimed to foster a deeper understanding of ballroom culture and house altogether, vowing liberation and dignity. In the first chapter of Queen Bey’s album, she delivers a punchy transitional track, “Energy.” While being equal parts an interlude and lyrical powerhouse piece, the Skrillex-produced two-minute track is an old-school-like club banger. With Jamaican rapper Beam coming in the mix, it ties it in seamlessly with afrobeat fusion, making way for the perfect transition into the summer’s hottest anthem, “Break My Soul” without even realizing it’s changed the rhythmic tempo. So whether you’re starting or ending your Renaissance journey, it’s a ball no one can escape from, bringing Black culture back to where it rightfully belongs in house culture, and truthfully, it’s one many will be dancing to for years. – Holly Alvarado
“Best Of Me” – Alicia Keys
“Queen Space” – Ari Lennox & Summer Walker
Now more than ever, the R&B girlies are all about collaboration rather than competition. With Ari Lennox and Summer walker previously combining their mastery for delectable heart-break ballads on “Unloyal” from Walker’s 2021 album Still Over It, the two reunite for a similar, otherworldly collab. And fortunately, Ari knew it was time for another. This week, the two collide on “Queen Space,” the debut single from Ari’s long-awaited sophomore debut, age/sex/location, released this month. Ari and Summer’s use of unrestrained storytelling mixed with real-life chemistry they’ve developed over the years strings together a sensual ballad. With reflection, they touch on the hardships of self-love and finding it when dealing with the “wrong” beaus. The new single reflects on being the only thing you need while on the road to self-love; being in that queen space is the only and certain priority. Hence the spicy lyricism Ari sprinkles on the bridge, “Come correct, or disappear.” With age/sex/location just around the corner for the release, Ari serves a delicious bite for what’s to come. – Holly Alvarado
“Pain” – Muni Long
“Bad Habit” – Steve Lacy
“If I Get Caught” – dvsn
“If I Get Caught” is without a doubt THE most toxic song of 2022 so far and it’s not even close. Even Jay Z, who cleared a sample for the song said he was shocked by the lyrics. There are people like Giveon and Brent Faiyaz who have some extremely toxic lyrics within the R&B space but with this song DVSN decided to be as blunt as possible with their gaslighting. That being said, the song has one of the most catchy hooks in recent memory so don’t be surprised if you hear some women singing this one. And for the guys out there who are thinking of apologizing to their girls for infidelity, this seems like it could be the new anthem. – Jeremy Hecht
“Best Friends (Remix)” – The Weeknd F. Summer Walker
“FYTB” – Brent Faiyaz F. JOONY
“Toni-Ann Singh” – Burna Boy F. Popcaan
“Proven” – Nia Sultana F. Rick Ross
“Hate To See It” – DaniLeigh
“BREAK MY SOUL” – Beyoncé
“TREAD CAREFULLY” – SZA
“PRICE OF FAME” – Brent Faiyaz
The wait for a new Brent Faiyaz project has finally neared its end. Ahead of WASTELAND, Faiyaz’s third studio album which is set to release on July eighth, the Maryland-born artist has released “PRICE OF FAME,” a sweeping six minute song which traverses through three distinct sonic palettes. It begins with the spare sounds of alternative percussion backed by Faiyaz’s delicate, distorted voice before transitioning into a 808s & Heartbreak-influenced symphony. By the time the track closes out with chaotic strings and airy vocals it seems like you’ve traveled a long distance. Faiyaz could so easily ascend the Billboard charts with accessible pop ballads, so it’s continually impressive that he pushes himself into new, experimental lanes with each release. – David Brake
“SCARRED” – Giveon
“24 HRS” – Kaash Paige F. Lil Tjay
“MERCURY” – Steve Lacy
Music alt-R&B boy wonder, Steve Lacy, resurfaces with “Mercury”— an intergalactic odyssey that travels through warps of sound in lightning speed. Lacy has hidden away from the limelight in recent years since his debut record Apollo XXI, but with a new album on the way he proves he hasn’t lost a step. The almost five-minute track is smooth and fluid, combining the best of ‘60s Brazilian bossa nova backbeats with the modern funk he’s leaned on for years. With a skyrocketing falsetto tone and breathy melodies, it’s a track that starts off the air sign’s capacity to create beyond what he knows into miniature masterpieces. With his new record Gemini Rights coming out later this summer, “Mercury” hits it out of this world and hints faultlessly for what’s to come. – Holly Alvarado
“SURPRISE” – Chloe
“SOMEBODY TOLD ME” – Your Grandparents F. Amindi
“MASSIVE” – Drake
Shock drops aren’t new to Drake: one need only look back to 2021’s Scary Hours 2 EP to find an example. But when the Toronto megastar surprised the world with a new body of dance music titled Honestly, Nevermind the Hip Hop universe scratched its head. Love it or hate it, the EDM-inspired sounds of Drizzy’s latest wormed their way into every nook and cranny of popular music. Among the tracks is “Massive,” a four on the floor anthem which sounds closer to his 2016 album Views than anything from last year’s Certified Lover Boy. Produced by Gordo (formerly known as Carnage), Richard Zastenker and Klahr, “Massive” features an intoxicating drum break and playful synth work which forms a perfect canvas for the 6 God to passionately ruminate over a distanced lover. – David Brake
“No Love” – Summer Walker f. SZA & Cardi B
“Born Again” – Cruel Santino f. Amaarae
Cruel Santino makes music that lives for the sunshine. His blend of Hip Hop, R&B, pop, dancehall and a host of other genres evokes the image of spring flings, summer cookouts, vodka lemonades in the park and boozy brunches at an over-crowded rooftop. “Born Again” was made for portable cheap speakers and blunt rotations on the lawn. Santi’s echoing Auto-Tuned vocals sound sunkissed, as the subtle guitar riff rings across the track. Amaarae breaks up the pleasantries with a high-pitched baby voice Carti-esque verse, spinning the heads of listeners with fast-paced flow and hopping in and out of Spanish with ease. The song fading out is like when the sun sets overtop the mountains, it’s beautiful but sad. But unlike the sunset, listeners can rewind the track, making “Born Again” a staple for the Spring Fever playlist all the way until the temperatures inevitably drop. – Josh Svetz
“DMFU” – Ella Mai
“Wondering/Wandering” – Kehlani F. Ambre & Thundercat
“Lie Again” – Giveon
“Purple Hearts” – Kendrick Lamar F. Summer Walker & Ghostface Killah
“Never Was Wrong” – Blxst
“Iced Tea” – Joyce Wrice F. KAYTRANADA
“What You Deserve (Remix)” – Femme It Forward F. Ambre & 6Lack
6lack takes the reigns over the one and only verse on Femme It Forward’s “What You Deserve” Remix, adding a masculine undertone to the once Big Femme energy track. One only stumbles across a layered remix like this every now and again: a continuity of vibes rather than a distracting remake. The track’s simple chorus-verse-chorus layout is apt for low-on-time listeners but will leave the same wanting its soft cymbals and bongo taps to go on and on–not to mention Ambre and 6lack’s chemistry through vocals that bend and break at the most brain-pleasing times. – Lauren Floyd
“Try Peace” – Tiana Major9
“CYBAH” – Syd F. Lucky Daye
“Please Do Not Lean” – Daniel Caesar F. BADBADNOTGOOD
“Letter To Ur Ex” – Mahalia
“Happy Hour” – Buddy f. T-Pain
“NWA” – Lucky Daye f. Lil Durk
Los Angeles-based singer Lucky Daye has been quietly making waves in contemporary R&B for a few years now. His 2021 album Table For Two was one of the year’s best and it appears his foot is on the gas. “NWA,” featuring Lil Durk is Daye’s latest song, which finds the singer crooning over lively production from frequent collaborator D’Mile. The “Over” artist also succeeded in securing Lil Durk, arguably his biggest guest-feature to date, for a smooth verse about the luxurious ways he spoils a lover.
“Love’s Train” – Silk Sonic
“Out Of Time” – The Weeknd
“Out of Time” is not only a standout from Dawn FM for being a top Weeknd vocal performance but also a deviation from the overwhelming pop, dance, and disco direction he leaned into on the album. Whether you want to call it Michael Jackson mimicry or genuine inspiration, Abel “restores the feeling,” bearing his soul over a Tomoko Aran “Midnight Pretenders” sample. Lyrically, it’s the in-depth, emotional, and closest-to-R&B offering that longstanding Weeknd fans would want from the LP, admitting to not only mistreating a lover but all of the important people in his life. This is hidden under bright instruments and nostalgia-inducing synths, further displaying the Toronto star’s often unappreciated range.
“Rent Money” – Mary J. Blige F. Dave East
“Walk Through Fire” – Bleu F. Ne-Yo
Bleu might have outdone himself in a short period of time. His new single “Walk Through Fire” features R&B legend Ne-Yo and follows up their recent, two-part collaboration “Stay Down.” “Walk Through Fire” is a simple, minimalist piano ballad with each vocalist taking turns singing the same verse, yet simultaneously an impactful breath of fresh air. The imagery of “That’s why every time you smile I get a little bit closer to the sky” or “I would walk through fire just to hear you say, say ‘I do’” makes this more than a cute love song; it’s a high-stakes admission of adoration. They might as well have added wedding bells in the background because Bleu and Ne-Yo have something special within their musical union.
“Jealously” – FKA Twigs F. Rema
“No One Gets Me” – Johan Lenox
“Rapture In Blue” – Cautious Clay
“Brown Eyes And Backwoods” – Tom The Mailman
Tom The Mail Man is impossible to pin down. His sound is ever evolving, and though it takes influence from emo, pop and hip hop, the result is always unique. “Brown Eyes and Backwoods” finds Tom reminiscing on a love that wasn’t meant to be, lacing stunning vocals over a simple guitar refrain which cuts straight to the heart. – David Brake
“Softly (Remix)” – Amber Mark F. Popcaan
“Rent Free” – 6lack
Contributing writers: David Brake, Trent Clark, Kyle Eustice, Jeremy Hecht, Devon Jefferson, Dana Scott, Armon Sadler, Ben Brutocao, Michael Saponara, Anthony Malone, Matthew Ritchie & Josh Svetz.