Best Neo Soul Artists of All-Time

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The Greatest Neo Soul Artists of All-Time

In a genre that may get overlook by Rhythm and Blues, Rock and, of course, Hip Hop, Neo Soul has long proven to never disappoint when it comes to contributing to good music. Over the years, especially in recent years, the popularity of the soulful sound has been rising with artists singing from the heart about various topics that all can relate.

What truly accounts as Neo Soul, and what distinguish Neo Soul from R&B and Pop is the various reasons that are stated above. Music that can touch your soul, that can have anyone enjoying the sound of love, pain, or joy, depending the subject matter of the song one is listening.

Some of the first Neo Soul performing style artists are the likes of Sade. Sade rose to her stardom during the 1980s as one of the greatest United Kingdom artists of all-time, producing a number of classic hits and selling millions records during the 80s and 90s.Her smooth soulful sound brought her much success, and with the success I am sure many were inspired.

The true rise of Neo Soul occurred in the 1990s with over a dozen artists within genre, a genre that would stand the test of time. The rise can be contributed to the likes of Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill, even though she is consider as a Hip Hop artists to some, D’Angelo and many more.

Best Neo Soul Artists All-Time (90s & 00s): Female Artists

Neo Soul artists like Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill, and Alicia Keys, some may say Alicia Keys is more R&B, round out the top artists of the genre during the 90s and 2000s. Erykah Badu would become recognized as a very unique artists with a personality that attracted many.

Lauryn Hill’s The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill would become one of the best selling and most acclaimed albums of all-time, all genre’s as her only album was a once in a lifetime masterpiece. Alicia Keys arrived on the scene during 2001 with the classic song Fallin’ on the multi-platinum selling album Song in a Mirror, and continued her success throughout the 2000s.

– Erykah Badu – On & On

– Lauryn Hill – Ex-Factor

– Alicia Keys – Fallin’

The genre was not limited to only a few artists as Neo Soul singers like Jill Scott and Indie Arie sought much success during the 2000s, along with Macy Gray, Angie Stone, Floetry and Marsha Ambrosius, and Sunshine Anderson.  Honorable mentions of some of the best Neo Soul female artists during the 1990s and 2000s include, Ledisi, Amel Larrieux, Chrisette Michele, The Floacist, Jaguar Wright, and Goapele.

Best Neo Soul Artists All-Time (90s & 00s): Male Artists

Maybe not as successful as the top female artists, but without a doubt as talented. Artists like D’Angelo and Maxwell are some of the first to come to mind as their careers took off during the 1990s.

Maxwell’s debut album, Maxwell’s Urban Hang Suite of 1996, was certified double platinum.  While his following three albums, Embrya, Now, and Black Summer’s Night, received platinum status after debuting number 1 on the charts. Along with Maxwell gaining thousands of fans and selling millions of records, his talents help him receive Grammy awards and nominations.

Similar to Maxwell’s success, D’Angelo, who seems to release an album every decade, is also acclaimed with platinum selling albums and achieving a few Grammy awards himself. Songs like “How Does It Feel” of the Voodoo album or “Brown Sugar” on his debut album of Brown Sugar truly showcases the talent of D’Angelo.

– Maxwell – This Woman’s Work

– D’Angelo – Brown Sugar

– John Legend – Ordinary People

Fast forwarding into the 2000s, the Neo Soul genre saw the introduction of John Legend, KEM, Musiq Soulchild, Raphael Saadiq, Anthony Hamilton, Lyfe Jennings, Bilal, and Raheem DeVaughn.

I think most can agree that the true standout star of this generation of Neo Soul artists was John Legend. Making his debut in 2004 through Kanye West’s GOOD Music label, John Legend would become at the top of the genre, even though some of his music can be consider as R&B.  John Legend went from having multi-platinum selling albums to numerous features to top songwriting credits to winning dozens of awards.

While not as popular or may not have a household name, but KEM has arguably made some of the best music, with his smooth soft sound that easily travels across demographics.  You also have artists like Anthony Hamilton and Lyfe Jennings who have more of street, or growing up in the heart of the community, edge to them.  The other above mentioned artists are also well accomplished, from Musiq Soulchild’s “Love” to Bilal’s “Soul Sista”.

*Feature Image Editorial Credit: Denise Richardson / Shutterstock.com

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