Rhythm and Blues is a rich genre with roots planted firmly in the black American community. It is a genre synonymous with emotion—music that feeds the soul and tells stories of pain and love. Born in the 1940s, R&B has evolved over the decades to mean different things during different times while covering other genres such as gospel, funk, hip hop, and soul.
Diverse as it is, there is a rich plethora of R&B to explore and appreciate. While the genre may encompass many elements, R&B will always be known for radiating feeling and heart. As R&B artist Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds says, “R&B is the one thing that has influenced every kind of music.” Pack a bowl and turn up these five powerful R&B albums to electrify your next smoke session.
Woman by Jill Scott
Strain Pairing Recommendation: Ultraviolet OG
Jill Scott’s album Woman marks her fifth and latest release. The album showcases Scott’s powerful and hypnotic voice against irresistibly catchy beats. Don’t bother fighting it—Woman pulls you in and captures the imagination and spirit with songs such as “Run Run Run,” which hit with so much energy that it feels like Scott in the same room as you, singing her heart out, while the band plays with joyful fervor behind her.
New Amerykah Part Two: Return of the Ankh by Erykah Badu
Strain Pairing Recommendation: Everlast
New Amerykah Part Two has an uplifting, whimsical feel, with tracks such as “Incense” featuring wistful vocals and gentle rhythms. Erykah Badu’s voice, at once both strong and soothing, is a delight to luxuriate in, and it takes center stage against a backdrop of steady and well-rounded instrumentation. Released in 2010, the album encompasses Badu’s neo-soul flavors, with elements of funk, hip hop, and electronic mixed in. All in all, it is a truly heartfelt album, with a vibe that will have you in your feels from the first to the last note.
Let Love Rule by Ledisi
Strain Pairing Recommendation: Black Diamond
Ledisi’s uplifting voice is captivating on her 2017 album, Let Love Rule. Ledisi takes the listener on a journey through various sounds and themes, with influences of hip hop and soul woven throughout. Let Love Rule is a work of poignancy, incorporating important social issues like the Black Lives Matter movement. Her song “Shot Down” addresses police brutality against black Americans with lyrics like “Shot down on display in the middle of the story / She was shot down in the park in the middle of the day,” and “The System says we matter, but the black lives only / Matter certain days.” Ledisi combines these raw, real lyrics with her powerful, soulful voice, and exquisite instrumentals make it all sound effortless—though it is anything but.
Funk This by Chaka Khan
Strain Pairing Recommendation: Mother of Berries
Legendary “Queen of Funk” singer/songwriter and talented drummer Chaka Khan has been producing music for five decades, incorporating funk, jazz, and soul influences. Funk This, released in 2007, is Khan’s most modern album that exemplifies her unique sound and style. The album features funky R&B beats, full instrumentation, and Khan’s signature vocals ripe with feeling and presence. From high-energy tracks such as “Disrespectful” to soulful ballads such as “Angel,” Funk This is an immersive album that demonstrates why Khan is called Queen.
The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill by Ms. Lauryn Hill
Strain Pairing Recommendation: Punky Lion
Lauryn Hill’s first solo album, released in 1998, gained wide spread acclaim and went on to break records. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is a hard-hitting and expertly assembled album featuring Lauryn Hill’s unique mix of beauty and boldness. With elements of rap, reggae, hip hop, and soul, Hill fluctuates effortlessly between commanding lyrical composition and light, effervescent singing—both of which pull the listener in and captivate. Paired with engaging and expertly composed instrumentation, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is a uniquely personal album, where one can truly feel a part of Hill’s being in every track and in every line.