R&B

Has Hip-Hop done a good job of making women feel safe?

After reacting to Apple Music’s recent “100 Best Albums” list, Pause/Play producer and co-host Miles Bloxson joins Confucius and Fresh to talk women’s safety in a genre once run by abusers. Catch that alongside Hip-Hop Facts and Confucius Reads the News, plus an Unpopular Opinion on the modern equivalent to What’s Going On? in this episode.

When Did R&B and Hip-Hop Become One?

After a quick postmortem on the Drake-Kendrick beef, Confucius and Fresh dissect how R&B crept into Hip-Hop’s sonic sector. Get that, an Unpopular Opinion around Kendrick’s de facto influence on the West Coast’s relevance, plus Hip-Hop Facts and Confucius’ reactions to the latest headlines right here.

Stephanie Rodd: “Stronger Than Ever”

For us uncultured Americans, we tend to invent a caricature when we hear about a “French songstress”. Yes, we let our assumptions automatically paint a picture of a smoky nightclub against a traumatic war torn backdrop, a slender figure in haute couture wardrobe, cigarette in one hand, microphone in the other, and lyrics toutes en français. The reality, of course, is much more of a mixed bag; I mean c’mon…we’re talking about a massive nation with a century-plus of cross cultural influences here.

Enter: Stephanie Rodd. The Parisian-Londoner up-and-comer pardons herself past the stereotypical chanson midcentury chic of Edith Piaf or Juliette Gréco and instead slides towards the more contemporary energy of acts like Adele, Estelle, and the late Amy Winehouse. Based on what little we’ve heard so far, there’s no doubt that Rodd’s time in England has helped her find the right R&B-soul-pop soundscapes for her singing style that’s reminiscent of Jorja Smith.

And in 2024, as part of a rapid trajectory, Stephanie Rodd’s shooting for the moon with the release of her debut EP next month. Following her mid-February introduction “Worth It”, Rodd’s sophomore single “Stronger Than Ever” finds Stephanie sounding…well…just like the song title. It’s an intriguing, minimalist arrangement filled with passionate chord pads, seductive synth squeaks, carnal guitar, trap-type drums, and soul-warming subs – all anchoring a bold vocal mix of triplet rhythms and unconventional melodies.

How Important is Weed to Rap?

Over the 4/20 weekend Confucius and Fresh hash out marijuana’s impact on hip-hop, the latest shots against Drake, and why the OGs aren’t always right. Hear that along with Hip-Hop Facts and Confucius’ take on the latest headlines.

Myia Thornton: “Never Good 4 Me”

Unlike the legendary machines of Stax and Motown who relied on a ton of well oiled cogs to make any R&B singer into a star, these days the new blood has to do everything themselves, talent agent or not. And while not everyone can be Prince or D’Angelo in terms of multi-instrumental discipline, bringing something extra behind the mic, whatever it may be, really makes a rising singer stand out in the endless milky way of could-be R&B stars.

That puts us into orbit around Myia Thornton, songwriter-bassist-producer with Los Angeles ties but a current home base here in Austin. Beginning with her 2018 start date on streaming, she’s shown herself to be a spiritual pupil of Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill, and Missy Elliott. Thornton’s clearly learned that everyone’s voice has its own unique character, even if the difference in timbre is more of a gradient than a completely different shade, and has accordingly made the most of her proficiency on bass guitar to attain that extra “it” factor.

But as with any R&B songstress, romantic turmoil can have a huge impact on lyrical inspiration and overall motivation. And once that comfort from a significant other’s gone, you just gotta get back to work and not take for granted what makes you intrinsically (and us as listeners) happy. So with her fourth release in just 2024 alone, Myia Thornton continues to break past the hiatus that’d been in place since her 2022 collaboration “Lexus”. Less of a tearjerker and more of a “how’d you get so ugly” piece of post-relationship clarity, Thornton’s self-produced “Never Good 4 Me” is about as bad as it gets. Arrangement-wise the sparseness of its verses is nothing short of genius, especially compared to the stereo-spanning lushness of its hooks, classy key chords, sexy MIDI strings, onion-layered vocals and all. Get it, Myia.

Rhythm&Truth and Sakari: “Bring It All Back”

We won’t say that successful collaborations should mandate a solo artist’s trajectory. But if something built together leaves people wanting more, it’s not a bad idea to get back together and sate those desires, right? Because what’s unachievable on the individual level often just needs to get catalyzed by some good collabo chemistry.

So let’s talk about two creators who we both like independently, but especially love to hear join forces. That’s Rhythm&Truth, the soul-pop-jazz-funk foray from Austin producer-songwriter-percussionist Daniel Anstandig and fellow up-and-comer Sakari, who specializes in stunning neo-soul vocals. Since both projects were born out of the early pandemic era, it naturally took a couple of years into each’s career to break out of their bubbles, find one another, and let the sparks fly. But boy did they ever on last November’s Midnight Vinyl, a passionate pastiche of after-hour radio atmosphere showcasing R&T’s robust arrangements and and Sakari’s sensational pipes.

Now, in between the final installment of Rhythm&Truth’s Time Travlr trilogy this July and Sakari’s last release a little over a month ago, the two buddied up once again to dial in yet another late night dedication. In the pair’s own words, “Bring It All Back” champions the importance of showing up in person and rekindling a sense of community post-COVID. And given how enormous the sense of space is on this song, we can’t help but heed that invitation; it’s like the soundscapers behind Cherelle, Chaka Khan, and Sade got together to reminisce over that mid-late ’80s heyday of women-driven R&B in a more modern spirit. Between all that and a truly hypnotic hook, “Bring It All Back” just earned a top spot on the playlist for any top down joyride in the coming summer months and beyond. Time to reunite with your ride-or-die and let ‘er rip…

J. Cole’s Apology /  Kendrick vs. Drake

It’s a two-parter of Kendrick Lamar clashes: J. Cole’s public apology and Drake’s ongoing affronts. Hear how Confucius and Fresh feel about the beef, Hip-Hop Facts, the latest headlines, and an Unpopular Opinion on hip-hop’s “health”.

Street Peach: “Heavy”

If we’ve learned one thing from Destiny’s Child, it’s that vocal groups aren’t always limited to one breakout singer. Even if fate favors one over another in the long run. And that’s kind of lining up with how we see some of the expats from former Austin R&B trio Keeper.

See, while Keeper’s Yadira Brown has kept busy with longtime collaborator BoomBaptist through The Vapor Caves, her fellow Keeper co-founder Lani Thomison only started picking up speed with her solo project Street Peach in the past few months. As we already heard in Tomison’s work with Keeper, Street Peach’s techniques blend R&B, soul, and choral, plus (as you might’ve guessed from her handle) some extra urban sex appeal as well. Sure, Street Peach’s introductory standalone, “Qiller”, has kept us as sated as possible since May 2020. But truthfully, we’re already licking our lips over news of a full batch this fall.

That basket arrives this October in the form of Street Peach’s debut EP, Monarch, a seven-song spreading of wings created alongside producer Willie Green. And following Monarch‘s first offering that’s already enjoyed consistent spins on recent episodes of The Breaks (mid-February’s “Caroline”), another nubile installation just landed in our lap. “Heavy” lays the seduction on thick, thanks to delineated drums, drizzling synths, and a Sylvia Striplin-style chord progression channeled through a killer chorus guitar groove – one that makes the bed for Street Peach’s featherlight vocals. And those steamy conditions forecast for next week? They could get you sweatin’ juuust right for when Street Peach heats up the stage 7:15PM next Thursday at Hotel Vegas ahead of Daphne Tunes.

The Drake-Future Feud / Sex Appeal

Confucius and Fresh cover the latest rap beef before weighing the importance of sex appeal in the modern era. Hear that, Hip-Hop Facts, Confucius Reads the News, and an Unpopular Opinion on industry politics.

Riders Against the Storm: “Black Girl Payday”

As Women’s History Month comes to a close this Sunday, we assure y’all that we’ll keep featuring the countless talented women of our fair city all year ’round. But March 2024 does end with a unique spectacle this weekend, thanks to a fierce feminine force who’s already left her historic mark on Austin’s steadily diversifying music scene.

And that’s Qi Dada, one half of the husband-and-wife hip-hop duo, Riders Against the Storm, one of KUTX’s very first Studio 1A guests and some of Austin’s most influential socially conscious creators. Following a track record of promoting Black and Brown women’s voices through RAS Day Fest (currently on hiatus) and Body Rock ATX (which has found new legs at Sahara Lounge), Qi Dada’s put something together just for the ladies…well…at least lineup-wise.

That’s right, audiences of all kinds are welcome to join Qi Dada and her handpicked crew for a live concert taping and post-show ceremony – Black Divas – 6:30-8:30PM this Saturday at Austin PBS. It’s all in the name of uplifting motherhood and maternal health, aiming to raise awareness around the rise of maternal death rates in Texas and beyond, so you know your cover fee is going towards a great cause and great music. And although we wish we could spin stuff from the whole roster of performers, we also don’t want to spoil the Black girl magic ahead of the actual event. So instead we’re bending the knee to Austin’s certified queen of the hustle with an oldie-but-goodie Qi Dada solo cut from RAS’ 2021 LP Flowers For the Living. Because with empowering triplet-ripplin’ lyrics and a sassy bass-heavy beat to match, “Black Girl Payday” is the alarm you need to keep from sleeping on Black Divas this Saturday.

Elle Shimada: “RESOLUTE”

All-day unofficial hangs, boozy activations, and making new friends with your line neighbors are great and all…but for us the biggest joy of SXSW is that fast influx of international acts. Artists who might not ever consider the U.S. Southwest for their previous tours instead flood our city with tons of show options, which always makes staying in Austin this week well worth it.

So we gotta give a big shoutout to Elle Shimada, who, on top of juggling vocals, dance routines, turntables, and several instruments, also has her hands full with in-town appearances over the next few days. The Tokyo-born, Melbourne-based multi-hyphenate has been coming up quick in the Australian underground scene thanks to her infectious flirtations with drum n bass, nu jazz, R&B, electronic, and beyond, not to mention a bold Takashi Miike-esque aesthetic to her releases’ artwork and unwavering allegiance to the dancefloor. And since SXSW is so often a catalyst towards superstardom, this week may turn out to be one of those pivotal leg ups in terms of international exposure.

Elle Shimada plays 4:20PM tomorrow at Empire Control Room, Friday afternoon at Lucille (Australia House), 7:50PM Friday evening at Lefty’s Brick Bar, and wraps it up 8:30PM Saturday night at Shiner’s Saloon…plenty of opportunities to tap into Shimada’s unique pulse in-person. So while a proper introduction to Elle is the quick trip through her discography, Shimada does shimmer supremely on her latest single that dropped at the top of the month. Between sweeping synths, soaring guitar, and a rhythm section that cranks the chillwave vibe up a big notch, “RESOLUTE” is the perfect score for a super-stylized sci-fi crime romance epic, like if one of those massive Blade Runner holograms was swapped out with Shimada’s striking visage and shintai-ascending voice.

SXSW Plans / The Hard Early ’00s

Find out what Confucius, Fresh, and KUTX have coming up for SXSW and decide whether or not Nelly’s first three albums came up in the “hardest’ era. And in between Hip-Hop Facts and Confucius Reads the News, feathers get ruffled with Fresh’s Unpopular Opinion around the recent wave of women in rap.

The Peterson Brothers: “Family”

We here at KUTX have kept a pulse on the local scene long and close enough to realize that we’re essentially tracking the progression of individual talents in real time. And though we’re admittedly quick to stick up for twenty-somethings who’ve bottled lightning for their debut releases, frankly there are very few youngsters that genuinely make us think “oh, they’re only gonna get better and better from here on out” each time we see them play live.

Think about The Peterson Brothers, who initially entertained us almost a full decade back when they made their first Studio 1A appearance as mere teens. Just as they did back then, Glenn, Jr. and Alex both continue to slay it on vocals, but their deft instrumentation on guitar and bass, respectively, always steals the show. Which totally tracks, considering up until 2020’s The Intro, The Peterson Brothers were primarily a live staple. So just when we began to fear that their mature emulsifications of blues, funk, soul, and jazz might’ve hit a limit, The Peterson Brothers have bested themselves yet again with their full-length Experience, out April 12th.

And since The Peterson Brothers have already shared a stage with The Roots, who better to help translate their live energy to the studio than Grammy-nominated Roots/Lauryn Hill/Mark Ronson producer Ray Angry? Mixed for ATMOS and mastered at Abbey Road Studios, the resulting Experience is exactly what it claims to be, an eight-track sonic excursion best enjoyed in surround sound. So while mid-January’s “Too Soon” teased that hyper-polished production value with echoes of The Brothers Johnson, yesterday’s “Family” sounds more like The Whispers rejuvenated their signature synth sound with organic sonics and some playful brass. It’s an embrace of everyone who’s supported them along the way, blood relations be damned, and holy moly does it make us feel like Experience will be TPB’s alma mater…at least until the next one.

Autumn Cymone: “Slippery” (feat. James Barmore)

Over the past 40 years R&B’s only gotten more electronic, more reliant on post-production “studio magic”. And for the more recent half of that period, R&B’s also become so intertwined with hip-hop that the two genres are now almost inseparable. Thankfully, just like the recent retro-soul renaissance, there are still purveyors of real “rhythm & blues” who ascend past contemporary commercial trends and instead blend the best of classic and modern.

And that includes Austin acts like Autumn Cymone, who draws just as much from Prince and Erykah Badu as she does Betty Davis and Astrud Gilberto. But seemingly impervious to a bad hair day and ever equipped with her trusty six-string, a quick listen to this “Queen of the vibe”‘s catalogue tells you that she’s much more than just another Janelle Monáe wannabe. And in the half decade since the straightforward rock arrangement paired with R&B drums of Cymone’s debut single “Silence”, we’ve heard a really impressive progression into the nuanced songwriting and authentic acoustics she’s blessed us with this side of the pandemic.

This Thursday Autumn Cymone shares her EP …all my surprises, followed by a show 10PM Friday night at Busy Signal and what may very well be her final unofficial SXSW performance 5PM next Saturday at New Bloom. So as Autumn Cymone slides towards superstardom, try not to get hot and bothered by the new album’s latest lip-biter, “Slippery”. Between a voracious back-and-forth lyrical structure with James Barmore that catalyzes sexual chemistry and the infectious complexities of its overall arrangement, “Slippery” feels like a modernized Motown duet overflowing with hormones and rock overtones.

Officially the Best Radio Show

After so many consecutive nominations, Confucius and Fresh reflect on their first ever ‘Best Radio Show’ Austin Music Award before discussing why longtime Austinites are jaded to good opportunities. And in between Hip-Hop Facts and Confucius Reads the News, Fresh dishes a particularly Unpopular Opinion on why the music industry actually doesn’t need to change.

Alesia Lani: “homebody” (feat. FLOST8)

Listening to Alesia Lani is like the first kiss from a longtime crush. Her music makes hearts skip beats and occupies thoughts long after it’s left. But even though Alesia Lani’s flirtations with R&B-Soul are strong enough to make a full standing room swoon, she’s got a bit of an introverted nature underneath the tunes. And despite a SoFar Sounds Valentine’s Day show 8PM next Wednesday for all the wannabe lovers, Lani just dropped an anthem of sorts for us wallflowers.

It comes ahead of her next album love like lofi, out March 8th. Based on the name, we’re expecting a little less production fidelity than what we heard on last October’s Self Titled, but based on the quality of content from that last LP, the caliber of songwriting and performance has still gotta be high. So with showers in the forecast, this morning Alesia Lani drew back the curtain on love like lofi with the record’s lead single, “homebody“, one that finds her teaming up with eclectic beatmaker FLOST8.

The pitter patter of precipitation trickles past the pane to prime “homebody” and its ode to the rainy day mentality. Order a pizza, sprawl out on the couch, roll up something nice, flick on the mood lighting, and snuggle with the cat. Because it’s not lazy. It’s just lowkey.

francene rouelle: “love wasn’t enough”

When we prioritize praise, obviously the actual performer gets preferential treatment. So when listening to a final product, it can sometimes be easy to overlook the impact of a producer with a calculated vision, especially when they’re still in their salad days.

That brings us to Austin-based, Cambodian-born producer Wil Brookhart, best known by his creative handle waverly. On top of his idiosyncratic trap/pop/R&B sound, and helping catapult his bestie promqueen to local legend status last year, waverly’s also got a brand new retinue – his newly launched label mHart – which caters to Asian-American artists alongside a near-dozen-person all-minority/women team. That’s right; it turns out promqueen was just the initial proof of concept, because ahead of her anticipated sophomore szn two, she’s now joined by the second exciting addition to mHart’s already-promising, all-lowercase roster – francene rouelle.

Still in her early twenties and humbled by an agrarian upbringing, this first generation Filipina’s skipped past any nepotistic child TV star chapter (looking at you, Ariana Grande and Sabrina Carpenter) and straight into the auspicious arena of Asian Pop. And with backing from waverly’s cutesy-yet-sophisticated style of beats, francene rouelle hyper-effeminate fashion and coquettishly-confident vocals altogether gloss a strategically-girly image. In other words, while Ariana Grande grasps at straws, peddling too many versions of the same tired tune, a new Pop/R&B princess begins to seize the throne. So get ready to bend the knee when rouelle’s debut EP finally a fairytale drops April 19th, and charm your weekend with that record’s opening fable, “love wasn’t enough”.

Chief Cleopatra: “December All Year” (Live in Studio 1A)

Apologies in advance to all the Scrooges out there, but the winter holidays are on our doorstep. So if you haven’t already, prepare for in-store speaker systems, radio spots, TV commercials, and hell even carolers to give us our annual fill of festive favorites. And while the Bing Crosbys and Brenda Lees of generations past still pack an iconic charm into this last month, we love that the novelty of “Christmas music” hasn’t negated the creation of holiday-inspired originals from modern artists of all backgrounds, like our February 2022 Artist of the Month Chief Cleopatra.Cleo combines soul, rock, gospel, hip-hop, funk, R&B, and more into a non-genre-denominational sound that perfectly complements this singer’s eccentric and often ornamental sense of fashion. She blew us away at the onset of COVID with her eponymous three-tune debut, and made an even more memorable impact last spring with her Walker Lukens-produced follow-up EP Luna. Chief Cleopatra also wowed us with the wide arrangement on this past March’s “Weekend Warrior”, yet it’s the piece of DSII-produced yuletide joy we found under our tree this morning that reassure us how special this Austin treasure is.So much so that we invited Chief Cleopatra and a backing sextet to cut an extended live edition of December All Year in our very own Studio 1A. A mellow Christmas miracle from its first full-band downbeat through its closing keyboard quote of “Jingle Bells”, Chief Cleopatra makes Mrs. Claus seem more like Ellen Griswold with register-spanning vocals that have us second-guessing if there’s mistletoe above us.

Cinnamontal: “P.R.P.P.P.”

If the corporate powers that be haven’t already ushered in the official start of Christmastime, December 1st will certainly flip the switch. So might as well ignite the yule log early with some new, locally-sourced aural ornaments, starting today with Denise Murray.

Better known by her nickname Cinnamon, and by extension, her creative handle Cinnamontal, this Austinite’s a classically-trained, Berklee, Spain-educated bassoonist, producer-singer-songwriter who’s performed on Slovenia’s Eurovision, rubbed elbows in-studio with Grammy winners, achieved semifinalist status at Montreux Jazz Fest’s Jazz Voice Competition, and become host of The Music Executive podcast. So, it’s easy to see that Murray’s plate stays pretty full even outside of the Thanksgiving season.

That said, this past year Cinnamontal’s taken some real strides in establishing her solo act, having released her debut streaming single “Gold Star” in mid-June and following it up with late August’s “Be Like U”, both of which have introduced us to a powerful new voice in Austin R&B. And while there’s no point in trying to snatch Mariah’s crown when it comes to most beloved holiday R&B song, Cinnamontal and her bassoon James sure have put a saucy twist on the iconic “Little Drummer Boy” melody with a tune that wraps voluptuous vocals, hearth-warming woodwinds, head-bobbing beats, and gift-ready guitar into a neat little Christmas package. So put “P.R.P.P.P.” on your holiday playlist and try not to imagine St. Nick getting seduced by its slinky sonics, kissing mommy or not.