Lowkey R&B’s Year in Review: 2022

2022 brought many gems from a plethora of artists such as Lucky Daye, Ella Mai, SZA, and Kehlani. With 2023 on the horizon, let’s a look at this year’s standouts.

Top-10 R&B Albums

10. Chris Brown – Breezy (Deluxe)

Chris Brown commands you to give him his flowers in Breezy. His 10th album has something that Breezy fans from all types can enjoy as no stone is left unturned. In addition to smash records “WE (Warm Embrace)” and “Call Me Everyday,” the all-star cast of guest features catapults the project. Breezy brings a refreshing feeling as we arrive in the next stage of Brown’s career.

And I wanted to wrap you in
My warm embrace
And make it last forever
Girl, I catch a glimpse of heaven
When you let me wrap you in (Wrap you in)

My warm embrace (My warm embrace)
Visions of my hands in places

My warm embrace

Breezy took over the summer with one of the biggest tours of the year alongside Lil Baby, Bleu, and Druski.

Brown adds another notch to his legendary resume with Breezy by earning a Grammy nomination for Best R&B Album. With Brown approaching nearly two decades in the game, Breezy stands out as a staple in his discography. 

– XH

9. Syd – Broken Hearts Club

While not being a demanding presence by voice, her weightless vocals on Broken Heart Club tell the story. Syd shows her vulnerability on these throwback sounds that can be found decades prior. She has obviously been very well-known for being in multiple groups that have created amazing niche fanbases like Odd Future and The Internet. However, going solo on her first album since 2017 has done wonders for this album in terms of growth of a story. While she switches from brisk, catchier tunes to the feelings of desolation it captures the realization of her situation; heartbreak.

She worked with some incredible artists, like on the intro “CYBAH” with Lucky Daye who brings out a different voice contrast to the lightness of Syd. Smino match the tropical aura the beat gives off and provides a fun verse. But the best song comes from Syd and Kehlani emotionally singing about a partner possibly being embarrassed of the relationship being had.

I can’t ignore it (Ignore it)
Don’t understand
Why you haven’t told your friends
I wish you would call them

Syd tells the story of a relationship deteriorating around her. At one moment, she was ready to “Tie The Knot” and then suddenly it crumbles and now she is a part of a familiar club that most of us have joined; the Broken Hearts Club.

– BV

8. Mary J. Blige – Good Morning Gorgeous (Deluxe)

2022 was the year of Mary J. Blige. She took part in the LVI Super Bowl Halftime Show alongside fellow hip-hop legends Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Kendrick Lamar, and 50 Cent, accepted the Icon Award at the 2022 Billboard Awards, celebrated the 30th anniversary of her debut album What’s the 411?, and released her fourteenth studio album Good Morning Gorgeous which is nominated for multiple awards at the 2023 Grammys. Her newest LP features guest appearances from Anderson .Paak, Dave East, DJ Khaled, Fivio Foreign, and Usher.

If you’ve paid close attention to Mary’s discography over the years, the icon has been letting fans in on her personal life for decades. This album is equivalent to the Rocky’s run up the Philidelphia Museum stairs, Mary has made it. While the album shows off the reason why Mary has solidified her place in hip-hop for so long and how well she works well with her guests, the real star of the album is the lead single “Good Morning Gorgeous.” The title track encompasses Mary’s strength, and most importantly her confidence in expressing self-love.

All the times that I hated myself (self)

All the times that I wanted to be someone else (else)

All the times that I should’ve been gentle with me

All the times that I should’ve been careful with me

To just dwell on the title track, Mary has found the real love she has been searching for, herself.

– AH

7. Brent Faiyaz – WASTELAND

The slow burn arrival of WASTELAND presented a cinematic 19-track experience directed by Brent Faiyaz. The DMV native’s sophomore album takes an edgy, hazy approach to a Shakespeare-like rockstar story. The protagonist goes through the adventures of fame while dealing with the effects it has on his pregnant girlfriend. The skits, including the triggering “WAKE UP CALL,” bridges the story together in between the tracks. Singles “Wasting Time,” “Dead Man Walking,” and “Gravity” immerses in the chapters of Faiyaz’ script.

They just wanna take me off of here
They just wanna knock me off my square, look at that
I can’t fake a smile, it’s hard to wear
And I can’t show no love, that shit too rare

WASTELAND debuted No. 2 on the Billboard 200 chart. With the help of guest stars such as Drake, The Neptunes, Alicia Keys, and Tyler, the Creator, Faiyaz continues to progress as an R&B superstar.

– XH

6. Ari Lennox – age/sex/location

Ari Lennox returned in 2022 with her sophomore album titled Age/Sex/Location. The album includes previously released “Pressure” which gained Lennox her first Billboard Radio No. 1 on the Adult R&B Airplay chart. The LP features guest appearances from Lucky Daye, Chlöe Bailey, and Summer Walker.

The DC native starts off her project with “POF,” which instantly became a fan favorite. In the opening track, the R&B crooner sings about how there are “plenty of fish in the sea” and how men who she claims to be “lame” keep becoming attracted to her. 

What’s that they say back in the days?

Plenty of fish in the sea

Well somebody’s playin’

What with these lame fish that be swimming to me? (Swim)

The track also landed on Former President Barack Obama’s Best Music of 2022 list

The project got a lot of hype from fans since it followed her critically acclaimed debut Shea Butter Baby which was released in 2019. Throughout Age/Sex/Location, Ari expresses that she is not trying to waste her time with nobody’s son. In the last track titled “Queen Space” which features Summer Walker, the artists sum up the project with four words, “Come correct or disappear.”

– AH

5. Kehlani – blue water road

The many transparent layers of Kehlani are revealed on Blue Water Road. In 13 tracks, Kehlani showcases her endless range including pop, soul, R&B, and hip-hop. Kehlani’s soft touch is felt throughout the album whether if it’s for comfort like on “shooter” or for the night like on “more than i should.” Each track effortlessly flows like water.

You wonder why I love you
There was never pressure
Easy as I want to
There’s just no one better

The Oakland queen continues to evolve on every project, especially after the blockbuster It Was Good Until It Wasn’t. Kehlani calls on Destin Conrad, Blxst, Justin Bieber, Jessie Reyez, Thundercat, and Ambré to help paint her journey. Blue Water Road is Kehlani’s most raw, yet mastered collection of herself up to date in her career.  

– XH

4. Steve Lacy – Gemini Rights

No one has had a bigger year of growing into the mainstream realm than Steve Lacy. His artistry has always been revered as the guitarist of the alternative group “The Internet.” His viral hit “Bad Habit” painted vibrance and displayed true talent. Lacy shows his talent as a songwriter throughout this album, gliding between thoughts of love, heartbreak, regret among other feelings. Versatility is the key to his music in all facets and it’s shown in all 35 minutes of this album. 

Lacy is able to croon over funkadelic production, like on the second song “Helmet” which suits his style perfectly. Describing a moment of toxicity between the two who clearly couldn’t stay out of their own way and needed to be separated.

You were so automatic
So you know I had to have it
But lovin’ you was a hazard
So I got my heart a helmet
I tried my best to be worth all your while
You just gotta let me go as I’m tryna let go of you

The album is inspired by thoughts of romance, regret, longing, and all the up-and-down feelings one would have when battling through a tumultuous relationship. But the musical palette stays flavorful, and all the same he is able to take those feelings of frustration and bring it to beautiful music.

– BV

3. Blxst – Before You Go

The Sophomore slump is just a figment of imagination in Blxst mind. He proves his mainstay ability through memorable one-liners and California smooth melodies. His outlook on life of loyalty stays true to a variety of sounds. Whether that is a jazz fusion track on “Never Was Wrong”, an emotional ballad of “Fake Love In LA” or a more uptempo song “Keep Comin’ Back”, he finds to keep the songs fresh. Blxst continues to make relatable R&B music for the masses, while still showing immaculate vibes.

Blxst proved he is able to work with multiple artists on this project, like Arin Ray who sang a heavenly hook on “Fake Love In LA”. While the Los Angeles artist is letting it be heard that the views and life he give his woman are other-worldly.

It’s nothin’ like a vibe with a ocean view
I know that I’m the one but get a load of you
You should keep me company
Downtown ain’t that far from me
The sunset on my balcony
You know I’m a wave, surf a crowd with me

Granmaster Vic, while he wasn’t a vocal feature, was able to provide some exquisite production and a beautiful violin performance at the end of “Pick Your Poison”. Even the boss Rick Ross made a special appearance, performing his normal hustle bars over lush sounds like he and Blxst are overlooking a major city as they sip Rozay. Blxst continues to write fruitful one-liners in a confident tone. His music will forever stay relevant as long as he stays relatable.

– BV

2. Ella Mai – Heart On My Sleeve

After a five-year hiatus, Ella Mai returns with her sophomore project Heart On My Sleeve which has earned her the number two spot on Lowkey R&B’s Best Albums of 2022. The 15-track album is packed with soulful tracks for the contemporary R&B lover. It features guest appearances from Latto, Roddy Ricch, and Lucky Daye. Although Mai fell short of a Grammy nom for her LP, the “DFMU” crooner scored one for her assist on Babyface’s “Keeps On Fallin’.” 

Heart On My Sleeve fully encompasses the name as Mai shows her vulnerability in almost all of the project’s records. In “Break My Heart,” the LP’s fourth track, Mai tells her lover that if she had to choose who could break her heart it would be them. However, in the album’s last track titled “Fading”, she makes the decision that the love has run its course. 

You should just know by now

That we ain’t working out

Tuning it out, you fading out

I’m fading out, we fading out

Heart On My Sleeve shows Mai’s ability to get her message across with each song unraveling different aspects of her love story. Mai proves once again that time is on her side.

– AH

1. Lucky Daye – Candydrip

Lucky Daye positions himself on top of the R&B mountain with the release of Candydrip. Daye infuses the various sounds of old-school and modern R&B to illustrate the definition of smooth. The album showcases Daye’s multi-dimensional creativity. The poetry, songwriting, vocal range, and the heavy hitting guest features from Smino, Lil Durk, and Chiiild create the pillars of this album.

Candydrip is a great follow up Painted and the EP Table for Two as Daye’s discography transcends with the ever-evolving genre.

Takes me from zero to Mars
Straight through your milky ways, for that Kit Kat
Yeah, break me off a piece of that
Hershеy misses where I put my kissеs

Daye looks to reap the benefits of a successful year at the 2023 Grammys with five nominations including Best R&B Album with Candydrip and Best R&B Performance with “Over.” His other nominations are from his writing credits on Mary J. Blige’s Good Morning Gorgeous (Deluxe) and Beyoncé’s Renaissance.

– XH

Honorable Mentions: SZA – SOS, Ravyn Lenae – Hypnos, Giveon – Give Or Take

Best Female Artist – Ella Mai

Ella Mai is Lowkey R&B’s Best Female Artist due to her impeccable work on her sophomore offering Heart On My Sleeve. The artist took a five-year hiatus between albums but proved that time only made the anticipation and product worth the wait. Read about Ella Mai’s Heart On My Sleeve on the Best R&B Albums list.

– AH

Best Male Artist – Steve Lacy

Steve Lacy has proven his worth in R&B with blending a mix of sounds and genres to his already unique style. He gained his first number one single on the Billboard 100 with “Bad Habit” and continued to make a concentrated album despite all the styles in his repertoire. Lacy’s newest record has been nominated for a Grammy, while also topping charts and running his record throughout Tik-Tok timelines of all ages; whether he wanted it or not.

– BV

Best New Artist – Muni Long

Muni Long is Lowkey R&B’s Best New Artist for her No. 1 single “Hrs and Hrs.” The song came out in 2021 from her EP Public Displays of Affection but became viral on TikTok in 2022. It’s Long’s first No. 1 on the Billboard R&B chart and peaked at No. 16 on the Billboard Hot 100. She was the first independent artist to top the Billboard R&B chart. The success of the song landed Long a record deal with Def Jam Recordings. “Hrs and Hrs” is nominated for Best R&B Song and Best R&B Performance at the 2023 Grammys.  

“Hrs and Hrs” wasn’t Long’s only success for 2022. She was also honored with The Ashford & Simpson Songwriter’s Award at the 2022 Soul Train Music Awards.

– AH

Best Songs

  • Beyoncé – CUFF IT
  • Steve Lacy – Bad Habit
  • Muni Long – Hrs & Hrs
  • SZA – Shirt
  • Jazmine Sullivan – Hurt Me So Good
  • Giveon – Lost Me
  • Snoh Aalegra – Do 4 Love
  • Joyce Wrice & KAYTRANADA – Iced Tea
  • Mariah The Scientist – Spread Thin
  • Blxst & Arin Ray – Fake Love In LA

Lowkey R&B Best Male Artist – Davion Farris

Davion Farris is Lowkey R&B’s 2022 Best Male Artist for his 2022 EP Moved. Farris takes fans on a romantic whirlwind throughout the project starting with the first track “Tunnel Vision.”

I’m obsessed with making you happy

You’re such a blessing, I’ll do it gladly

Love and loyalty is what it’s giving

That’s my mission

Throughout the EP, he takes you on a journey of a relationship from the beginning to the downfall and everything in between. Take a look at our interview with Davion here

– AH

Lowkey R&B Best Female Artist – Nia Sultana

Nia Sultana is Lowkey R&B’s 2022 Best Female Artist with the release of her debut EP Bigger Dreams. The 7-pack featured ethereal melodies and soothing sounds amplifying Sultana’s voice. Rick Ross gifts his luxurious presence on “Proven”, giving Sultana an excellent co-sign. Lead single “Ambiance” also gained over 1 million views on YouTube.

Gavе you one taste of the ambience
And now you can’t replace it, it’s nothing like it
That must be why you got it so bad
That must be why you keep coming back

Earlier in the year, Sultana starred in the Reebok x BAPE campaign with Bryson Tiller and Ryan Trey. It’s only the beginning as Nia Sultana will be a name that will continue to pop up in 2023.

– XH

Lowkey R&B’s All-R&B First Team

  • Lucky Daye
  • Ella Mai
  • Blxst
  • Steve Lacy
  • Kehlani

Lowkey R&B’s All-R&B Second Team

  • Ari Lennox
  • Brent Faiyaz
  • Mary J. Blige
  • Syd
  • Chris Brown

Lowkey R&B’s All-R&B Third Team

  • Joyce Wrice
  • Ravyn Lenae
  • Giveon
  • Jazmine Sullivan
  • Muni Long