Replacing the gap left by Frank Ocean

CIERA PASTUREL / AGGIE
CIERA PASTUREL / AGGIE

Ady Suleiman and Samm Henshaw conjure a musical mosaic of genres.

Nothing can quite fill the gaping hole Frank Ocean left in our playlists when he, well, left the music scene entirely. But nevertheless, I have shamelessly attempted to patch it together with the tracks of two soulful, genre-defying Brits. And with that, meet Ady Suleiman and Samm Henshaw.

Suleiman, a young musician currently residing in Liverpool, has mastered an integration of classic soulful melodies — so good they would make Stevie Wonder and Bill Withers proud — with a reggae that manages not to sound like a bad island beat. His adorably apparent British accent certainly isn’t a detriment, either.

As a relatively new artist in terms of released content, he has already made available two EPs, a Live in Manchester session and a collection of remixes for his single “What’s the Score.” Though Suleiman’s catchy beats in his EP What’s the Score are undeniably worthy of car sing-a-longs, it’s the two singles from his earlier released This Is My EP that truly showcase the R&B sound that makes him worthy of your attention.

The first, “So Lost,” has a message so genuine it’s impossible not to become immediately empathetic.  Feeling lost in your mind? Always; it’s midterm season. But how often are you told that “I must evolve or I will become incapable?”

The second standout track, “Need Somebody to Love,” is just about the only thing Suleiman needs to sing in order to successfully swoon any and all lady listeners. The nonchalance of his voice as he questions “Girl where are you?” paired with an acoustic guitar intro and the unexpectedly fantastic arrival of a smooth beat around 1:20 almost lets the desperation of the lyrics slide: “I’ve been waiting so long / to give some of my attention.”  Almost.

However, “Ain’t the Beep” might just eliminate this lovesick puppy image in a matter of minutes. This ability to slide across genres, however, is the truest portrayal of his talent.

Similarly, musician Samm Henshaw’s debut EP, The Sound Experiment, literally embodies its title, managing to conjure a musical mosaic of rhythms, genres and sentiments that can still stand as a collective work.  In fact, according to an interview with Quays News, his newest EP was produced with the intent of  “the theme is that there isn’t necessarily a theme.” And it does just that.

Although he only graduated from college last year, Henshaw has already proven his worth as an opening act for James Bay. Having only released one EP, the rising artist has his career (and my entire playlist) ahead of him.

The first track, “Temptation,” oozes with R&B rhythms and lyrics, followed by a catchy, pop-influenced track, “Autonomy (Slave).” The funky groove of  “Everything” and soulful sound in “Better” (a track that could be seamlessly added to John Legend’s 2004 album Get Lifted), provides evidence for not only Henshaw’s successful endeavor at a multi-faceted sound, but his diversified talent as well. There’s a reason his name ends in “Mm.”

The highlight track, “Only Wanna Be With You” has both an unplugged and fuller version, and though both have a meaningful take on a sweet love ballad, the unplugged version has a more intimate sound that encapsulates the sweet nature of “I know you’ve been hurt/ But I wanna make this work.”

I’m not suggesting these talented rising artists are Frank Ocean replacements, but I certainly won’t deny their successes as a temporary fixes, either.

WRITTEN BY: Ally Overbay – arts@theaggie.org