Neo Soul Today

Neo Soul Today is an authoritative source for informed and intelligent opinion, reviews, news, and other content about neo soul music, its artists, culture, and industry.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Neo Soul Lexicon: Neo Soul Artists vs. Contributing Artists

By Sean
Editor-in-Chief, Neo Soul Today

This brief second installment of the Neo Soul Lexicon Series is devoted to what we refer to at Neo Soul Today when we use the terms neo soul artist and contributing artist. I believe it is important to articulate what these two terms mean before further delving into a lexicon (or vocabulary) for neo soul. I hope that this installment proves enlightening; especially in terms of who is not really a neo soul artist.

Neo Soul Artist
A neo soul artist is a person or group of people who sing, write, produce, remix, or play neo soul music as their primary music. It is common for neo soul artists to branch out and make songs (or even entire albums) within other closely-related genres. However, their core-competency is neo soul. To be objective, a neo soul artist is defined as such by a combination of the sound of the songs he makes and the general consensus of mature, rational neo soul listeners. A neo soul artist is not defined as such by himself, record labels, the media, or any other party. Using the power of blogging, Neo Soul Today strives to credibly represent the general consensus of mature neo soul listeners on numerous neo soul topics such as the various sounds of neo soul and who makes them. The table below contains examples of neo soul artists.

Examples of Neo Soul Artists





Adriana Evans
Alison Crockett
Amel Larrieux
Amp Fiddler
Angela Johnson
Carmen Rodgers
Cody Chesnut
Conya Doss
Eric Roberson (Erro)
Erykah Badu
Fertile Ground
Ivana Santilli
Jaguar Wright
Jasmine Jones
Jazmine Sullivan
Jill Scott
Julie Dexter
Kim Hill
Kindred "The Family Soul"
Leela James
Les Nubians
Lizz Fields
Me'shell Ndegeocello
Michael Johnson
N'Dea Davenport
Peven Everett
Rhian Benson
Shaun Escoffery
Van Hunt
Vikter Duplaix
Zap Mama
Zero 7

The Brand New Heavies
Cooly's Hot Box
Roy Hargrove

Eric Roberson
James Poyser
Kaidi Tatham (a.k.a. Agent K)

Contributing Artist
A contributing artist is one from another genre who contributes to the neo soul art form occasionally by creating neo soul songs over the course of his career. It is very common for artists from other closely-related genres to branch out and make neo song songs either on their album, on a compilation, or as a collaborator on another’s album. However, their core-competency is not neo soul. To be objective, a contributing artist is defined as such by a satisfaction of the following criteria:

1. His primary sound is not in the neo soul sound range
2. The sound of one or more of his songs falls within the neo soul sound range
3. It is the general consensus of mature, rational neo soul listeners that the above criteria are true about the artist
A contributing artist is not defined as such by himself, record labels, the media, or any other party. Using the power of blogging, Neo Soul Today strives to credibly represent the general consensus of mature neo soul listeners on various neo soul topics such as artists from other closely-related genres that contribute to the neo soul art form. The table below contains examples (many surprising) of contributing artists.

Examples of Contributing Artists





Alicia Keys
Anthony Hamilton
Destiny’s Child
Glenn Lewis
Jody Watley
John Legend
Kofy Brown
Mary J. Blige
Mos Def
Raheem DeVaughn

Talib Kweli
Ultra Naté
Vivian Green

The Roots

Pete Rock
Jazzy Jeff

4 Hero
DJ Spinna
King Britt

Many of the examples above may come as a surprise to many. However, when using our evaluation framework which assesses the sound of the majority of their songs (which will be detailed more throughout the Neo Soul Lexicon Series), they are not neo soul artists. Nevertheless, it is a testament to their diversity that they are considered contributing artists to the neo soul art form.

Some of the names above are obvious as their primary genre is clearly not neo soul (e.g., Beyoncé, Mary J. Blige, Ultra Naté, or Jody Watley). Yet, some are not as clear-cut. I’d like to use the Philly-bred Vivian Green as an example.

The Vivian Green Story: An Artist Offering Mature, Conscious, and/or Innovative Soul-Rooted Music Is Not Always a Neo Soul Artist
Many are surprised to witness Vivian Green’s departure from neo soul with her self-titled sophomore album. Perhaps she was never a neo soul artist to begin with. Nearly everyone considered Green neo soul when she came onto the scene in 2002. She hit the mainstream singing mature, soulful lyrics with her debut single and video, “Emotional Rollercoaster.” The song hit the market with the typical neo soul positioning. However, out of 14 tracks on the debut album, “A Love Story,” the only ones that fell within the neo soul sound range were “What Is Love?,” “Fanatic,” (the track that actually led me to buy the album) and “Keep On Going.” I was disappointed not because it was a bad album (actually, it was a decent R&B album). Rather, I was disappointed because, as a consumer, I expected a neo soul product and got something else instead. However, it was not Green’s fault and it is debatable whether Columbia was fully at fault.

Prior to writing this installment and after my 2002 experience with “A Love Story,” using the evaluation framework articulated in the sections above, I didn’t consider Green to be a neo soul artist. Rather, I considered her to be a contributing artist. This assessment was validated after researching the facts. As “Emotional Rollercoaster” began to penetrate the market in 2002, Columbia Records merged with Sony Music. In response to a question during a June 2005 interview with Urban America News Network entitled “Vivian Green: The Truth about Ms. Green,” Green answered, “People based their image of me from my first single and video.” She went on to say, “I never had another chance to do another video and put out another single, because there were so many changes at Columbia…I don't think people really got to see the many styles and sides of me.” Green is a wonderful R&B artist with a limitless future (What can I say? She’s from Philly). However, she is not a neo soul artist and never was. She is a contributing artist. It just turned out that she was going through some painful issues during her first album.

We welcome your comments.


At July 11, 2005 4:43 PM, Blogger R7 Soulhemian said...

I'm not really understanding the distinction between neo-soul and contributing artists.

I don't really understand why Raphael Saadiq or Anthony Hamilton are considered contributing artists....

I also don't see Rahsaan Patterson, Trina Broussard. Mint Condition or Angie Stone on any list.

I guess I see things a little different... your site seems to be more "underground" oriented. I like my share of 'underground' artists... BUT, I also have a liking for 'mainstream' SOUL artists.

An artist such as Carl Thomas doesn't appear on your list, yet I think he's as soulful as any neo-soul artist.

You have Mary J. Blige as a contributing artist, which I definitely agree with... but then I would like to see Faith Evans there too... her last album has gone beyond ANYTHING that Mary has done recently in terms of making innovative soul music.

I don't want to seem to be arguing with your lists... because I do share your love for SOUL music... And I understand where your lists come from... I did the same thing.

I found out that trying to categorize every single artist can be hard.. GOOD LUCK though.

At July 11, 2005 6:30 PM, Blogger Neo Soul Today Staff said...


First, thanks for your commentary.

Indeed, categorization is difficult. However, some high-level categorization is necessary in order to eliminate confusion and to give people a general way to characterize an artists' overall style and sound.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. Thus, the absence of certain artists from this particular discussion does not mean they don't apply. This is just to start a discussion and to establish a thought framework. However, yours and others' feedback on this item will help clarify the issue and consensus will rule. We'll see where it lands! I would love to contribute a future post focusing on establishing an exhaustive consensus-based list of neo soul artists and contributing artists.

For clarification, however; the distinction between neo soul artists and contributing artists is based on the "overall" sound of the majority of their work over the course of their career.

Of course there is a grey area that applies to some artists in terms of being a neo soul artist versus contributing. Although he wasn't explicitly used as an example in the original post, I'll use Carl Thomas as one now (however, I did use Vivian Green as an example). Thomas is a clear example of an artist that is difficult to place. Like Vivian Green, I consider Carl Thomas (whose music I love, by the way) to be a contributing artist (and not a neo soul artist). Because I anticipated this exact issue, I attempted to address it in the last section of the post entitled "The Vivian Green Story: An Artist Offering Mature, Conscious, and/or Innovative Soul-Rooted Music Is Not Always a Neo Soul Artist." Let's just consider this section title and I hope it alone clarifies my point. The media and record labels alike absolutely love to consider someone neo soul just because they're singing mature soul-rooted R&B. To me, however, it's all about the sound of the majority of his work. That's the differentiator for me. He's a great R&B artist. I just wouldn't consider his overall sound neo soul. Yet, he contributes to neo soul by making some tracks that fall within the neo soul sound range (which will be the discussed in the next installment later tonight). However, he still fits in the grey area and, depending on who you are, you may disagree with me. I just ask that you consider the next part in this series and, who knows, consensus may rule that he may just have his place in the neo soul sound range.

We welcome more of yours and others' comments on this topic. Otherwise, no good will result from the discussion.

Editor-in-Chief, Neo Soul Today

At July 11, 2005 6:40 PM, Blogger Neo Soul Today Staff said...


To eliminate any confusion, I updated the neo soul artist and contributing artist table headings to read "Examples of Neo Soul Artists" and "Examples of Contributing Artists," respectively.

Editor-in-Chief, Neo Soul Today

At July 15, 2005 5:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really love this blog, you are doing a very good job and I learn alot when I read, keep going.

At July 19, 2005 8:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice to see Zero 7 listed a neo soul.

At September 26, 2005 5:53 AM, Anonymous akademikmami said...

Very interesting. Thank you for coming to my journal. I'm glad that i came to visit your blog. I especially like this article. I think your lists are pretty accurate and i would have to say that one's definition of neo-soul lies within one's soul. Whatever speaks to that person... that's neo-soul to them.
Personally i would feel that The Roots, Raphael Saadiq, Common and Talib Kweli are all apart of the Neo-Soul genre, its just they are apart of the Rap Neo-Soul Genre. But this is very informative. I like it. Thanks for writing something like this. I'll be back often.

At September 28, 2005 11:37 AM, Blogger projectVIBE Internet Radio said...

You might wanna mention Darien Brockington...a new cat out of NC.

BTW, I think you might be interested in this... - projectVIBE - The SOUL of Internet Radio


At March 12, 2006 9:08 PM, Blogger alwilliams06 said...

I think that it is actually shameful that there has to be a debate about who is neo-soul and who isnt but it is a necessary evil. I love neo-soul music and I live in an area where people don't even know what neo soul is but I plan to change that. I do agree with some artists as being called contributors but I don't necessary agree with the list. But keep up the good work and keep me updated on new artist and new albums from our favorites. contact me @


p.s. Can anyone tell me who to contact to bring some of these artists to Toledo, OH

At January 23, 2007 5:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really love this blog, thanks for show me a new artist of Neo Soul . I love it¡¡¡¡¡¡¡
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At March 01, 2008 2:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The death of this blog epitomizes what happened to "neo soul". Its core fans (generation x'ers) simply grew up and life caught up with them.

The renewal of soul can arguably be said to have begun in 1995 with DeAngelo. During that time most of us were in the midst of our young adult life, still single, money in our pockets, and no children. We had grown up listening to our parent's soul albums so we were a ripe market for this new soul music. However, later generations grew up only on hip-hop and canned r&b. They never had the experience of flipping over an album on the turntable and other intricacies that made the soul listening experience so organic.

But as the 21st century progressed we gen. x'ers began our families along with other responsibilities of took time away from keeping up with the music scene, thus the slow death of so called neo soul. Of course, it will never truly die but I doubt if it will ever get back to the 1995-2001 heyday of neo soul.


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