Up Your Early Adopter Alt-R&B Cred By Seeing Inc. and Kelela Tonight


If you want to see what alternative R&B will look like in 2013—if the term itself, which already looks sort of old fart-y, still exists—you should check out Los Angeles-based musicians Inc. and Kelela at (le) poisson rouge tonight for “A No World Takeover.” The songs on Inc.’s full-length debut, No World, have been around in one mp3 format or another since they started writing the songs in 2011, but today sees its official release on 4AD. Formerly known as Teen, Inc. and as session musicians for the likes of Pharrell and Raphael Saadiq, brothers Andrew and Daniel Aged are capitalizing on the genre’s buildup over the past few years even though they eschew the now-loaded descriptor R&B. For good reason: their whispery coos and silky pseudo-trap owe more to How to Dress Well than the buttered Prince funk of their debut EP, 3.

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That’s not to say George Benson guitar noodles and D’Angelo’s bedroom-eyed piano don’t slink into Inc.’s songs from time to time. The duo slyly nod to that on No World opener “The Place”, a song so packed with understated desire that the video makes a fawn look lustful. “I feel like I’ve been here before, the place that we already know” the Ageds sing, as finger snaps cue up the familiar rhythm of sex. And they’re right. We keep coming back to R&B and its tropes—notwithstanding satin blouses and clap lights, The Weeknd, and how Tom Krell talks about #AltRnB—because, as Andrew says, “There is a soul and a feeling to it, but it’s not really constrained by any specific culture. It exists free from all that. Everything is a feeling. Music, writing, art. That is always the ultimate goal, to generate a real feeling.”

Kelela’s raison d’etre is a little harder to figure out. Without a recently updated MySpace, Soundcloud, or Facebook, the only relevant and reliable source of information about her is Twitter. Even there, she rarely self-promotes except to endorse Usher and Missy and to RT friends’ tweets about her upcoming performances. Blogs usually refer to her as the vocalist on dream-beat duo Teengirl Fantasy’s “EFX” and their remix of Holy Other’s “Love Some1.” TGF actually seem to be her mentors to a certain extent, enlisting her some of their Brooklyn- and L.A.-based concerts. “Very excited for the early adopters of @kelelam,” they Tweeted last Christmas. “2013 will be a good year for them.” Early adopters included Solange, who played a string of dates with Kelela on her tour behind True; and producers like Fade to Mind signees Kingdom and Nguzunguzu.

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It’s a good thing Kelela’s mixtape will allegedly arrive this spring, because there’s frustratingly little to go on. Anonymity seems to be the name of the game—haunting producer Holy Other has yet to reveal his name and face, and Rhye played the mystery game into an Times profile, for example—but Kelela takes it to an extreme. Playing it so cool might be the death knell for another artist who’s not a “vocalist-friend of the best DJs.” Her voice is clear and urgent and true and she’s got friends in high places that think the same. She and Inc. are worth checking out tonight.

Inc. and Kelela play with Zomby and Total Freedom tonight at (le) poisson rouge.

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