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Who's Next: The Future of R&B -- 2013 Edition

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At the start of each year, About R&B/Soul takes a look at some of the up and coming young artists representing the future of music: it’s an annual feature called Who’s Next. In previous years, more than a few singers who went on to hit it big were featured in previous Who’s Next lists, including Jennifer Hudson (2007), Keri Hilson (2009), Frank Ocean (2012), Melanie Fiona (2009) and Elle Varner (2012). This year’s list includes fresh names and faces like crooner Luke James, singer-songwriter Ester Dean, R&B band Blackwaat3r and ex reality show competitor Marcus Canty, to name a few. Not all these artists will be household names by the end of the year or rack up huge sales, or win lots of awards. But so far, each has displayed an amount of talent that indicates that real R&B is still alive and well. And with that said, behold the 2013 edition of Who's Next: the Future of R&B.

Luke James

Who He Is: Singer-songwriter Luke James, a New Orleans native, went to high school with fellow crooner Frank Ocean. He was also half of the R&B duo Luke & Q, but turned to songwriting after he and childhood friend Quinten "Q" Spears went their separate ways. After after playing the background for awhile and co-penning songs for the likes of Chris Brown, Britney Spears and Justin Bieber over the past few years, he's making his own bid for the spotlight.
What's Next: He's dropped a couple of mixtapes, #Luke in late 2011 and Whispers in the Dark in late 2012. his debut solo album, Made to Love, is slated to drop sometime in 2013, but no official release date has been set.
Listen Up: Stream Luke's first hit single, "I Want You."

Sevyn Streeter

Who She Is: Pop-R&B singer-songwriter Sevyn Streeter signed an artist deal with Atlantic Records in the fall of 2012. Her name might be new to most people outside the music industry, but she's been an in-demand writer and vocalist for years and in the past has worked with such accomplished producers as Timbaland, Swizz Beatz, Babyface and Polow da Don, among others. She's also written material for Kelly Rowland, Chris Brown and Mary J. Blige.
What's Next: No word yet on when her currently-untitled debut album's expected out.
Listen Up: Stream her first Atlantic first single, "I Like It," an uptempo jam about a feuding couple that can't live with each other, but can't live without each other.

Marcus Canty

Who He Is: Marcus, a native of Bowie, Maryland, is poised to become a household name in the music world thanks to a stint as a competitor on the U.S. version the reality show "The X Factor." Although he didn't win (he came in fourth), he still managed to parlay his singing talent into a recording contract with Epic Records.
What's Next: His debut eight-song EP, This...is Marcus Canty is expected out in the Spring.
Listen Up: His songs "In & Out" (feat. the rapper Wale) and "Won't Make a Fool Out of You" are available for streaming online.

Stacy Barthe

Who She Is: Stacy Barthe is a singer and Grammy-nominated songwriter who's penned material for everyone from Akon to Rihanna to Kelly Rowland. But she's not content being a songwriter: Stacy has also released two EPs over the past year or so.
What's Next: Her third EP, P.S. I Love You, is due out Feb. 12, 2013, two days before Valentine's Day.
Listen Up: Stream "Flawed, Beautiful Creatures," a commentary on the human condition.

Blackwaat3r

Who They Are: Southern California-based band Backwaat3r has sound that's a combination of Stevie's sweet, soulful falsetto layered over warm Funk-Soul instrumentation, for a musical blend that's fresh and original, but at the same time, brings to mind other genre-crossing acts like Living Colour and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
What's Next: The group, which formed in 2012, is currently performing live shows in and around their LA area home base.
Listen Up: Stream "Waat3r for Fir3," a track that's apparently about a woman who's got lead singer Stevie Notes all twisted up.

Kevin McCall

Who He Is: After appearing on and producing songs for numerous other urban music artists, including Keri Hilson, Trey Songz and Kelly Rowland, singer-rapper Kevin McCall, aka K-Mac, has been jump starting his own career as a recording artist.
What's Next: McCall, who's best known up to this point for appearing on Chris Brown's comeback single "Deuces," is expected to release his debut album, ADHD, sometime in 2013.
Listen Up: Stream his most recent single, "Naked," which features the rapper Big Sean.

Ester Dean

Who She Is: Oklahoma native Ester Dean has penned or co-written tracks for a wide range of artists, including Usher, Kelly Clarkson, Mary J. Blige, Britney Spears, Robin Thicke, Nicki Minaj and many others. Ester's been so successful as a wordsmith in fact, that she was named Songwriter of the Year during the 2012 BMI Pop Awards.
What's Next: Her debut album, tentatively titled Story Never Told, is due out sometime in 2013.
Listen Up: Stream "Baby-Making Love," an ode to good sex.

Jake & Papa

Who They Are: If you remember the reality show "Brothers to Brutha," then the names Jake & Papa are probably familiar to you. The show, which aired on BET in late 2008, followed the lives of five brothers -- Grady, Anthony, JR, Cheyenne and Jacob -- who were trying to make it in the music business as R&B group Brutha. Although three brothers left to do their own thing, two members, Cheyenne -- aka Papa -- and Jacob, better known as Jake, are still working together as a duo.
What's Next: Jake & Papa released two free mixtapes in 2012, Somethin' Soulful and Westernplayalisticamaromuzic.
Listen Up: The duo's latest mixtape can be downloaded at jakeandpapa.com.

Deon Young

Who He Is: Deon Young is a Harlem native who was just been signed to Epic Records last year. He's a rapper-turned-singer/songwriter who first made noise on the scene at the age of 19 with his 2011 mixtape For the Love.
What's Next: No word yet on when an official debut album from Deon is coming, but his free Forever Young mixtape dropped last August.
Listen Up: Stream or download Forever Young, which features D. crooning on nine songs, some of which are new and some of which are previously released or remakes, like his reinterpretation of Usher's "Climax" and his versions of Kirko Bangz' "Drank in My Cup" and J. Cole's "Nobody's Perfect."
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