The Best Neo Soul Music of 2016

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


A look at the best Neo Soul music of 2016. This year has seen a great resurgence in the genre with some amazing new music being released.

What is Neo Soul?

Neo Soul is a genre of music that combines elements of R&B, hip hop, jazz, and funk. The term was coined in the late 1990s to describe artists who were influenced by these genres. Neo Soul is known for its mellow, smooth sound, and its focus on emotion and lyrical content. If you’re looking for some good Neo Soul music to listen to, here are a few of the best albums from 2016.

The Origins of Neo Soul

Neo soul is a genre of music that was popularized in the late 1990s and early 2000s. It is a combination of elements from various music genres, including soul, hip hop, jazz, and R&B. The term “neo soul” was coined by music industry insiders in the late 1990s to describe a new breed of musicians who were influenced by classic soul artists but were creating their own contemporary sound.

While neo soul has its roots in the ’90s, the genre has seen a resurgence in recent years. In 2016, Solange Knowles released her highly-acclaimed albums A Seat at the Table and True which helped bring neo soul back into the mainstream. Other artists who have been credited with keeping the genre alive include D’Angelo, Erykah Badu, and Lauryn Hill.

If you’re looking for some great neo soul tunes, check out our list of the best neo soul songs of 2016.

The Characteristics of Neo Soul

Neo soul is a genre of popular music. The term was coined by music industry entrepreneur Kedar Massenburg during the late 1990s to market and describe a style of music that emerged from soul and contemporary R&B. Heavily influenced by the sound of classic Motown records, as well as hip hop, post-disco and jazz, neo soul generally eschews the aggressive textures of modern hip hop in favor of a smoother, more organic sound.

In the early 2000s, neo soul attained commercial success, with artists such as D’Angelo, Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill and Maxwell scoring hits on the Billboard R&B charts. Their popularity coincided with a resurgence of interest in classic soul music; in 1998, the New York Times declared that “a ’60s revival is underway”, while neo soul was said to be “at the forefront” of this revival.

Neo soul’s popularity began to decline in the mid-2000s; by 2006, neo soul acts such as Alicia Keys and John Legend had achieved mainstream success, but newer acts failed to break through to the same level of commercial success achieved by their predecessors. In spite of this, neo soul has continued to influence contemporary R&B; artists such as Frank Ocean and Solange have been noted for their indebtedness to the genre.

The Best Neo Soul Music of 2016

There were a lot of great Neo Soul albums released in 2016. Here are a few of the best ones.

D’Angelo – “Black Messiah”

Black Messiah is the third studio album by American singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist D’Angelo, released on December 15, 2014, by RCA Records. It was his first album in fourteen years and his first release on the label since his 2000 untitled album, commonly referred to as Brown Sugar. Recording for the album began during the late-2000s, with tentative release dates in 2010 and 2011 being announced before being shelved due to an announcement that D’Angelo had begun suffering from nerve damage in his hands.

The album was produced by D’Angelo and Questlove of The Roots, who served as co-executive producer, with additional production by Pino Palladino, Amp Fiddler, James Gadson and Khari Mateen. Black Messiah features an eclectic variety of musical styles including rock, funk, soul and hip hop. Lyrically, the album touches on themes of looting during times of oppression, Black power anthemsalthough much of the record’s lyrics are shrouded in mystery.

Upon its release, Black Messiah received widespread acclaim from music critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream publications, the album received an average score of 95 based on 28 reviews. Many critics praised D’Angelo’s vocal performance and noted the album’s social commentary about racism in America. It was ranked as one of the best albums of 2014 by several publications and won Best R&B Album at the 57th Grammy Awards.

Erykah Badu – “But You Caint Use My Phone”

Released in late 2015, Erykah Badu’s mixtape But You Caint Use My Phone was one of the year’s best neo soul albums. The mixtape is a collection of phone-themed songs, all of which were written and produced by Badu. The standout track, “Phone Down,” is a duet with André 3000 that samples uncredited vocals from the late Whitney Houston. Other highlights include the title track, “Hello,” and “U Don’t Have to Call.”

Kendrick Lamar – “To Pimp a Butterfly”

Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly” is one of the best neo soul albums of 2016. It features Lamar’s unique brand of soulful rap, with lyrics that are both introspective and socially conscious. The album also includes some amazing guest performances, including by R&B singer Bilal o nthe track “These Walls.”

Anderson .Paak – “Malibu”

Anderson .Paak’s “Malibu” was one of the best Neo Soul albums of 2016.Released in January, the album was highly praised by critics and fans alike. “Malibu” is a warm, intimate album that feels like a summertime daydream. “.Paak’s music is soulful and textured, with hints of jazz, funk, and R&B” (Pitchfork). If you’re looking for a chill Neo Soul album to relax to, “Malibu” is the perfect choice.

Solange – “A Seat at the Table”

On her third studio album, A Seat at the Table, Solange delivers a masterful work that cements her place as one of the most boundary-pushing Neo Soul artists of our time. With features from André 3000, Q-Tip, Kelly Rowland, The-Dream, and more, the album sonically spans the entire spectrum of what Neo Soul can be; from airy and ethereal to down and dirty. Lyrically, it’s a powerhouse; Solange speaking her truth on everything from race and feminism to hair texture and self-care. It’s an album that makes you feel good, look good, and think good; a trifecta that is hard to come by in 2016.

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