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    Kelela

    From: Los Angeles, CA

    Take some of the best producers in underground dance music right now, like Nguzunguzu, Bok Bok, and Kingdom, and put them in the studio with Kelela, a female vocalist who recalls ‘90s stars like Mary J. Blige or Lauryn Hill. You’ve got the recipe for something original and refreshing, and something that sits high on plenty of year-end lists.

    Trenchant post-dubstep production seeps into the crevices that Kelela leaves bare, and the combination breeds a sometimes uncanny, always beautiful new product in the form of Cut 4 Me, Kelela’s breakout 2013 (free) mixtape. She straddles time periods with ease and stretches her voice to higher registers like Mariah did before her. “Floor Show” skids above the ocean floor with a submerged funk groove and catchy chorus, while the clear standout is “Bank Head,” blissfully produced by the Fade To Mind bossman Kingdom. Grime, R&B, crunk, house—it’s all thrown into the pot under Kelela’s alluring voice, and it makes for some of the year’s most engrossing music.