Coming off the heels of his latest EP, P.O.V, which dropped on Sept. 8, rising R&B star Tone Stith is helping rejuvenate the genre with pure talent, tasteful minimalism and sensually sleek, love-making anthems.
Equipped with a diverse array of tools in his professional arsenal as a singer, songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist (drums, guitar and piano), Stith is a bonafide leader in his generation of R&B artists and is undoubtedly laying his stake in the landscape.
After establishing his initial presence with his critically acclaimed debut EP, Can We Talk, signing with RCA Records in 2018 and garnering writing credits on two remarkable tracks from Chris Brown’s Royalty album, the “FWM” singer has established himself as a premier purveyor of rhythm and blues with a bright future.
Embracing the “less is more” approach, a signature facet of his brand, the New Jersey-bred crooner delivers a healthy dose of transparency coupled with sultry melodies and eclectic instrumentation on P.O.V
“So specifically on this project [P.O.V], I wanted to touch on early Usher,” Stith said during a recent interview with Blavity. “I feel like he’s the best prime example for coming to R&B and making that debut and really shifting the space of music.”
From a conceptual lens, Stith uses this record as a vivid canvas for personal catharsis.
“This whole project is life experience,” he explained. “My life experiences. Things that I witnessed. I just really wanted to tell that story and get a little bit more vulnerable with my fans and with the audience just to show my P.O.V”
Stemming from the inevitable ups and downs of love and subsequent heartbreak, he bares his heart on this project and reveals the unsavory elements of his particular mosaic.
“‘Girls Like You’ is definitely a real story about this girl,” he said. “The first girl that really cheated on me. The one that really did it for me. Like, I was giving you my all, and you really just stabbed me in the back. Like, I didn’t think that would happen to me because I’m so dope.”
Upon reflection of the project, Stith discusses his initial vision behind P.O.V and who exactly it was designed for.
“My audience are lovers,” he said. “It’s people who are in relationships. It’s people that love someone. In love with somebody and people that wanna make love. That is my whole audience. I feel like this was definitely tailored 100% to them.”
Regarding his aspirations, Stith has gigantic visions for his career and is playing for keeps. He doesn’t believe there’s any mountain present he can’t overcome.
“I think my short-term goal is to be one of the first male R&B artists in a long time to have a No. 1 on the Billboard charts and not only in the R&B category but in the Hot 100,” he added. “I think that’s really my short-term goal. I really feel like I’m the leader of R&B, and it’s time for me to set that example. And to show that we haven’t gone anywhere and that we can still push for the top of the charts.”
Along with his artistic growth and development, there has been an unspoken R&B renaissance this year. From Kiana Ledé dropping her second studio album, Grudges, to Diddy’s latest record, The Love Album: Off the Grid, Stith has his stride of momentum, and it’s very much in complete alignment with this movement.
“As far as women go, SZA is incredible,” the singer explained. “I was just talking to Alex Vaughn the other day. Love her. Even Alex Isley. There’s just so many that I would love to work with. Even the male space. Leon Thomas is doing his thing. Phabo is doing his thing. Like you said, Kenyon [Dixon] is doing his thing. He just dropped. So I think R&B is in a great space. The recognition for everybody is coming. It’s happening but it takes for somebody to really put that song out that really pushes the narrative that R&B is alive and well. I think P.O.V is definitely that, and I think the reaction I’ve been getting is mind-blowing.”
With Usher as the headliner for 2024’s Super Bowl halftime show, the R&B genre is on the verge of returning to its apex.
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“From the moment he [Usher] landed and started putting out music, he was a phenomenon,” Stith said. He was somebody in the R&B game that people just see as a pioneer. His career has been incredible. He has so many eras in his career. And the fact that in his later career, he’s headlining the Super Bowl is amazing because it just shows you just how amazing of a career he has had and how big of an influence he is on the culture of music as we know it today. As a fan, I’m just super excited.”
On top of dropping his most recent EP, Stith will open for Victoria Monét during her The Jaguar Tour on Oct. 16 in New York. In addition to the glory of everything he has already accomplished this year, he has some more stuff in store to finish the year off on a high note.
“I still have some visuals to go,” he said. “We’re still telling the project visually. We’re all gearing up for next year because next year, I’ll be hitting the road. I can’t announce with who yet, but I’ll be going on a full-length tour top of the year, so I’m excited about that. There’s more surprises to come too as far as music goes.”
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With a few solid bodies of work already under his belt and an out-of-this-world musical insight, the young crooner is setting himself up for continued success for years to come.