In the Booth

DJ Adam Foster on Future R&B and the Outsized Influence of The Weeknd

Back in May 2012, the Weeknd started his tour at Revolution in Fort Lauderdale. He had just played his first live show at Coachella and released his first three mixtapes, which were then available only as free downloads via his website. No singles. No songs on iTunes. No radio play. Just a sold-out crowd of kids singing screaming along to every word he sang. It was quite a sight.

Since I first heard House of Balloons, I was hooked instantly. What was this dark, sex-crazed, drugged-out R&B I was listening to? I'd never heard anything like it, and I loved it.

With the release of his new record and the massive success of “Can’t Feel My Face,” the Weeknd is becoming a household name. It’s time to take a moment to appreciate the influence he's had on what is sometimes called “Future R&B.”

Since the Weeknd debuted, the sound he created has had a huge influence on the hip-hop and R&B worlds. Rappers like Drake, Wiz Khalifa, and Juicy J did tracks with him, but they weren’t really collaborations — these were Weeknd songs, with the same production and the same lyrical content.

His style spread to other R&B artists. Jeremih did an EP with underground beatmaker Shlomo and released his more experimental Late Nights with Jeremih mixtape. Arianna Grande and Ludacris made hits with Cashmere Cat, another producer known for his avant-garde, instrumental beats. Tinashe, who started out producing beats on her home computer, is basically a female version of the Weeknd. Post Malone — the list goes on and on.

Tokimonsta produced her masterpiece “Realla” with up-and-coming R&B singer Anderson Paak, while Soulection, the L.A.-based label responsible for launching Kaytranada and Sango (whose first “hit” was an entire remix album of tracks by the Weeknd), is hosting shows all over the world. Their radio show has gained so much influence that it moved to Beats Radio on Apple Music.

It’s a little hard for me to imagine all of this happening without the Weeknd coming first. It’s not often a new artist comes out of nowhere and changes popular music in such a profound way. Ironically, the Weeknd was almost dropped from his label after his last album didn’t produce any hit singles.

Here’s to the artists willing to stand out, take risks, and do something different — especially in an era that seems to push artists toward mediocrity.

Adam Foster is a South Florida-based DJ and producer, founder of, and entertainment director for the Restaurant People. He was named best DJ of 2014 by New Times Broward-Palm Beach. Follow him on Twitter, and like him on Facebook.

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Adam Foster