Top Soulful House Artists of 2020
The Traxsource Soulful House Top 100 is a category that underpins the very essence of House Music. It’s where we see some of the giants of our beloved scene deliver their best work. It’s where we see new artists bring their interpretations of one of the original foundations into 2020 and beyond. Soulful House is a melting pot of influences and genres: Gospel, R’n’B and Disco. It oozes authenticity and shows us the importance of songwriting and composition. We’ve seen artists head into the studio with scores of music and big orchestral accompaniments - all of the components that paved the way all those years ago. 2020 was no different, with a stunning array of vocalists blessing us with their iconic tones with tracks capturing the spirit of what it means to be alive. A genre rooted in celebration and expression. It’s one that we will forever hold close to our hearts as DJs increasingly sprinkle these soulful gems into their sets to help balance the journey of their sets. Find out who made it into this year’s Top 100 Soulful House Artists of 2020!
21. Artwork Sounds
Known for: ARTWORK, V.underground, NutownSoul - Time Is Now (Original Mix) ARTWORK, Sculptured Music - Maybe 80-81 (ARTWORK Lockdown Remix) Artwork, Unqle Chriz - Go Back (Original Mix)
20. Booker T
Known for: Earl Tutu, John Khan, Mike City - What A Difference (Booker T Kings Of Soul Vocal Mix) S.e.l & Bryan Chambers - Falling (Booker T Vocal Mix) Booker T feat. Kathy Brown - Boogie Oogie Oogie
Known for: Emmaculate - Never Fall In Love With A DJ Feat. Carla Prather (DJ Spen & Reelsoul Disconovo Full Vocal Mix) Black Widow, Emmaculate - Love Manifesto (Movement I Club Mix) Emmaculate - Never Fall In Love With A DJ Feat. Carla Prather (Original Mix)
18. Mark Francis
Known for: The BlackKnight, Susu Bobien - Truly Amazing (Mark Francis 201 Remix) Lady Alma - Make You Move (Mark Francis 201 Remix) Kinetic T, Thiwe - Feels Like (Mark Francis Remix)
17. Thommy Davis
Known for: Thommy Davis, Randy Roberts - Try Jah Love (DJ Spen & Thommy Davis Original Mix) Thommy Davis, Tasha LaRae, Sheila Ford - Hot Shot Randy Roberts, Neal Conway, Thommy Davis - Darlin’ Darlin’ Baby (Sweet and Tender Love)
16. Ralf GUM
Known for: Ralf GUM, Sio - Un-Love You (Ralf GUM Main Mix) Ralf GUM, Joseph Junior - The Calling (Ralf GUM Main Mix) Ralf GUM, Bongi Mvuyana - Don't Let Them Love You (Ralf GUM Main Mix)
Known for: Tracy Hamlin, DjPope - (You're Puttin) A Rush On Me (Funkhut Vocal) Dana Weaver, DjPope - I Wonder (Mark Francis 201 Remix) DjPope, Kevin Pinder - Dark Alleys Of Spain (DjPope Funkhut Alley 1)
14. Groove Junkies
Known for: Groove Junkies feat. Solara - I Am, Groove Junkies & Reelsoul present Tertulien Thomas - You Can't Hide, Groove Junkies & Reelsoul feat. Nichelle Monroe - Harvest For The World Pt. 3
Known for: Opolopo, Angela Johnson - Stay This Way (Original Mix) Adina Howard - Mind Reader (Opolopo Remix) Opolopo, Angela Johnson - Stay This Way (Micky More & Andy Tee Mix)
12. Zepherin Saint
Known for: Soul II Soul - Back To Life (Zepherin Saint Tribe Vocal Mix) DJ SGZ - Free Yourself (Zepherin Saint Tribe Vocal) Zepherin Saint, Sara Devine - All the Way (Tribe Vocal)
11. Mark Di Meo
Known for: Mark Di Meo, Laura Jackson - Hold On (Original Mix) Mark Di Meo, Liz Jai - Surrender (Dario D'Attis Extended Remix) Mark Di Meo, Laura Jackson - Hold On (Reelsoul Remix)
10. Jihad Muhammad
It been a great year for Jihad Muhammad! 2020 saw a number of successful releases steeped in Soul, accompanied by stunning vocals and with elements of the same kind of driving percussion found amongst some of his more Afro-inspired work. Take for example his remix with Shawn Lucas for Yass’ ‘I Look To You’ feat. Francine Ealey Murphy, released on Nervous - bathing in the trademark crisp and clean space that’s often found within his music. He remixed Sheree Hicks alongside fellow NJ maestro, DJ Beloved, dropping their successful BPM meets Bang The Drum mix of ‘Tempted’ on Makin Moves. Not forgetting his outstanding remix of Doug Gomez’s ‘Can’t Be With You’ feat. Earl W. Green - yet another standout slice of sunshine released on Merecumbe Recordings. Speaking of cherished labels, Quantize Recordings released Jihad Muhammad and Tasha LaRae’s ‘Till You Get There’ which, yet again, served as another lesson in soulful brilliance. He’s accomplished A LOT this year, not just the 7 tracks that feature in the overall Soulful House Top 200 of 2020, but he’s also continued to give music lovers around the world confidence that this level of artistic ability is here to stay and for that we say thank you Jihad Muhammad.
Moving up a whopping 48 places from last year, the #9 position goes to Sandy Rivera, aka Kings of Tomorrow! Yet again Sandy proved his mastery when it comes to hypnotic, soft and soulful productions. One of the year’s biggest releases was his stunning cut ‘White Flag’ featuring the vocal talents of Alex Mills. It was a much welcomed return, carrying all the trademarks of the classic Kings of Tomorrow sound. Further original productions came in the shape of ‘Strong Enough’ - feat. Penelope Calloway on Sandy’s label, deepvisionz. It’s clear that he continues to write music that will stand the test of time. ‘Spell On You’ and ‘Vizionz’ march to the Kings of Tomorrow drum with ‘Babylon’ feat. Veselina Popova showing a slightly different edge to his sound, a more percussion-led soulful offering akin to ‘Donde Esta’ released as Sandy Rivera. 2020 was the year that both Sandy and Kings of Tomorrow came closer together and the Soulful House category became stronger for it! He manages to make the intricacies of songwriting appear easy with seemingly simplistic, clean production - but we know this is thanks to many years of hard graft and his ever-growing hunger for new music.
8. Sean McCabe
It’s a big jump for Sean McCabe this year as he moves to #8 from #18 last year. The talented Bristolian producer proved yet again that when it comes to Soulful cuts with momentum and groove - that he’s the guy for the job. The year saw Sean team up with DJ Spen for their take on Tasha LaRae and Jihad Muhammad’s ‘Till Tou Get There’ released on Quantize Recordings. It was a meeting of minds that both share the same passion and ear for moving and soulful music with substance. Elsewhere, on Body’N Deep, Sean took up remix duties for Jovonn’s ‘Hesperia Soul’ the original taken from his ‘Timeless’ album, which featured alongside other remixes by Karizma and David Anthony. It’s been a year for some of Sean’s finest vocal releases, teaming up with the likes of Turbojazz feat. Javonntte on ‘Wanna Dance’ landing on Last Forever Records, and his stunning vocal mix of Situation feat. Andre Espeut’s ‘Beyond Compare’. One that really stood out was his classic vocal remix of Harold Mattews Jr feat. Symone’s - ‘One Body’ - which saw Sean play to a more rhythmic bassline and futuristic sounds, whilst keeping the fundamentals of Soulful House at its fore. Fittingly, it was released on his Good Vibrations imprint - and that’s exactly what Sean McCabe has given us throughout 2020!
7. Terry Hunter
Terry Hunter climbs up to #7 following a phenomenal year from one of the busiest people in House Music. Branching out from T’s Box, 2020 saw the launch of his new label, Mirror Ball Recordings - an outlet for sounds influenced by the 70’s, 80’s & 90’s, and one that’s evidently well equipped for the 20’s, too! The likes of DJ Jazzy Jeff, Julius Jordan, Vince Lawrence, Captain Sky all christened the new imprint in fine style giving us all a clear idea as to what’s yet to come with his remix of Melba Moore’s ‘Just Doing Me’ landing at an impressive #7 in this year’s Soulful House Top 200. Off to a flying start! But it doesn’t stop there, oh no - he’s served up a steady set of releases featuring big vocalists throughout the year. Vocalists such as Deborah Cox, Lady Alma and Shaun Escoffery all adding to that unique and soulful magic that only Terry Hunter can conjure up. He remains one of House Music’s most prolific pioneers - and for good reason, always flying the flag for Chicago and for a sound that is forever evolving and bringing soul to the party.
6. Dave Lee
Coming in hot at #6 is one of the UK’s finest musical exports, the incredibly talented music man himself - veteran producer and remixer, Dave Lee! Dave Lee is the gift that keeps on giving. For starters, he was one of the first artists to incorporate discos samples in House Music when he started out back in ‘88. So we have him to thank for that. He’s been in the studio ever since, dropping release after release of Soulful and uplifting music. 2020 was no different, still riding high from an incredible 2019 filled with some unforgettable Glitterbox moments. Even with his immense experience, this year felt like Dave Lee had reached a new level of sophisticated composition and production, earning him 4 tracks in this year’s Soulful Top 200 chart and named as Traxsource’s #1 Soul / Funk / Disco Artist of 2020! It was a big year. It was the year that Dave Lee made a thoughtful and well-considered name change. It was also the year that he gave us his rendition of The Vision’s smash ‘Mountains’ and kept the pressure coming out of his Z Records camp. His Redemption Mix of Four80East’s ‘Are You Ready For Love’ feat. CeCe Peniston and his remix of Sunkids feat. Chance - ‘Rescue Me’ - proves that he remains untouchable when it comes to remixes. Chords, vocals and grooves in abundance - the holy trinity. Dave Lee style. Thank you Dave Lee for the music!
Micky More & Andy Tee, aka the Italian masters of House Music arrive at a combined #5! The DJ/producer duo (respectively Michele Mingo & Andrea Tonici) have been responsible for many of the standout tracks from this year, with 5 landing in the Soulful House Top 200, 3 of which riding high in the top 30. Releases from their label, Groove Culture, continue to appear consistently amongst our guest DJ charts and dominate our Hype and Weekend Weapons charts - clearly testament to both the quality and frequency of its output. Having also made a number of Soul / Funk / Disco and Nu Disco cuts this year, it’s right here in the Soulful House category where the duo have yet again come through remixes and ear-catching originals. Their mix of Right To Life’s ‘Sweet Delight’ gave us their signature groove and effortless progression. Uplifting and feel-good pads sweeping through in perfect tandem with well-fitted vocals is exactly what we are here for - and that’s exactly what they delivered! 2020 was also the year they dropped their remix of ‘Gypsy Woman’ - a soulful, saxophone love letter to the original released on the Music With Longevity Vol.2 compilation. In a world of re-edits and reinterpretations, it was refreshing to hear such an iconic track come alive in such a distinctly different way. The same compilation was also home to their remix of Marc Cotterell and Dominic Balchin’s ‘The Trumpet Track’ - this time it was a schooling in keys and brass, and these guys know exactly what their doing when it comes to reinvigorating tracks with a new direction and lease of life. Remixes aside, ‘Time’ feat. the immensely talented Angela Johnson, demonstrated the extent of Micky More & Andy Tee’s capabilities when it comes to their original productions. It’s all in the name, the duo definitely bring their own unique groove to House Music culture and for that we thank them, and congratulate them on another fantastic year!
4. Kenny Dope
It was a huge year for four time Grammy Award nominated Kenny Dope. When it comes to House legends it doesn’t come bigger than this, and oh boy did he make his mark on 2020! Kenny has been entertaining and astounding the masses with his fusions of House, Hip-Hop, Latin, Jazz, Funk, Soul, Reggae, Alternative Pop and Broken Beats, this year was no different with over 30 tracks and remixes from him, alongside hand picked cuts through his Dopewax Records imprint. Storming into the year with his standout productions, it’s no wonder we see his releases entering the Top 200 Soulful House Tracks at 2, 4, and 155. This once again showcases his talent and diversity as an influential producer. When we were preparing for WMC, Kenny dropped an unbelievable remix of ‘Tied Up’ from Moon Boots and Steven Klavier. This sophisticated Soulful number, instantly delivered that feel good feeling we needed throughout this year. Hot on the heals of the mix, Kenny worked up one of the identifiable anthems of 2020, going straight in at #2 Soulful House with his smoking hot rework of Francis Overcast’s ‘I Ain’t’. Complete with rolling drums, punctuated bass and stabbing keys overlaid with a hypnotic vocal it lifted people worldwide. Then finally giving us all a poignant lift, he dropped ‘Happy Song’ on BBE, giving us one of the most authentic Soulful tracks we were yearning for in 2020. Thankfully, it didn’t stop there, the infamous duo Masters at Work united once again to bring us a round of explosive remixes including ‘Pretty Please’ and ‘Krust’. Congratulations to a longstanding scene hero Kenny Dope. If one thing’s for certain, following his 2020 output, next year is definitely going to blow it well out the water… and we can’t wait!
An impressive and much-deserved leap from #13 in 2019 to #3 this year, Reelsoul, aka Will ‘Reel Soul’ Rodriguez has had a storming, and arguably, a defining year for his career. 2020 was the year of the Reelsoul x DJ Spen dreamteam. Together they served up the smash rework of Emmaculate’s ‘Never Fall In Love With A DJ’ feat. Carla Prather, another collaboration with Groove Junkies (aka Groove N’ Soul) and DJ Spen for a masterful cover of David Joseph’s classic ‘You Can’t Hide’. Guesthouse Music played host to Reelsoul and Spen’s remix of Bobby D’ Ambrosio and Michelle Weeks cut ‘The Day’ whilst Quantize gifted us with ‘Really Luv House Music’ - a much needed optimistic, piano-led remix from Will and Spen that brought a lot of sun and hope to many people. And yes, we really do love House Music! It wasn’t all about the collaborations though, as in October he dropped underground treat ‘Just Passing By’ on us - and boy what a treat that was. Packed with vocal samples and smooth grooves, it was a perfect representation of the Reelsoul sound. One thing is for sure though, and it’s that Reelsoul feels like he’s stepped into a rhythm and found a new level of flow this year - we can’t wait to hear what he’s got in store for us in 2021!
2. Louie Vega
There’s no two ways about it, 2020 has been yet another big chapter in Louie Vega’s remarkable story. Racking up an impressive 14 tracks in this year’s Soulful House Top 200 (of which 3 are in the top 21) he has continued to deliver, reliable as always, time and time again. As usually one of the world’s busiest touring DJs, there’s no doubt 2020 looked slightly different. However thanks to his ‘Lockdown Sessions’ show on Worldwide FM, he was able to keep flexing his awe-inspiring selection to fans from all over the world. It was the year that delivered a seemingly endless stream of magical moments: ‘Let It Go’ - Louie’s beautiful debut with The Martinez Brothers feat Marc E. Bassy. Not only was it the smooth and soulful soundtrack to a long and hot summer that we all needed - it was also an ode to NYC’s vibrant scene told through the lens of two different generations, and, undoubtedly yet another timeless classic in the making. It was also the year that Louie started to drop teaser EPs for his much anticipated ‘Expansions In The NYC album’ - the first gave us ‘A Place Where We Can All Be Free’ feat. Janine Sugah Lyrics Lyons - arriving as the ultimate indication as to the maestro’s aspirations for his upcoming body of work, with ‘Vince Montana Tribute’ alongside Rick Wilhite featuring on Part 2. His remix of Tony Momrelle’s ‘My Paradise’ felt like the sound of Summer, with his remix of Jovonn and Casioware’s ‘Turnin Me Out’ serving up a soulful alternative to its original. Not to mention his EOL remix of the Luisito Quintero Percussion Madness classic jam ‘Our Love’ with Anane on lead. And. Breathe. What a year. Congratulations Louie Vega - the legacy continues!
1. DJ Spen
Ever since DJ Spen laid his hands on a pair of turntables at the age of 13, the world has been a better place for it - and he hasn’t stopped since! All things considered as far as 2020 goes, it’s been a particularly strong year for Spen - ending on a high with 18 of his tracks featuring in this year’s Soulful House Top 200. He’s taken the same energy from the booth and channelled it into his music, notably with a fruitful 365 days ripe for collaborations, featuring long time friend and label partner Thommy Davis, Reelsoul, Sean McCabe, Gary Hudgins and Jihad Muhammad. Tracks such as ‘Never Fall in Love With A DJ’ feat Carla Prather and ‘Till You Get There’ feat. Tasha LaRae helped further cement Spen’s legacy as one of the brightest and most consistent lights in Soulful House and gives the world a much needed sense of optimism. His rework of DJ Booman’s ‘God’s Got It’ alongside Troy Morton, and remix of the iconic Elements Of Life x Jasper Street Co cut, ‘Stand On The Word’ with Gary Hudgins are both class acts in bringing not just soul to the dancefloor, but also gospel in all of its beautiful glory. We couldn’t be happier to see DJ Spen take the #1 spot, a well-deserved leap from #3 in 2019. He is a prolific artist: producer, remixer, DJ and a true flagbearer of House Music around the world. Spen has energy in abundance, three decades deep and he’s still putting DJs to shame in the booth. His visible enjoyment is infectious and it’s that what sets as the cornerstone of labels Quantize and unquantize - pure passion. Thank you DJ Spen, here’s to 2021!