It’s never been a clear-cut question: what does it mean to be an artist?
Today’s definition finds itself continuously evolving, negotiated between creatives, the industry and listeners worldwide. Although subjective, sheer talent is no longer the sole ingredient to commercial success, a phenomenon that feels equally distant yet never too far out of reach. The growing affinity between music and social platforms is prone to scrutiny, but overall dismissed for its break away from a more traditional, linear trajectory. Gen-Z are creating their own winning formula that scouts for individuality, perseverance and, of course, virality. Opportunity is out there and No Guidnce aren’t letting a second slip by.
Formed by Zeekay, Ebubé, Josh & Kaci, the outfit are a blazing force to rise from UK R&B, pointing towards change across the music landscape. Inspired by the monumental collaboration between Drake and Chris Brown, Josh speaks on the group’s resonance:
“I feel like we represent a diverse group of people. Especially across the past seven years, it was just white pop groups. For us, No Guidnce is about what the world looks like, this is what the industry looks like.”
At a time where social media content is merely a by-product of releasing new material – No Guidnce have taken a step back and flipped the narrative on its head. First posting a string of covers to their TikTok channel, tracing the influence of Bruno Mars, The Weeknd and Boyz II Men, the group’s harmonious synergy spread across the platform at lightning speed. In figures, their online popularity translates to a staggering 70.7M TikTok likes, not to mention co-signs from Miguel, Lucky Daye and working with Victoria Monét for their latest release. It’s the kind of success that strikes as coincidental but in reality falls under a highly reactive, organic strategy. In support of trial and error, Kaci admittedly remarks “everything’s embarrassing, until it works…”
The group now look at their early career through a fresh lens, less concerned by virality and instead pinning down their identity via official releases. In reflection, Ebubé details,
“We started on TikTok to try and build a fan base first, that was what created opportunity. I feel like that’s benefited us because, now that we’re releasing music, there’s people that want to listen to it.”
Taking a pause, Zeekay chimes in, “doing the kinds of videos we were doing, singing every day, it tells you what people want to hear. Other artists have to test the waters more with their art, whereas we tested the water with TikTok, and then made what worked our art.”
The result is this year’s ‘Is It A Crime? EP’, a luxurious debut that celebrates 90s glitz, glamour and nostalgia. Vocally, No Guidnce lean into their strengths as an ensemble, laying their polished harmonies over a delicatessen of earworm hooks and verses. Each track holds its own weight, flitting between the extremes of romance and relationships. On the one hand, there’s the whole-hearted infatuation of ‘Committed’, on the other there’s ‘Lie To Me’, an unabashedly toxic anthem that samples Spandau Ballet’s ‘True’.
The group’s gleaming charisma shines through the project, weaved together by a slick and sexy R&B production. In theory, pursuing the more commercial, pop-centric branch of the genre is a risk. It’s a sound that’s been tainted by its own reputation – seemingly underrated and pushed aside for international crowds, incapable of making its break-through on UK soil. No strangers to the conversation, Zeekay chips in: “I think R&B, us as a community, we don’t push it hard enough in the UK. The push for it to be mainstream is what’s gonna make it cut through properly.”
Acknowledging the more general line of opinion, Kaci investigates how the music translates to its listener. “You have to make sure that the sound is speaking to everyone, it can’t be too niche. I think the problem with UK R&B is that it’s too niche.”
Returning to how the two intertwine, Zeekay concludes: “Everyone became fine with it being a niche. So even the artists were like, ‘I’m at this level now, I don’t need to do much more, I feel like I’ve covered the UK R&B thing’. Whereas I think with groups like FLO and hopefully us, where you see it can go mainstream, the mindset and process will change to – let’s try and make this work.”
The success of their debut EP marks a new chapter. No Guidnce are ticking the boxes one by one, at their own pace. The group have flown across the globe, from Miami to LA, hitting up studios with the industry’s leading hitmakers to accumulate a bank of new sounds and techniques that will carve their next steps. Nevertheless, the group’s focus currently lies in their live performance, an element they can’t help but gush over. Kaci puts it quite simply, “us, as a group performing, you don’t see it. It feels special for the fans.” When asked about their one, dream collaborator, the group strike with conviction: Drake. Letting out a smug grin, Ebubé reckons, “I mean, he’s got to get the message at some point. Surely.”
And, truthfully, one can’t help but to think – it’s not a long shot. No Guidnce are a group who are driving the TikTok generation towards a wider, more commercial appreciation for R&B. Stripping back their craft to group dynamics and spotlight vocals, it’s ultimately refreshing to see all four members – Zeekay, Ebubé, Josh & Kaci – come together as one. The music landscape is gradually shifting, and No Guidnce are one step ahead…
Words: Ana Lamond
Photography: Ryan Jafarzadeh