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Contemporary R&B duo VanJess -- formed by sisters Ivana and Jessica Nwokike -- put a '90s-inspired twist on their soulful sound. Following a series of collaborations with musicians ranging from live-looping dance specialist Masego to rapper GoldLink, they issued their first full-length, Silk Canvas, in 2018. After a guest spot on Kaytranada's 2019 hit "Taste," VanJess returned in 2021 with their own EP, Homegrown. Born in Nigeria and raised in California, the pair take inspiration from '90s acts like SWV, Jodeci, and Brandy, further incorporating flavors from Da Brat, En Vogue, Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, and early TLC. From a young age, the siblings had a natural love for music, but it wasn't until high school that they made that passion public. In 2008, Ivana and Jessica began uploading videos of them singing cover songs of favorites by Beyoncé and Rihanna. However, it was their version of Drake's "Headlines" that went viral and attracted an audience. A five-song EP, 00 Till Escape, arrived in 2015, and VanJess began a steady stream of single releases and collaborations. First, the Nwokikes issued "I Don't Need Him." Then, in 2016, they released the downtempo "Adore" (which later received the remix treatment with Milwaukee rapper IshDARR), "Favor," and "Don't Be a Stranger." Collaborations with Korean-Australian singer Leehahn ("Fall Back") and Jamaican-American artist Masego ("Touch the Floor") helped to boost their profile that year as well. In 2017, VanJess hooked up with rapper GoldLink for the '90s house-inspired jam "Through Enough." That track appeared on VanJess' 2018 debut, Silk Canvas, which also featured appearances by Masego, Berhana, Leikeli47, and Little Simz. The duo made it into the Top 30 of the Billboard Hot Dance/Electronic Songs chart a year later with their featured spot on Kaytranada's "Taste." The sisters returned to their own music in 2021 with the Homegrown EP and its sultry single "Come Over." They also featured on KAYWHT's single "11:30" and invited Lucky Daye to join them on "Slow Down."
© Neil Z. Yeung /TiVo


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