The British-Zimbabwean R&B singer with luck on his side

As far as origin stories go, few can top Kwaye’s. The Zimbabwe-born, London-raised singer had just moved to Los Angeles in 2014 to study for a year at UCLA, where, within a week, he met a music producer at a dinner party who helped him make his first demo. A few days later, he found himself in a cab driven by a former music industry executive. Kwaye played him the demo; impressed by his sound, the driver introduced him to the head of the indie label Mind of a Genius. Kwaye signed shortly thereafter, and this past July, he released his first EP, Solar.

“People call it luck,” Kwaye says over tea in his Brooklyn apartment. “But I would say it’s when opportunity meets preparation.” By the time he landed in L.A., Kwayedza David Kureya had spent much of his life immersed in music. From a young age, his parents and three older sisters introduced him to Motown, traditional African music, and, as puts it, “TLC, Destiny’s Child, and Toni Braxton—all those women who ran ’90s R&B.” He learned drums, viola, saxophone, guitar, and piano, and by high school was fusing these instruments, his multicultural upbringing, and those early influences into music of his own.

For a 23-year-old, his first three singles (“Cool Kids,” “Little Ones,” and “Sweetest Life”) are impressively realized, with a big, vibrant sound that combines elements from R&B, soul, and synth-pop, and adds a theatrical flair—a nod to his time in musical theater. “These tracks barely scratch the surface of what I want to bring to the table,” says Kwaye, who spent this past summer in New York, writing and recording, and is now back in London, gearing up for the release of his next EP later this fall. Reflecting for a moment on how fortunate he’s been, Kwaye points to the law of attraction. “If you put good energy into the world,” he says, “it comes right back to you.”