In the 90s, enigmatic soul singer Maxwell captivated a myriad of listeners with his supple vocals, compositional intricacies and lush instrumentation. The then-20-something New Yorker carried these enthralling complexities into the 2000s on his third album, Now (2001), an opus best known for housing mood-setting classics “Lifetime” and “This Woman’s Work.” Hidden behind those astonishing hits was an equally astonishing gem–“Symptom Unknown.” Read More
Before Amerie added an extra “I” to her name, the then-22-year-old made a lasting mark on music with her mildly erotic delivery, subtle aggressiveness and brilliant vocal arrangement. Though similar to Aaliyah, vocally, her style was sincere and complemented by Rich Harrison’s impressive fusion of R&B, funk and hip-hop beats. Read More
T.I. is among an elite group of rappers that dominated the charts without sacrificing his integrity as a hip-hop artist. However, since his release from prison, he has found it hard regaining his musical popularity. With a stale mixtape and singles failing to generate any buzz, fans are forced to relish in Tip’s past projects. One project in particular is his debut, I’m Serious.
Tip, who was 20 at the time of the LP’s release, told stories of a young man growing up in the streets of Atlanta. Many listeners (myself included) may not have experienced what he detailed, but his illustrative storytelling was so vivid listeners could easily visualize the story. Looking back, I’m Serious is one of the more underrated rap debuts in recent history. Read More
Remember when conservatives were up in arms about Common being invited to the White House? One thing they used as ammunition to equip their gun was “A Song for Assata,” a gem from Common’s fourth album Like Water for Chocolate (2000).
In three verses stretched over nearly seven minutes, Common compassionately unites a horrifically historic period in Assata Shakur’s life with the elements of freedom as she defined them. Cee Lo Green complements the riveting tune with a soulfully sympathetic chorus. Read More
Days ago, fans and friends paid tribute to Blaque’s Natina Reed, who died after being struck by a car. It would be remiss of us to not do the same by highlighting one of Blaque’s “Hidden Gems.”
Blaque Out was the group’s sophomore album that never received a proper release. This unfortunate circumstance was odd due to a number of reasons–the group’s eponymous debut was successful, the follow-up was much better (in terms of content) and they were under the tutelage of industry titan Matthew Knowles. Read More
Long before Frank Ocean used his coolly expressive vocals to sing highly wistful lyrics over groovy slow and mid-tempos, there was Musiq Soulchild, filling Maxwell and D’Angelo’s void and perfecting a lane for the calm, confident and sensitive brothers of modern R&B.
“Mary Go Round” is a hidden gem buried on his solid debut, Aijuswanaseing (2000). On the somber record, a 23-year-old Musiq casually tells the tale of his discontented sweetheart leaving him distraught and confused. Read More
That unique, Billie Holiday-esque instrument you hear on Jay-Z’s Kingdom Come and Nas’ Hip Hop Is Dead belongs to Chrisette Michele. After turning down “Irreplaceable” (yes, she passed on one of 2006’s biggest songs), she maintained a musical relationship with Ne-Yo. He executive produced her sophomore album, Epiphany, and penned a few records on it, including the closer, “I’m Okay.”
Every soul singer has an “empty my feelings/love gone wrong” record; however, unlike many of those, Michele gives her ex-lover a stirring message without sounding irate. The record is intense, yet vulnerable–which is quite impressive. Read More
Revitalizing a Grammy-winning classic is obviously risky–it can serve as an incredible tribute or an appalling reminder of how quality recording artists have declined over the years. Avant represented the former with his take on Christopher Cross’ “Sailing,” the final cut on his 2008 self-titled Capitol Records album.
Initially, after hearing the charming cover, I assumed it was a remake of a hidden gem from Michael Jackson; the velvety smooth vocals and serene visual created by the classical strings and soft guitar were quintessential attributes for MJ’s more romantic songs. However, it was yet another R&B veteran showcasing musical expertise popular contemporary artists wish they embodied. Read More