Tag Archives: Al B. Sure!

Heavy D & the Boyz – Big Tyme

Heavy D & the Boyz
Big Tyme
June 12, 1989
Uptown Records/ MCA RecordsUMG
080/100
Heavy D & the Boyz - Big Tyme
1. We Got Our Own Thang (feat. Teddy Riley) // 2. You Ain’t Heard Nuttin Yet // 3. Somebody For Me (feat. Al B. Sure!) // 4. Mood For Love // 5. Ez Duz It, Do It Ez // 6. A Better Land // 7. Gyrlz, They Love Me // 8. More Bounce // 9. Big Tyme // 10. Flexin’ // 11. Here We Go Again, Y’all // 12. Let It Flow

Living Large... may be considered a classic today (for reasons unknown to this reviewer because I recall it being a wildly uneven effort with lots of sucking and only a handful of good songs) but it never sold that well. Big Tyme was the point where Heavy D & the Boys became what you could consider commercially succesful, selling over a million copies and hitting #01 on the R&B album-charts.
The is discrepancy in sales figures between the debut album and this one is entirely justified, to this reviewer anyway, Big Tyme is in fact a much superior album with a much slicker sound and a much better hit/miss ratio. Four of these songs were released as singles, and while none of them were charting hits of importance (except for We Got Our Own Thang which apparently hit #15 in the Netherlands) they’re all considered classics of the golden age of hip-hop.

Big Tyme is well mannered and good natured frivolity. Gangsta rap may have been taking flight on the West coast to land itself in college dorms nationwide to the sound of cash registers clanking, but D likes to pretend that it never happened because on this album he’s as much in B-Boy mode as RUN-DMC was in ’83; bragging about his rhyme skills and hollering at the ladies but never in a menacing manner. He never so much as drops a single curse.
(Unless you count “Happy like a faggot in jail.”, which is in fact sort of shocking in how cheerfully casual it is dropped. Remember kids Big Tyme is from a different era in which homophobia was much more commonplace and accepted than it is today.)
The guy sounds as though he wouldn’t hurt a fly, but would beat you in a rap battle and then proceeded to run off with your girlfriend. D’s rhyme style hasn’t changed one bit since the last time around.

His musical backdrops, provided by his DJ, Eddie F, his cousin Pete Rock and old school powerhouse Marley Marl, as wel as himself, are a lot more melodic, slicker and less clunky than they were the last time around, which helps the medicine go down tremendously. We Got Our Own Thang may have been Teddy Riley’s loungiest creation yet, Somebody For Me makes one wonder why Dwight never got to appear on In Effect Mode because not only were they labelmates but him and Al B. Sure! display some pretty cool chemistry, More Bounce isn’t boring at all despite rocking an overplayed Zapp sample. Even the faux-reggae of Mood For Love and the preachy as fuck Better Land aren’t a stinky sort of cheesy. Let It Flow and Flexin’ have some old fashionedly cool beats that would make for good background at a house party.
Even the mandatory boastfest about D’s success with the opposite sex Gyrls, they Love Me sounds pretty good.
The title track samples James Brown’s Sex Machine for the third time in D’s career (and the second time on this album) and finally creates a good update.

While there are almost zero instances of the man dropping any mind blowing knowledge (although he does speak some truths about crack cocaine and rap-haters on Better Land) that really isn’t or shouldn’t be the point of a Heavy D album. In stead one should admire the nimbleness of his flows and the catchiness of his music. In fact calling Heavy D a ‘party rap’ artist wouldn’t do the man a disservice because having a good time appears to be what the man was all about and this, ladies and gentlemen, is party rap par excellence.
One shouldn’t underestimate the importance of a hefty dose of good spirited, unadutered fun every once in a while, and backed with some seriously good music this is exactly what Big Tyme provides. It’s a throwback to a time when the hip-hop genre knew not to take itself so seriously all the time and for all these things it deserves a revisit.

Heavy D. rest in peace. May your memory live on.

Best tracks
We Got Our Own Thang
Somebody For Me
Gyrlz They Love Me
More Bounce
Big Tyme
Flexin’

Recommendations
Buy this album.

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Guy – Guy

Guy
Guy
June 13, 1988
Uptown Records/ MCA RecordsUMG
080/100
Guy - Guy1. Groove Me // 2. Teddy’s Jam // 3. Don’t Clap… Just Dance // 4. You Can Call Me Crazy (feat. Timmy Gatling & Al B. Sure!) // 5. Piece of My Love // 6. I Like // 7. ’round and ’round (Merry Go ’round of Love) // 8. Spend the Night // 9. Goodbye Love // 10. My Business (feat. Timmy Gatling)

Teddy’s late ’80s drum machine-‘n’-synth beats aren’t the most sophisticated instrumentals ever made and Aaron’s third rate Stevie-isms are far from original way of singing R&B music, but put them together and the resulting album is an album far funkier than it has any right to be. Guy is one of those things greater than the sum of its parts.

Guy was the brainchild of producer Teddy Riley and his childhood friend Timmy Gatling. They recruited singer Aaron Hall to join them and Guy started recording their epinomous debut album for Andre Harrell’s Uptown Records under the guidance of manager Gene Griffin who is also credited as co-producer of every track of this album. Apparently Hall and Riley didn’t get along in person despite their on-wax chemistry because right before Guy was released Gatling was so sick of their animosity he got the hell out of dodge.
It is for this reason he sings lead vocals on two of the album’s tracks and gets eight songwriting credits even though when the album dropped he was no longer officially considered a part of the group and is nowhere to be found on the album’s cover. (The guy who was called in as Gatling’s last-minute replacement for a tour Guy did with New Edition was Aaron’s brother Damion who is on the cover but did zilch in creating the music.)

Changing line-ups would be recurring thing in Teddy Riley’s performing career, especially in his second group BLACKstreet.

One thing that sets apart Guy from the other completely Riley-produced LP we had so far, Keith Sweat’s Make It Last Forever, is that the majority of the songs are uptempo where Sweat was mostly about slow jams.
Another thing that sets apart Keith Sweat and Aaron Hall is that Aaron has a far more fiery, gospel-infused vocal style.
Who says that New Jack Swing artists were passed through cookie cutter and were indistinct of one another? (Many music critics do.)

Guy marries soul vocal stylings with hip-hop production stylings the way no complete album had done before it. It also follows some hip-hop conventions of the time. For instance it has a DJ cut in the form of Teddy’s Jam.

Teddy  really did his thing with these lo fi synths and drum machines creating a slightly overcrowded, machanical variety of the funk. Hall, Gatling and Riley himself when he sings lead on Spend the Night are the humanising components. Back in 1988 this must’ve sounded pretty futuristic but today the vibe is mostly quaintly old school (or vintage as some would call it..).

Groove Me and ’round and ’round (Merry Go Round of Love) are the best things on here. They’re ballsy party jams that a lot of club DJs would do well to revisit.
Teddy’s Jam also fits that bill although because of it’s relative lack of vocals one might run the risk of partygoers believing they put on some backing music from a primitive video game.
Piece of My Love and Spend the Night aren’t the best New Jack Swing ballads by any stretch of the imagination, but they’re not bad and their inclusion helps prevent the monotony of nothing but pistoning dance beats that otherwise would’ve occured.

Overall Guy is a pretty good flagship release for the New Jack Swing genre, being pretty representative of its dance music side, with a few ballads thrown in for good measure.
The production, despite of (or because of) being rather dated, is pretty cool and Aaron Hall is a charismatic frontman who performs these songs with enough gusto to make up for his minor lackings as a singer. It’s too bad that short, high-quality R&B releases such as this, Make It Last Forever and In Effect Mode (among others) would soon be a thing of the past after the ascent of the CD and the possibility it created for artists to make their album’s twice as long as they could be in the vinyl/ cassette era (Guy’s 1990 sophomore album The Future is 72:02 minutes long compared to this one’s 44:42 which means as much as that a shitload of watered down, unfocused filler made the cut) but that makes one only appreciate releases like this that much more. Good stuff.

Best tracks
Groove Me
Teddy’s Jam
’round and ’round (Merry Go ’round of Love)
Piece of My Love

Recommendations
Buy this album.


Al B. Sure! – In Effect Mode

Al B. Sure!
In Effect Mode
Uptown Records/ Warner Bros. RecordsWMG
May 3, 1988
080/100
Al B. Sure! - In Effect Mode
1. Nite and Day // 2. Oooh, This Love Is So // 3. Killing Me Softly // 4. Naturally Mine // 5. Rescue Me // 6. Off on Your Own (Girl) // 7. If I’m Not Your Lover // 8. Just a Taste of Lovin’ // 9. Noche y Dia

I wonder if it today still would be possible for an R&B singer to be on the cover of his major label album with his unabrow fully intact (not to mention that peach fuzz on his upper lip) and sell records. I guess that grooming habits have changed for men as well as women since 1988.

Al B. Sure! was the second act to release an album on Andre Harrell’s Uptown Records after making his debut appearances on Heavy D’s Living Large… in the prior year. Apparently he got his break in the music industry performing at a talent show organised by Sony Music Entertainment in 1987 where he was picked the winner by music industry legend Quincy Jones. How he went from Sony to MCA-distributed Uptown records, and then had his albums distributed through random, unaffiliated Warner Bros. is unknown to me but that is what happened.

New Jack Swing inventor Teddy Riley was supposed to produce the album wall-to-wall but after finishing two songs with Al he got called away to supply his beats to Keith Sweat’s Make It Last Forever in stead (presumably to cash a bigger cheque). The two songs he did produce were If I’m Not Your Lover and You Can Call Me Crazy. The latter didn’t make the cut of In Effect Mode but was transplanted to the 1988 epinomous debut album of Teddy Riley’s group Guy with Timmy Gatling on vocals. The same Timmy Gatling who left the group right after the first album was released. Oh the music industry trivia.
After Teddy left Al B. decided to produce the album himself with assists by his cousin Kyle West, which turnt out a fortunate turn of events since the instrumentals these two created were actually a little different from Riley’s. Sure! and West infuse their New Jack Swing quiet storm with quirky soft rock guitar riffs, percolating synths and groovy synth funk basslines, which helped Sure! create a niche of his own in the budding New Jack Swing movement. Keith Sweat was the soul man, Bobby Brown would be the bad boy, Teddy Riley was the svengali and Al B. Sure! was the romantic soft-rocker.

Nite and Day is about as graceful as an R&B ballad can get with Al’s floaty falsetto riding the atmospheric instrumental and the lyrics about ‘making love in the rain’ and ‘feeling so deep it comes within’. It is the perfect soundtrack to a romantic daydream. Actually that description fit the entirety of In Effect Mode. It’s a dreamy exercise in romanticism that’s so high above the clouds that even the earnestness of it all can’t weigh it down. Wow.
Off On Your Own (Girl) has the sort of tumbling groove you could lounge equally well to as you could dance to it and its pleading subject matter is something that’s easily relatable and Sure! turns out to do uptempo numbers just as well as he does his signature balladry.
Oooh this Love Is So manages to make something seductive out of fingersnaps, keyboards and not much more and is probably the best showcase of Sure!’s voice on this album.
The worst of the lot on here is probably the ‘hard’ sounding numbers If I’m Not Your Lover and Just a Taste of Your Lovin’ tacked on at the end, and even those are fairly decent. It’s just easy to imagine Bobby Brown doing a slightly better job at performing them. But they do contribute to the album in creating more variety.

The rest of these songs are pretty cool too. Besides a Spanish language version of Nite and Day there isn’t any filler on here and like Make It Last Forever its length of only eight tracks is a prime example of ‘less is more’, one many of today’s artists could learn a thing or two from.

In Effect Mode is a terrific R&B album. It’s got this veneer of old school romantic class over it, as though it is willing to wait until the second date to get into your pants (if you are capable of restraining yourself, that is) with a slight hint of hip-hop swagger. Also it’s short, which with albums is never a bad thing.

Best tracks
Nite and Day
Oooh This Love Is So
Off On Your Own (Girl)

Recommendations
Buy this album.


Heavy D & the Boys – Living Large…

Heavy D & the Boys
Living Large…
October 25, 1987
Uptown Records/ MCA RecordsUMG
058/100
Heavy D & the Boys Living Large...
1. The Overweight Lover’s in the House // 2. Nike // 3. Chunky But Funky [Remix] // 4. Dedicated (feat. Al B. Sure!) // 5. Here We Go // 6. On the Dance Floor // 7. Moneyearnin’ Mount Vernon (feat. Al B. Sure!) // 8. I’m Gonna Make You Love Me // 9. Overweighter // 10. I’m Getting Paid // 11. Rock the Bass // 12. Mr. Big Stuff [Remix] // 13. Don’t You Know (feat. Al B. Sure!)

It makes sense that Heavy D was the first out of the Uptown posse to have an album of his own since his was the only song off Uptown Is Kickin’ It that’s remotely memorable.

Livin’ Large… is a fairly decent yet rather dated debut. The beats, courtesy of the likes of Marley Marl and Teddy Riley, as well as D and Eddie F themselves, are the sort of rather minimal hippety hoppety stuff that Jam Master Jay would churn out in his sleep and Heavy’s rhymes are, well… chunky but funky creating a total package that’s best described as well mannered frivolity. Not in the least because D steers clear of each and every curse word and steers clear of each and every form of social commentary. He might’ve had the D but his name ain’t Chuck.

For the most part it sounds as though Heavy D and DJ Eddie F were simply going down a checklist of mandatory concepts to have their hip-hop album considered for release in 1987. There’s a glorified shoes commercial (Nike), a bunch of cuts that boast about Heav’s skills in getting the ladies and how he rhymes better on the mic than you do (there’s a lot of overlap between these two types of songs), an ode to the DJ (Here We Go) and a smalzy I Need Love-esque romantic cut tacked onto the end where our host completely forgets to rhyme and just talks to the subject of his affections for four minutes or so while wingman, labelmate and R&B singer extraordinaire Al B. Sure! tries to help get her panties wet without involving molly (or at the very least without bragging about tossing it into her drink without her knowledge).

What sets Heavy D, and the old school in general, apart from most of the rap music that came after it is that it seems content juggling around a couple of fairly simple concept, that it has a rather childish sense of humour and is delivered in a enthusiatisc manner. The contrast with the cold, detached yet super vivid gangsta years that weren’t too far away when this album dropped couldn’t be bigger. It is for this reason that Living Large… may be a little bland to your ears.
If however you’re easily charmed by the old school Livin’ Large… is most likely the album for you. Heavy D may not drop any curses but that doesn’t mean he isn’t the sort of cocky individual that rhymes laps around you and will steal your girlfriend despite packing a few extra pounds (the central theme to Living Large…), is not too cool to bust a move (On the Dance Floor), has better kicks than you (Nike), generally more money (I’m Getting Paid). D proudly flaunts his origins whether he’s namechecking the place he grew up (Money Yearning Mount Vernon) or incorporating a mild reggae flavour into a beat (I’m Gonna Make You Love Me) (D was originally from the island of Jamaica)

His delivery is smooth and rhythmic and his beats are pretty competent. Especially when a more obvious sample comes to the forefront (Moneyearnin’ Mount Vernon incorporates parts of James Brown’s Sex Machine and Overweighter has clearly identifyable parts of the Jackson 5’s I Want You Back in it) the music sounds pretty complete. Living Large… is far from great but it’s entertaining enough to be considered a promising start of a succesful career, which off course it was.

Living Large… is alright for what it is I suppose. Especially seen in the light of the time when it dropped, which was a simpler time for hip-hop and perhaps music and even the world in general. But despite that and the fact that Living Large… has a handful of entertaining songs there’s no need for people should listen to the album in its entirety today.

The songs listed below however are wholeheartedly recommended for a listen, so listening to Living Large… wasn’t a complete exercise in futility.

Best tracks
The Overweight Lover’s In the House
Chunky But Funky [Remix]
Moneyearnin’ Mount Vernon
Mr. Big Stuff
I’m Gonna Make You Love Me
Overweighter
Rock the Bass

Recommendations
Buy the best tracks off iTunes. Don’t buy the entire album. Unless you come across it for less than five dollars.


Usher – Usher

Usher

Usher

08-30-1994

LaFace Records/ Sony Music Entertainment

The Usher on this album’s cover looks fifteen years old and kind of chubby, don’t you think? Yeah, Who knew?

So, Usher’s debut album was released in 1994. Before those of you who were around in ’94 think I’m shitting you because You Make Me Wanna came out years later: that song which was his breakthrough single in 1997, but it was not his debut single. An entire self-titled album preceded it. Now, you are forgiven if you don’t even barely remember this album it wasn’t a very big success. It was however, as we all know now, the kick-start of a very successful career that is still going strong today. (Although what Usher is most known for today is dancing around with Justin Bieber in his videos. In many a way Usher’s career is quite similar to that of JB (although not completely, because obviously there was no such thing youtube in ‘94.) Usher Raymond IV was born in 1978 in Dallas, Texas but spent most of his younger years in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He was raised by his single mother, who until 2007 was also his manager. In 1991 he joined a local Urban Boy band called NuBeginning, which fucking sucked and after one bootleg-ish album he was out again. In 1993 he was on Star Search which apparently was the early ‘90s equivalent of American Idol/ Pop Idol where he was spotted by an LaFace A&R guy who arranged an audition for one of that label’s head honchos, Antonio “L.A.” Reid, and Usher left they guy very much impressed which meant that he had hit the jackpot because LaFace was big pimpin’ at the time when it was R&B acts that was concerned. After L.A. put his debut single Call Me a Mack on the soundtrack to the John Singleton-directed, 2pac and Janet Jackson co-starring 1993 drama film Poetic Justice the recording of his debut album could commence.  Because in 1994 Get him to the Greek’s  Sean “Sergio Roma” Combs was also becoming a big name in urban music after successfully launching his Bad Boy Entertainment imprint via the Notorious B.I.G.’s Ready to Die and Craig Mack’s Project: Funk the World albums and because L.A.’s partner in crime Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds was probably busy writing and producing every goddamn song on the radio at the time the album was overseen by L.A. and Puff. Both of them had musical connections a plenty and, among others Al B. Sure!, JoDeCi’s DeVanté Swing, Faith Evans, Brian-Alexander Morgan, Dave “Jam” Hall, Puffy himself, and Timbaland, who allegedly produced alongside of DeVante but wasn’t credited, were all drummed up to make this fifteen-year-old sound good. Usher was relocated from his Atlanta residence to Puff Daddy’s house where he was allegedly exposed for the first time in his life to marijuana, alcohol, sex and hanging around with the big stars. Possibly because Puff, didn’t want his name on some kiddy stuff but rather wanted to make an adult mature album and wanted Usher to have the experience to sing the material being someone who really lived that shit, but more likely because marijuana, alcohol, sex and big stars are the things you are going to encounter in abundance when hanging around at one of the residences owned by the artist formerly known as Puff Daddy, and when you let a 15 year old walk around in such a place unattended to, well, you get the picture. They got it cracking and released Usher’s self-titled debut… to the sound of crickets, but after all these years of collecting dust on record store shelves this finally sold over 500 k. And it is my favorite Usher album.

Wanna know why?, read on!

1. I’ll Make It Right

This cool-ass, grooving Puff Daddy-Alex Richbourg co-helmed hiphop track gives it up to the old school by throwing in a soundbite from the Audio Two’s classic Top Billin’, which was a nice touch and a trick repeated by 50 Cent on his 2007 hit single I Get Money, albeit with a different sample from that song. Beatwise this is what people today, who have never actually heard the real thing, would call old school hiphop, but it’s still pretty decent. Usher’s singing is technically okay and with all these factors combined I would say that this was in fact a pretty decent album opener.

2. Interlude I

A lot of 1990s R&B albums have these, short melodramatic melodic interludes. I’m not sure why these exist, other than to fill up a cd’s playing time or up the total amount of tracks contained within the compact disc. It sure as hell does beat hiphop’s tendency of throwing generally unfunny skits in between songs because unlike that kind of bullshit this does in fact count as actual music.

3. Can U Get Wit It?

Puff’s Uptown Records homeboy and JoDeCi member and producer DeVanté Swing writes and produces a quintessentially mid-‘90s R&B-G-funkish-sex ballad, classy vocoder work included, which shouldn’t surprise anyone since he pioneered this style with said group. Off course since this is a carbon copy of that group’s musical output one could now compare Usher’s vocal style to theirs and make some sense with the comparison. Usher is a much more modest singer than K-Ci and Jojo are, and it’s refreshing to hear a JoDeCi song, performed without their typically flashy, over the top melisma. (That would be my biggest beef with ‘90s contemporary R&B, seriously boys and girls… Just because Stevie sounded okay enough hitting every note on the ladder doesn’t mean you will too. Oh, nevermind. That piece of honest advice came seventeen years too late… And for Usher it was unnecessary. He got it already.) On the other hand the fifteen year old incarnation of Ush doesn’t really sound comfortable singing this adult themed material like he hadn’t done any of this sex stuff yet (which, for all we know might be the truth.) So concluding: I really liked the beat and even sort of liked Usher’s interpretation of a Jodeci song, however, this reminded me just a little bit of the Key of Awesome’s parody of Justin Bieber, which ironically contains the line “I know all of Usher’s dances.” as well as those duets between the Lonely Island and Justin Timberlake (Dick In a Box, Motherlover, 3way (Golden Rule)) anyone of them applies, because they are each parodies of this particular musical era and genre) so overall meh.

4. Think of You

This velvetty Puff Daddy-Chucky Thompson co-production rocks a Biz Markie vocal sample lifted from his guest appearance on Big Daddy Kane’s Just Rhymin’ With Biz and was co-written by Faith Evans, Usher and Usher’s future LaFace-labelmate Donell Jones. This is both a lot more catchy and a lot less risqué than the previous single. Can U Get Wit It, hence it sounds a lot better and more credible and it was probably because of that why this became the only minor hit song off Usher. Either way. If one of you readers want to make me really, really happy please leave a comment listing all the similar songs from this era you know about because I fucking love this one.

5. Crazy

Crazy is a love ballad driven by a pretty good shuffling instrumental created by Brian-Alexander Morgan, the guy behind most of SWV’s hits, with Usher putting in a decent emotive performance.

6. Slow Love

This has got the same credibility problem as Can U Get Wit It but not nearly as good an instrumental.

7. The Many Ways

Written and produced by Kiyamma Griffin and early ‘90s R&B superstar Al B. Sure! this lush, hooky, melodic, extra suave ballad is by far the best song off Usher. Yes the use of a piano-intro which then morphs into an outdated synth plus the sound effect of a drop of water sizzling on a hot metallic surface is the pinnacle of cheesy. Yes, indeed, there isn’t much substance to be found on The Many Ways but contemporary R&B songs generally aren’t the place to look for when it’s well thought-through interesting lyrics that’s concerned. When it’s catchy music and lyrics one can easily relate to though, this is definitely your genre and in these aspects The Many Ways delivers very well. The video however tries to sell Usher as the pint-sized loverman again, which didn’t work all that well at the time of release since nobody bought either the single or the album, but today is fun sorta, kinda… since he comes off as some random fifteen-year-old kid who looks and sounds like Usher a lot parodying the 2004 version of him really well.

8. I’ll Show You Love

This groovy, James Brown sampling Puff Daddy-Alex Richbourg instrumental is really good, but Usher, while sounding decent comes across as a tool, which means you could put pretty much put any R&B singer on here and have a quality song… (Well any R&B singer except Jason Derülo, that guy sucks! Oh, and Trey Songz and… Whoever else has only been popular in the post-autotune era? Right, That guy is an exception too! )

9. Interlude 2 (Can’t Stop)

Please refer to my comments on Interlude 1.

 10. Love Was Here

Too dramatic for the fifteen year old Usher to carry. If the song’s writer Al B. Sure! used it for himself and would’ve let his falsetto fetish run wild over, this would’ve sounded a lot more natural and better because of it.

11. Whispers

Whoa, DeVanté returns to the studio with a beat so goddamn chilled-out and uplifting that I forgot about Usher’s existence for five minutes straight, and he was singing on the entirety of the song.

12. You Took My Heart

Heavy D’s homeboy DJ Eddie F drops by with an instrumental that fits the rest of the album sonically but does little more. It carries Usher’s vocals to their intended destination but isn’t going to knock anyone’s socks off. Although you won’t be inclined to interrupt your knocking of boots (ha!) to press the >| button if you would have this album on.

13. Smile Again

Puff, Herb Middleton and Faith write a bluesy song that probably would’ve been a better fit for Faith, herself, although Usher doesn’t do a terrible job with it. I really wonder to whom the high note at the end of this song belongs.

14. Final Goodbye

A breakup song that serves double duty as a supposedly clever announcement that the album is over, and so was Usher’s career for the time being. On the real though, sometime after this album’s release this really did seem like a final goodbye. The albums chart positions, record sales and radio play weren’t very good and if it weren’t for his later successes it would be highly unlikely that Usher would ever even earn a gold plaque, which eventually it just barely did probably in the absence of a follow-up in the years following My Way.

Best tracks

I’ll Make It Right, Crazy, Think Of You, The Many Ways, I’ll Show You Love, Whispers

Conclusions

So yeah. I really dig this album. Yes, Usher hasn’t really found his voice here yet, yes extremely dated sound, yes few outstanding radio singles, yes Usher’s vocals are wholly unexceptional and melt away in Usher’s expensive ass production. I know, I know. I just heard the thing. But what I like about this is its un-poppy, unmistakably 1994 hiphop-soul sound. Because of all the cheesy instrumentation, its occasional straightforward jacking of elements of other tracks and because of there being only one singer on leads for the entire album there’s a remarkable consistency to be found on here. Also returning to the point of Usher’s singing being secondary to the beats. I think here this is a good thing. If K-Ci and JoJo sang these songs the vocals would probably be more impressive but they would try to impress the listener with their vocal ranges rather than just sing the goddamn songs already, a tendency which makes their JoDeCi songs so distinctive and most of their post-JoDeCi work so goddamn unlistenable. Besides Usher’s vocals are competent enough and the songs are generally well written for what they are. This album doesn’t provide any clues as to why three years after this album’s flopping Usher was still signed to LaFace and got to record a sophomore album but I’m glad he did anyway because Ush, save for his post Here I Stand work, of which I have heard very little as always been one of the better pop radio artists around. But we’ll discuss follow-up albums in due time. [Edit: Finally I would like to point out my own hypocrisy before anyone else does. Yes, I liked this album pretty much for the exact same reasons I hated Justin’s My Worlds. Deal with it, bitch. There is nothing one can objectively say about music. This reviewer knows this and hence, what is boringly repetitive on Justin’s album can be remarkably consistent here.]

Recommendations

For fans of early ‘90s, post-New Jack Swing R&B (Mary J. Blige, Ginuwine, JoDeCi, Al B. Sure!, Aaliyah, R. Kelly, Boyz II Men, Brandy, Ralph Tresvant et al.) picking this one up should be a no-brainer. This takes you back from the era of Blackberries and Biebers to the simpler era of Pagers and high top fades in an instant. For fans of Usher as a pop artist, this is a tough one. Usher doesn’t sound like any of his follow-up albums. All which came after this was decidedly pop-radio oriented compared to this, which is best at home on (currently throwback) quiet storm-radio formats. There’s nothing on here which is as catchy as You Make Me Wanna, U Remind Me or such and hence fans of those songs are possibly going to find this hella boring. But you can test this for yourself by listening to the songs listed in the best tracks cathegory. Especially Think of You and The Many Ways are fit for this purpose.