Where does R&B stand in 2012? Coming from where last year finished off, a very different space. Last year’s booming rise of The Weeknd and Frank Ocean took the music world by storm–pushing the genre forward for a larger audience of new listeners to appreciate. The expected headline for this year is the return of D’Angelo and hopefully the long awaited follow up to the legendary Voodoo. It seems that there’s another bit to add to that conversation: a return to classic R&B form from the relatively fresh-faced BJ The Chicago Kid with his debut, Pineapple Now & Laters.
In an interview with Potholes, BJ revealed how much Dilla he’d been listening to while recording Pineapple Now & Laters. It’s evident in the soulful production running through the whole album. “Sex Is The Best Breakfast”, “King Kong”, and “The Big Payback” all occupy different emotional territory, but fit seamlessly in the context of the larger picture. Proper production plays a major role in holding things together, but it’s BJ’s vocals that elevate the album to another level of cohesion and emotional depth.
BJ’s vocals come strong from the start with the resounding thump of “Sex X Money X Sneakers” and “Fly Girl Get’em” before diving into the crooning falsetto of “The Big Payback” and “Aight”. BJ almost treads in the territory of R&B clichés about ‘love’, but confidently lets his vocals portray a heartfelt honesty that gives ballads, “Good Love” and “Genuine”, a genuine sincerity.
Emotional honesty is pivotal in holding Pineapple Now & Laters together, which is perfectly displayed in the album’s highlight “His Pain II”. Kendrick Lamar successfully steals the show here, sounding on the verge of tears, before BJ comes in to close things out. It’s this kind of sincerity that helps Pineapple Now & Laters stand out from BJ’s contemporaries. It’s a level of maturity that most artists dream of reaching at some point in their career. It may only be his debut album, but BJ The Chicago Kid has established himself as an R&B heavyweight with one of the first essential releases of 2012.