There is something about the 70s, particularly in terms of music and fashion. Though hard to define, the 70s were funky and soulful and meaningful. So much spirit and energy went into that decade; politics, social issues, militancy and consciousness seemed to fuse with love and sex and music and life.
I was born into the 70s and so it has a sweet memory to it that came from young naive eyes. I do remember the afros and tie-and-dye shirts and corduroy trousers and the parties at home and Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, Barry White, Aretha Franklin, Ike and Tina, etc being played from the other room.
As I grew older, I discovered the true beauty and power of music from that era and have always been especially drawn to Marvin Gaye. His ability to reflect all sides of man, going from political to love to sexual and back, when he sang, you knew he truly felt the words … they were born out of experience not merely creative writing.
Since that era, we have had great artists who have served as the soundtrack to our lives but it often seems like these are the exception rather than the rule, especially when listening to a lot of the dribble that is played ad nauseum on radio and television. There are those who inspire including D’Angelo, Maxwell, Raphael Saadiq, Anthony Hamilton, etc but they often seem few and far between. Most of the gems never make it into the mainstream and they are, therefore, harder to find and follow.
I consider Raheem DeVaughn one such artist … kinda. I’m a relative late-comer to DeVaughn’s music. I had heard one or two songs from his second album Love Behind The Melody without knowing who he was. I eventually got my hands on a copy of the album a year after it came out … and have probably played it several hundred times.
When I heard he had a new album coming out, I waited with much anticipation, looking forward to what he would bring to the table. The Love & War Masterpiece has not disappointed. Bulletproof featuring Ludacris is a socially conscious song that highlights the ills we are faced with daily … “living like we are bulletproof…”
Too many songs today sound beautiful but say absolutely nothing, Bulletproof speaks … loudly. Black & Blue breaks down what love is not … and it is not any situation where a woman has to deal with abuse… “tell me what type of love leaves you black & blue…”
My Wife is the voice of a man who has had enough of the streets and wants companionship … “don’t want no girlfriend … won’t you be my wife …”
DeVaughn has a knack for taking what could come across as crude or cheesy and turning it into fun, sexy music. In Love Behind The Melody, it was Customer and Love Drug; in The Love & War Masterpiece, it is my current favourite song B.O.B (Battery Operated Boyfriend) …
B.O.B., B.O.B. don’t say he miss you
And he don’t have lips to kiss you
And he don’t have hands to dip your waist
And tell you how good you taste, yeah
See B.O.B., B.O.B. can’t serve you breakfast in bed
Oh no (he can’t) bathe your body (he can’t) rub your feet (he can’t)
He can’t compete with my love (so tonight) I’m comin’ over ….
… B.O.B. don’t play Donny Hathaway followed by Marvin Gaye,
Followed by Sade, followed by Al Green, followed by Raheem,
Followed by Prince, followed by DeBarge, and MJB (MJB) and Jodeci (Jodeci)
Patti Labelle (Patti Labelle) followed by The Isleys (Maxwell),
Earth Wind and Fire (Earth Wind and Fire) and Luther Vandross
‘Cause B.O.B. can’t help you take them Vicky Secrets off …
I have had it for about two months and have been struggling to find the words to properly articulate how it makes me feel. I would say it is a wonderfully, soulful, contemporary album covering the breadth of a man’s experiences and is a worthy link in the chain that joins soul greats across generations but therein lies the one thing that makes me slightly uncomfortable. It opens with the acclaimed Dr Cornel West proclaiming Raheem DeVaughn “the greatest soul singer of his generation” and, in the intro to Mr Right, he starts with “… now some people call me the R&B – Hippie – Neo Soul Rockstar, and others / they call me Mr. Grammy-nominated – BET Award Winning, The hustler / Hustler – Radio Raheem / Mr. Devaughn, even confused it with Divine …”
I just wish he would wait for us to say it, without him anointing himself. He does have a strong case though, if this album is anything to go by. A refreshing change from the mediocrity that attempts to masquerade as soul or R&B music these days.