BJ the Chicago Kid - Pineapple Now & Laters

Posted May 4, 2012

Over the last decade R&B has slowly but surely morphed from “rhythm & blues” to “hip-hop...

Pineapple Now & Laters Album Review

Over the last decade R&B has slowly but surely morphed from “rhythm & blues” to “hip-hop that just so happens to have a R&B singer on the hook.” Or, at the very least, “R&B that just so happens to have a rapper on a guest verse.” The music that gets labeled R&B now would be barely recognizable to the founders of the genre, people like Otis Redding and Sam Cooke. Need proof? How about the fact that while Billboard charts used to list R&B Singles separately, starting in 1999 they’ve decided to go with Hip-Hop / R&B Singles. Simply put, Billboard decided, “It’s getting too hard to tell the difference, f**k it, we’re just going to stick a / in there and combine them into one category.”

I don’t want to be the grumpy old man that complains about the hybridization of rap and R&B, but in the merger we have lost something. At its core R&B is about emotional extremes; lust and love, heartbreak and joy, but often hip-hop’s only emotion is confidence. R&B is no longer about having fun, it’s about pounding back Patron shots in the club. R&B is no longer about sex, it’s about having sex in the club after pounding back too many Patron shots. So while I’m hesitant to use a phrase like “real” when it comes to music, I can’t think of any better way to describe BJ the Chicago Kid’s new album, Pineapple Now & Laters, then to call it the realest R&B album I’ve heard this year.

BJ is one of those artists that might have snuck up on you, I know he snuck up on me – perhaps because his brand of R&B isn’t particularly conducive to Ludacris guest verses (although I bet he’d take one). Honestly, I didn’t know much about the young singer besides what I’d heard from a small handful of tracks and that (I assumed) he was from Chicago. So the first time I listened to Pineapple Now & Laters it had the advantage of being both excellent and surprisingly excellent. When the album’s first real track, Sex X Money X Sneakers, started playing my expectations were minimal. By the time the soulfully pounding cut had come to a close my expectations were high, and then by the time the subtly uplifting Fly Girl Get ‘Em had ended, my expectations were sky high. There’s a certain energy only truly honest R&B can convey and that energy pervades the album, from the burning Aiight to the superb Other Side, for which BJ deserves some Marvin Gaye comparisons, Pineapple Now & Laters is obviously the work of a man who’s clearly been schooled in classic R&B.

Now that doesn’t mean that BJ is completely cut off from any hip-hop influence, it simply feels like this is R&B with notes of hip-hop incorporated instead of the other way around. The drums on Sex X Money X Sneakers knock hard enough to make a serious emcee feel at home, and in other hands Dreams II would have been a five minute exercise in lyrical dexterity. Most powerfully, the album’s soul sole rapper feature comes in the form of Kendrick Lamar, who offers up two distinctly gripping verses on both The World is a Ghetto and His Pain. Kendrick is far from your average rapper though, which is why he sounds so at home on an album that’s far from your average R&B album.

The majority of Pineapple Now & Laters though leans heavily on BJ’s vocal delivery, and he’s more than up to the task. A lot of people have good voices, but BJ pairs his seamlessly smooth delivery with a distinct phrasing. Just listen to the way he manages to be both subtle and aggressive on King Kong, or the way he flows though The Big Payback, an openly sexual track that likely would have fallen into the depth of mediocrity in the hands of most artists.

So yes, in case you can’t tell, Pineapple Now & Laters is one of those rare things in an age of immediacy and over-saturation; a truly hidden gem, which hopefully won’t be hidden for much longer. That’s the thing about R&B though. When it’s bad, it’s really bad. But when it’s good, when it’s coming from BJ the Chicago Kid, it’s undeniable.

DJBooth Rating - 4.5 Spins

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Posted May 4, 2012
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