We all have been there. Whether it's sports, work or any other group project, you're a part of a succesful unit but you just don’t seem to get the recognition you deserve. You know not everyone can be the franchise player, but you still put your heart and soul into a project, hoping that one day someone will recognize that even the smallest contribution significantly elevated the quality of the final blueprint. It's a phenomenon average Joes can relate to, but it perhaps hits hardest in the case of producers and background vocalists. Just take Javonté, a singer and TDE associate whose name might be new to you even though his voice likely isn't.
Ja-who? TDE has a long history of weaving in a wide range of vocalists to support their showcase main artist, notably when they bring in another TDE member to dish out an upcredited assist: see Ab-Soul on Kendrick's "ADHD" and Isaiah Rashad´s "West Savanna" or ScHoolboy “the Real Puff Daddy” Q on "m.A.A.d City." Javonté on the other hand isn't signed to the label, but he has his vocal finger prints on more TDE projects than you would have ever guessed, without ever being noticed by most.
Let's start off with a Kendrick Lamar EP classic, "She Needs Me."
That voice on the hook sounds familiar, right? At least it should for fans of Top Dawg Entertainment given that Javonté is featured on a hell a lot of their songs. How about your favorite almost-blind rap poet Ab-Soul? Javonte's been featured on every one of his three albums, like on Control System´s "Empathy" or on the devastating "The Book Of Soul." Most recently, he served up background vocals on Kendrick Lamar's "Interlude," a song that was his only TDE contribution in 2014 (which makes me assume that the original record without Kendrick's verse on it was recorded at least a year before). Speaking of K. Dot: the Californian neo-soul singer has worked with Mr. Lamar most prominently out of the entire TDE camp. As a matter of fact, on Section.80, an album that most DJBooth Nation members probably know by heart, Javonté's voice is in your ear on almost half of the tracks (!!!) of the entire project, most remarkably on "Chapter 10," where he contributes the introducing hook, and on "Blow My High." The smooth voice that is dominantly singing the R.I.P. Aaliyah chants? That, my friends, is Javonté. If you really listen carefully you´ll further hear him on "Hol´Up," "No Make-Up," "The Spiteful Chant" and even "HiiiPower."
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So how come Javonté is relatively unknown even though he's a frequent collaborator with one of the strongest rap labels in recent time? It’s safe to say that Section.80 probably wouldn’t sound as dope without his soulful voice to back up Kendrick's spoken thoughts, and yet I'm willing to bet most have never even heard his name attached to a release. Unfortunately, Javonté shares the fate of your typical background vocalist, a.k.a. no listed credit as an additional singer on some projects that he has been working on, which makes it really hard to truly research on what songs he has been featured on.
In the middle of December 2014, however, Javonté's Scottie Pippen days (finally) came to an end as he decided to step into the spotlight himself with the release of his full-length solo EP, Where Have You Been.
On his new EP, lead by "Dreams," TDE´s former under-the-radar underdog put together a collection of ten songs that brings that classic R&B vibe back, stressing that he is indeed capable of holding a musical name on his own. Personally, after listening, I am still partial to the "Dreams" that Game delivered, but hey, the fact that the typical Ye snares are also included here made me enjoy the hell out of this song regardless. Other highlights include "Outta Town," a song that has become my personal holiday-driving-through-the-winter-landscape-anthem, and the smooth relationship adviser "Start Over," but you really should give this whole project a spin yourself if you're wondering what R&B music sounds like these days outside of Chris Brown and Trey Songz.
Before you ask, no, there aren´t any TDE features on here, but over the course of the past handful of years Javontè has artistically grown enough to become the only driver on this musical trip. After one listen to his new work I'm truly excited about what else the Los Angeles native has in stores for us, but even when and if he decides to return to his past as a supporting vocalist that's fine with me. He has already proven one thing: it is in fact possible to overcome the everyday struggle of nonobservance, even though it’s still a long way until you can claim the crown for yourself. Still, it's an exciting step into the future for Javonté. And if someone is able to step out of a giant sized shadow that is Kendrick's, why couldn't it be him?
[Kevin Taylor is an aspiring music writer and master of the killer crossover. This is his Twitter.]