A soulfully introspective jazz-tinged timeless masterpiece of the ups and downs in the space odyssey of love, SiR, delivers yet another critically-acclaimed debut album to the list of great albums for Hip-Hop Westcoast powerhouse label, Top Dawg Entertainment with his first proper release on the label, November. Just the second to come from the label in the R&B/Soul category following the huge success last year of TDE First Lady, SZA with her own debut masterpiece, Ctrl, the 31-year-old singer/songwriter and producer shows with November that the label known for mostly great Hip-Hop, is no longer just a label for great Hip-Hop, but for great R&B/Soul as well.
SiR also being the latest in a growing list of great R&B/Soul artists that aren’t just in that category, but a contemporary futuristic R&B that has hints of the genres more tender Neo-Soul roots. Which such acts as Daniel Caesar, Snoh Aalegra, Anderson .Paak, SZA, Khalid and H.E.R. to name a few have emerged from over the last couple of years. With this album really helping him emerge from the background of the more behind the scenes role he has had to start his career.
Which is quite ironic since SiR isn’t even the first voice we hear on the album, but “K.” A female robotic travel companion that interacts with him throughout the album as a narrator of sorts during his time and journey through a fictional sci-fi like space in his journey for love. Which really brings great narrative cohesion to the concept of the album beyond the music.
At it’s core, the Inglewood, California native’s debut is the conflict of loving and leaving, between pride and heart, falling in and out of love, as well as the many roller-coaster emotions that one goes throughout in an intimate relationship. The old-school themes with dreamy R&B aesthetics and airy, atmospheric, jazz-tinged, dark production, the perfect backdrop throughout the 11 tracks to really showcase his perfect high pitch sound and songwriting abilities that had him songwriting and engineering for such greats as Stevie Wonder, Jill Scott and Tyrese, long before he decided he wanted to be a solo artist and not just somebody behind the scenes.
Just as to be expected from an album that deals with love and almost as a self-therapy session of sorts, the lyrics and songs are all very personal. This notion really hitting home on the very first real record, That’s Alright. A smooth, mid-tempo jam and one of the more standout records from the album, which finds SiR over the very silky-smooth spacey synths, plunks of piano keys and flutters of a golden hi-hat, admitting how his newfound lifestyle even affects his relationships. Singing, “All her lil friends can’t stand me. Because they know I would trade her love for a Grammy.” There’s other points it hits as well throughout, but probably most notably on the regret-tinged, Better. Where he sings, “I know I’m right where I needed to be all along. So, until I have your love, there’s no surrender. No retreat. She just wanted to love me, I wouldn’t let her. Now she don’t know me.”
The production is really one of the strongest points of the whole album too. Whether it be the very smooth gloomy piano keys on lead single, Something Foreign featuring his TDE labelmate, ScHoolboy Q or the just as very soulfully smooth production of the funky sax and keys on the very beautiful Rascal-produced, Something New featuring Etta Bond, or even the just as soulfully smooth production from Grammy Award-winning producer, Andre Harris on closing track, Summer In November. The soulfully jazz-tinged fresh take of H-Money’s production, which slyly sneaks in an iteration of Dr. Dre’s 1999 hit, Xxplosive, from 2001 on, Dreaming of Me, really allowing SiR to showcase his silky smooth vocals, as he sings about a love he now feels he finally has back, but really had to earn. It’s easily one of the most standout records and maybe even arguably the best record on the entire album. The way it transitions to the funky bassline of closing track, Summer In November, is one of the most smoothly perfect transitions possibly ever. The very amazingly soulful and smooth production, really bringing to life that beautiful idea of actually being in love.
At just barely over 30 minutes and with only 11 tracks, there’s not really much room for error. Which SiR shows like his TDE counterparts, he’s very capable of executing. As it’s definitely one of those albums you can just play straight through without skipping and ride out to at anytime. Which is quite ironic for an album titled after a Winter month and released during the Winter. This is definitely the first of what’s sure to be many great albums in a long career and I wouldn’t be surprised to see at not only many top R&B, but top albums of the year lists later in the year.