One of the most soulfully and amazing voices in contemporary R&B, BJ the Chicago Kid, is easily one of the most soul-bearing artists in not only R&B/Soul, but all of music. Consistently bringing some of the most enduring soul-drenched great love ballads to some of the most feel-good jams. The Grammy-nominated singer and songwriter has a soulful and powerful voice that appeals to both old and young listeners. Which he showed on his Grammy-nominated Motown Records debut, In My Mind. Three years later he shows so yet again on his very soulfully amazing followup album, 1123.
The very soulfully funky instrumentalized backdrops of the Danja and M-Millz-produced intro, Feel the Vibe. Which features Anderson .Paak, providing the perfect vibe to set off the soulfully great and amazing vibe of the whole album. That perfectly segues into the bubbly and sexed-up, as well as playfully fun, Champagne. A very standout record not cause of its songwriting depth, but because it gets straight to the point and so many people can relate to it. A more standout record that’s easily one of the best of the whole album is the snapping/slinky Karriem Riggins-produced, Get Away. A very Midwest harmony slow jam that features Buddy, J.I.D and Kent Jamz. That has plenty of Hip-Hop cues in it with BJ rapping on the first verse and Kent, who sings the sexy and soulful chorus, even briefly rapping on the fourth verse. All four really bringing their A-game over the slinky smooth beat, as they sing and rap so beautifully about love. The very classic and adult contemporary harmonies from BJ towards the end of the record making it even greater.
Going into the next portion of the album, BJ the Chicago Kid goes into more passionately and soulful old-school sounds. Starting with the very passionate lover’s anthem, Time Today. A very retro-soul Andre Harris and Jarius “J-Mo” Mozee-produced backdrop that has that soulfully classic old-school feel we all grew up and loved so much. Heck, that a lot of us still love. Perfect for BJ’s very passionate lyrics about having enough time for love. That perfectly segues into the Cool & Dre-produced, Can’t Wait. A very thrilling nearly five minutes ride about a love he can barely wait for. Meanwhile the Rick Ross featured, Playa’s Ball, brings that old-school nostalgic sound so many of us grew up loving. The very coastal grooving piano-laden old-school sounds of the Cool & Dre, and 808-Ray co-produced track providing the perfect backdrop for one of BJ’s best vocal performances so far of his career. Where he’s able to really showoff the very colorful nature and ripeness of his vocal pipes. Ross the perfect guest feature that adds the just right touch, as he really excels on more luxuriously, chill and slow jams like this. The marvelous piano sounds on this and especially on the outro really take the record to another level too.
BJ the Chicago Kid really shows off some of his best work of the whole album on the next three track sequence though. Really playing to his strengths of slow-bumping retro-modern grooves that are perfect for live instrumentation band backing. The very soulful, Too Good, finds BJ over the tense organ and guitar backdrop, as well as dusty old-school groove lamenting about a relationship. The very expressive nuances and riffs really letting the Chicago Kid, express himself so naturally here. That then perfectly segues into BJ’s very beautiful and amazing cover of Ella Mai’s, Close. That he gives a 90’s adult contemporary/grown-folks sound that honestly makes it sound a lot better than the original and one of the best covers you will probably hear of all-time. Arguably perhaps the best record on the album and one of the best of his whole career is the very next track, Rather Be with You. A very groovy big and sappy Calvin Frazier-produced ballad that finds BJ wallowing in artificial drama he tries to pointally resist. The vocal great harmonies, harmonic progression, along with the pre-chorus and chorus sections providing one of the most well-rounded and thoughtfully original records so far of his career.
On the final two records of the album BJ shows his great versatility. Going with the more Hip-Hop influenced sounds of a lot of today’s R&B on the haters anthem, Worryin’ Bout Me. That finds BJ singing the very catchy hook about how he ain’t, “Worryin’ bout” others who, “ain’t” going to help make, “no money.” With his Motown labelmate Offset, who’s a surprise feature, providing an unexpectedly dope and very fire collaboration that most, myself included, wouldn’t really expect from the two. The more pop-infused yet still thoughtful and inspirational R&B on the Afrojack-produced and featured closer, Reach, providing something different that still works. That makes it sound like a breath of fresh air with how it’s able to highlight BJ’s very gospel and inspirational soulful like lyrics and vocals. For one of the best and most inspirational cuts you will ever find to close out an album so perfectly.
Overall, BJ the Chicago Kid, is not one of the more flashier artists there is. Though he maybe flashy every once in a while on tracks like his single, Worryin’ Bout Me, he’s an artist that let’s his soulfully consistent and amazing work, vocals and lyrics do the talking. Like many of the R&B/Soul greats of yesteryear that were also signed to the historic Motown label, such as Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and Smokey Robinson, BJ is a more humble soul and artist. Which is why even despite his Grammy nominations and very critically-acclaim of his Motown debut, In My Mind, he’s still one of the more painfully underrated and underappreciated artists in all of music. His new album, 1123, proving it so yet again. As though not better than his last album, it’s still a very remarkable album. That though falling just short of being a classic album, is still one of the best albums to drop here in 2019, regardless of genre. Which should garner him even more Grammy nominations yet again too.