Jeremih JeremihLate Nights With Jeremih
For the last few days, I have been feeling that the concept R&B is as personal as a set of underwear. I've been noticing how what others perceive as R&B, to me is urban, for instance. I don't know if it's out of nostalgia or because I'm looking for answers, but my thoughts drifted back to a show on Spanish radio station M80, Supersonido, which was my first reference for the genre. They used to play music by the likes of Toni Braxton, Lighthouse Family, Lisa Stansfield, and Puff Daddy, all in perfect harmony (at least, in my perception). Now, it's all messed up. Some come from electronica, others simply rap, others idolise Prince. There are even a few indie darlings. But that's actually great. Because, and I insist, from where I'm standing, R&B is at a point where it's not very prolific, yet it is more varied than ever. However, there are names, releases, mixtapes that set the standard, which help measure the yearly crop of R&B. R. Kelly, the eternal comeback of D’Angelo, what The-Dream had for breakfast, the latest Frank Ocean video, Aaliyah's hologram yes or no?, or who's the bad guy in the whole Abel Tesfaye-Zodiac feud, they're things that transcend to the daily news feeds of any music publication, sometimes even appearing in the general press. Rich, varied and with the public eye on it, I don't think it's a bad time for R&B.
That said, you have to admit that Jeremih wasn't one of the stand-out names filtering into the mainstream. Nevertheless, many fans of the genre knew at least a few of his (brilliant) tracks. And those who have heard his two albums will most likely have enjoyed them thoroughly. That's why, when Datpiff announced the release of “Late Night With Jeremih” with the explicit video for “Go To The Mo”, listening to the mixtape automatically went on the to-do list. Almost simultaneously, a radio rip of “773 Love” started to spread on the web, like wildfire. Mike Will in his sweetest state, gospel organs, and Jeremih urging us to the booty call; with those three ingredients, the song became an instant classic. And, in spite of what we all think when it came out before the mixtape was released, it's not the best track on “Late Night With Jeremih”.
The best thing about Jeremih's mixtape is that every listen uncovers a new track to succumb to, while still enjoying the rest of the repertoire. During the first listens, you feel the urge to go back over and over again to the sexy and druggy contributions by Gucci Mane and 2Chainz on “Outta Control”, or to hum along to the naughty lines of “Fuck U All The Time”; later, you get to the aforementioned “773 Love”, and you're scared to go on, because the good stuff has ended, which is the case with most of the mediocre records we hear every day. But no. “Keep It Moving” is hypnotising with its neo-soul shaking and its indications that it goes on with “Rated R” (which I've heard described as “fucking with your socks on with a 1994 Vega Sicilia”), “Feel The Bass” (or: how Tricky Stewart stole our hearts again), and with the two productions signed by Jeremih himself, “Late Nights” and “Letters To Fans”, showing he either has beginner's luck or the right skills to take on an album on his own.
Why now, and not two years ago? Why a mixtape, and not a proper album? Why does Jeremih rock, all of a sudden? In his biog on Facebook there is a quote by him, claiming that he has the gift to make sex songs any time he wants. Focusing on that subject matter on this tape has probably brought the best out of him. Vocally, he covers the broad spectrum of the genre (from rhyming to sweet singing, from gospel to falsetto); he's used his own productions; he made a selection of excellent beats, perfect for the late night stories he's telling, and without having had to dig all too deep into his wallet. There aren't any superstars collaborating, either, apart from Gucci Mane and 2Chainz. So the absence of a big label moaning about selling records, so to speak, is the foundation for huge success for a gem Trey Songz' decent album, nor Usher's flawed latest record, nor Chris Brown's most recent pile of pigswill (which, by the way, is urban to me, not R&B) even come close to.
Is this the best thing in R&B in 2012? Only God, aka The-Dream, knows, he who still hasn't released “The Love IV”. Potential rivals are Miguel, who'll come out with “Kaleidoscope Dream” on 2nd October, and Ciara, whose new effort will be released in December, if everything goes well. So, until that time, place you bets, drink Vega Sicilia and make whoopie with your socks on.
*Download the mixtape here