Recently, I was on an early Sunday morning ride up 75 North coming from a night of music and excess libation. The ride from Cincinnati to Dayton, Ohio wasn’t long at just 45 minutes. I’d driven it countless times and it provided me the will to completely escape mentally the entire way. As my mind was elsewhere, I offered a buddy of mine the opportunity to control the AUX cable (an honor in many social circles). With pride, he accepted.
What came out of my speakers was a smooth yet raspy, hard yet appropriately soft, foreign yet eerily familiar sound. I asked, “Who is this?”. He replied “Oh, just this guy BJ The Chicago Kid“. I was intrigued.
GoodLuv’n was the song that caught my attention in the car and the one I was most eager to give a better listen. A soulfully sung confession of a man’s admiration of his lover, Good Luv’n showcases the raw emotion of classic R&B. It could be a constant on any a hip-hop and R&B station without losing its Rhythm and Blues identity along the way. And his voice? BJ the Chicago Kid is unapologetically soulful but fresh, and his influence by timeless and eternally cool stylings like Ronald Isley (his amazing cover of the Isley Brother’s Classic Don’t Say Goodnight is here), Marvin Gaye and 12 Play era R. Kelly is obvious. Once I got home I clawed through the internet for information on this amazing new artist I had just discovered. In a place and time where the line between R&B and Hip-Hop is so disappointingly blurred and at many times non-existent, where has this gem been? Apparently, right here all along.
A former background singer for gospel group Mary Mary, Brian “BJ The Chicago Kid” James Sledge released his first mixtape A Taste of Chicago in 2009 followed by his first digital album Pineapple Now-Laters in 2012. Recently he was even quietly nominated for a Grammy Award for his vocals on the hit SchoolBoy Q song Studio. Often we call artist underrated, but I can honestly say that this man is fits this mold. I have yet to hear him sing a solitary note not better than much of what’s played daily on the radio.
A few tracks to check out:
- Good Luv’n – An personal and relatable confession of one’s affection. Complete with lyrical samples from Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get it On and Let’s Do It Again by The Staple Singers.
- Lady Lady – A slick song with a retro feel and modest shout-out to physical gratification. Full of creative word play and just straight up lovemaking without being excess or overbearing. Side Note: The video is just as dope.
- One In A Million – In a genre full of Aaliyah samples (Can we agree to let her rest?) this is the only one I have ever liked let alone loved. A perfect tribute mash-up of Aaliyah’s One In A Million, R. Kelly’s R&B Thug and Jodeci’s Feenin. BJ The Chicago Kid makes them flow effortlessly and seamlessly together to the point that if one didn’t know better they would think it was one song.
The man is talented.
BJ the Chicago Kid is what a perfect blend of hip-hop and soul used to and should be–together yet separate. BJ is truly a gem in this field of hardcore, loveless, mediocre R&B music. Where the hell has he been? Better yet where the hell have I been? Because BJ the Chicago Kid has been here. We just need to make sure he’s here to stay.