Good house cleaning music.
That is the measure of a classic R&B album. Can you let a record play and the rhythm keeps you moving from bedroom to kitchen to living room. Are the hooks strong enough to keep you repeating them while you scrub the grim out of our bathtub.
You may laugh but the artists and albums we remember most are the ones we can share with the whole family. They somehow become another family member allowing us to survive together. Stevie, Michael, Aretha, Erykah, Jill provided the tunes while grandma cooked, and the rest of the clan cleaned.
Soul music is connected to the soul and therefore we are linked to it beyond the lyrics, and the music. It’s like breath. It comes in and goes out. It is essential to our being.
North Carolina native and Harlem transplant Rai seems to understand this with his debut effort “Loves On The Way” which drops June 8th worldwide. The album is in conversation with the classic and contemporary classic records we grew up with like, “Songs In the Key of Life, “Off The Wall” and “Who Is Jill Scott? – Words And Sounds, Vol. 1.”.
First let’s start with the fact that the album has 13 full songs. Rai recognizes that while anthems are great in the club surrounded by your besties, when you get home, you just look silly marching around the house. You want a different aesthetic.
The title track, for example, is four minutes and forty seconds. With this much time, all the elements of the song get their fair shake. Yes, Rai’s vocals are allowed to rise with each verse and there is actually a bridge that provides the perfect scenery for his tender tenor to chew up. But there is a whole vamp section where the instruments get alone time. Much like Maxwell’s “Pretty Wings” which clocks in at five minutes and 11 seconds, there is room to let a song breathe.
The singer/songwriter address the time and effort he takes with his music in his press release stating:
“I approached creating my latest project similar to how I imagine a designer approaches creating a collection. Painfully detailed. Each piece unique. Each appealing for different reasons, but it all goes together. I am committed to making good music and I’ve found peace that right now that may not be the most lucrative endeavor, and I’m good with that.”
Oher stand outs on the album is the mid-tempo grooving “Priceless” which uses horns and piano as back-up singers to Rai’s punchy fun vocals. Here is channeling semi-contemporary artists like Eric Benet, Donnell Jones and Ne-Yo.
“Here I Am” the introductory track is like the mantra of his album. The artist begs you to make all the assumption you want about him, here is here to stay, “Here I am/Welcome to the show/If you didn’t already know/Now you know just who I am/Every part of me for the world to see.” It’s an open and honest opening. Rai knows he can blow, but he is confident to let the space between his notes live. He is not pressed for time on this album. He is relaxed and wants the listener to be chill as well.
“Loves On That Way” is not a club banger and that is the point. Rai sees there is a place for art that can be both public and private. Much like a classic record, when you play with at a different time, maybe with a spouse, the songs take on new meaning, the lyrics touch in a different way. This album sits on the heart like a journal entry, and it will keep you moving and grooving in your house, all night long.