(Photo: Courtesy of Mass Appeal Records)
Like a kid going off to college, R&B has done a lot of experimenting in recent years. With the unflinching prevalence of hip hop and the meteoric rise of electronic music in American culture, that classic lovemaking music that used to define the genre has become much harder to find.
But with his fourth studio album, A Place Called Love Land, dropping on September 3, Raheem DeVaughn looks to help put soul music back in its rightful place. He gives fans a taste of what they can expect to hear with the mixtape A Road to 'A Place Called Love Land.'
The 25-minute release features four full-length cuts and three snippets, all of which are introduced by the seasoned crooner himself, offering an all access pass to his entire process and putting listeners right there with him as his emotions manifest themselves into song.
The mix starts with the album's first single, "Ridiculous." Radio Raheem uses the ballad, which was penned by Ne-Yo, to explain the never-ending conflict between listening to your heart or your brain and the mistakes that go along with choosing the wrong one.
"I never said that every choice I make everyone was going to like/I never said that satisfying the masses was how I will live my life/And never once did I say that all of my decisions would be right/I never said I would ignore my heart and listen just with my mind," he sang.
On the J. Phoenix-produced "Meantime," Raheem pours his passionate soul into the track, singing with the frustration of someone stuck in relationship purgatory. The seductive singer gets real as the snippet fades out and he asks in his speaking voice, "The f--k am I supposed to do now?"
Raheem then introduces "Pink Crushed Velvet," explaining how Bobby Brown's use of the word "Tenderoni" inspired him to coin a similarly cryptic term, which he sings is "the sweetest thing I've ever felt before."
He rounds out the love experience with "Love Connection," which was previously and fittingly released on Valentine's Day. "I just want to give you good love love love/Let's make a love connection if you think you're ready," sings Raheem over the step-friendly track. It's the perfect wedding song.
Among all those old-school R&B treats and undeniable vocal showcases, the mixtape's biggest surprise was "Wrong Forever," which Raheem said he made "for the guys that feel like, 'I don't deserve this queen I have.'" The futuristic beat is reminiscent of the 50 Cent and Justin Timberlake hit "Ayo Technology," but with a soulful twist.
He also pulled saxophone legend Boney James to stamp the final track, "Maker of Love," and concluded the tape with the announcement that a second album would come roughly nine months after A Place Called Love Land ... which means that if his song "Make a Baby" does what it's supposed to, the sequel should drop just in time to sing some newborns to sleep.
Though unconventional, ARTAPCLL is a four-star amuse-bouche for his next album, giving people enough to make them thirst for more. The only flaw is that it's not fulfilling on its own.