‘In My Mind’ by BJ The Chicago Kid Album Review: The Essence of Modern Soul
Bryan James Sledge, known by his stage alias as BJ The Chicago Kid, is not a complete newcomer to the R&B scene. After his 2012 full-length debut Pineapple Now-Laters, he collaborated on songs with the hip-hop elite, many of whom now make an appearance on his new album and first major record-label (none other than the iconic Chicago-based label Motown) endeavor In My Mind. Appearances by Chance the Rapper and Kendrick Lamar make the record vocally diverse and thrilling.
‘In My Mind’ by BJ The Chicago Kid Album Review
The album opens with several strong soulful songs, which are overly sexual and packed with sensual vocals. “Church” takes a more spiritual turn, describing a passionate, carnal relationship that the singer eventually yields to but only after saying a prayer. The beats and harmonies on “Church,” featuring Chance the Rapper, are somewhat reminiscent of a channel orange Frank Ocean. Followed by “Love Inside,” an explicit down-tempo jam, the singer’s voice is sultry and seductive, the melody — simple and enchanting. “The Resume” carries on the trend set with the preceding two songs — unabashedly alluring and sexy. As far as the lyrics are concerned, they fall on the mundane side, but regardless the musical production is at a level that compensates for whatever shortcomings the familiar tropes might have.
From then on the album takes a more romantic twist with one of the two tender ballads on the song list — “Shine.” The uplifting piano and strings recall certain Jussie Smollett Empire songs. The raw sensitivity of the lyrics comes across as genuine, fueled by profound emotional truth. Followed by a couple down-to-earth tracks depicting the struggles of a passionate relationship — “Wait Til The Morning” and “Heart Crush” — In My Mind remains true to its project of presenting the authentic experience of love in all its dimensions.
A similar spiritual vein sets forth by “Church,” the next track “Jeremiah/World Needs More Love,” featuring Eric Ingram is a beautiful soulful gospel anthem, celebrating love and preaching for more love in the world. Sledge’s vocals are probably the clearest and unwavering on this track, uplifting and inspiring the listener – the essence of soul music.
The Kendrick Lamar collab “The New Cupid” tells an amusing narrative about Cupid being “too busy in the club.” This is also a subtle criticism of the misguided direction modern R&B has taken. With In My Mind, BJ The Chicago Kid takes up the role of R&B’s cupid, bringing love back to the world through his music. “Woman’s World” riffs on the famous James Brown classic track “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” as a tender moment of appreciation of a woman’s power in her capability to give life. The remaining songs on the album seem somewhat less streamlined, but ultimate conclude the record on a funkier high note.
In My Mind is an exciting R&B album with elements of soul and hip-hop. It has the perfect balance of sensuality, rawness and confidence, a blend of traditional and inventive R&B. With straightforward lyrics, unpretentious melodies and firmly grounded voice, BJ The Chicago Kid makes this album an incredible first major-label feat.
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