Nearly five years has passed since we were introduced to the outspoken yet passionate singer K.Michelle. It was evident her musical style followed the pain of Mary J.Blige, while combined with the rawness of rapper Lil Kim. The Memphis native seemed to be well on her way as becoming the new voice for young women to seek wisdom and guidance.
However, fighting for her spot in the industry came at high price. As singles like “Self Made,” “I Just Can’t Do This” and “How Many Times” under-performed on the Billboard charts, along with being dropped from her then label Jive Records, it appeared she had run out of gas in the sports car called the music game.
Despite her personal and professional struggles being highlighted in the media, she continued to stay fueled for her sole purpose – to deliver her truth through song.
Now with four successful mixtapes, an EP and two-seasons of ”Love and Hip-Hop Atlanta” under her belt, her hardships have not been in vain as she celebrates the release of her long-awaited debut album “Rebellious Soul.”
Michelle opens up the soulful 11-track diary with “My Life.” Over the last few months, the candid-tune has been sung at sold-out shows but now fans experience the track fully mastered. On the telling-track, she breaks down the naked truth while enlightening many of those who “don’t know nothin’ about it.” It also features street-life verse from Philly MC Meek Mill.
“All my life I’ve been struggling and stressing – that’s why I come up in this bitch with aggression,” Michelle sings bluntly.
Following the opening track, the “Million Hearts” singer sneaks in one of the three interludes hidden within the LP. The dramatic piano-driven interval finds Michelle unleashing her anguish toward her deceitful lover. “Why I let you do me/like doors wide open/ you ran right through me/but you done found the right one n-gga/f-ck you.”
Cruising through the the Eric Hudson-produced track “Damn” and the self-loathing ballad “I Don’t Like Me,” we land safely on track-four of the diary “Can’t Raise A Man.”
Lifted from her mixtape “Zero F-cks Given“ an re-mastered “Can’t Raise A Man” hits close to home for Michelle as she has lived to tell her story. She educates ladies involved with men who won’t and can’t trade in their juvenile ways due to their lack of home training. It acts as a friendly reminder to parents, especially fathers, to train their sons to respect and love woman. At the same time acting as a retrospect to women trying to mold a boy into the man she wants him to be.
“Girl, you ain’t never gonna change nobody/ if he don’t wanna, you can’t make nobody/You can’t raise a man,” belts Michelle.
The album’s lead single “V.S.O.P” is indeed “very special.” Produced by Pop & Oak, the mid-tempo number takes the new and older generation back to a time when R&B felt good and was actually listenable. Adding her soulful touch to The Chi-Lites sampled track, Michelle belts all the ways to make her boo-thang feel more at ease. From lighting candles to even chillin’ his Hennessy she knows how to keep her man satisfied.
Unlike many female R&B artists, K.Michelle isn’t afraid to put her raw and salacious side on wax. On the raunchy track “Pay My Bills” her payments are due in the bedroom and it’s time to compensate her man with an all-night session of lovemaking. Michelle’s lyrical content echos the sexual innuendos harmonies of her mentor R-Kelly’s earlier work.
“I’ma f-ck you like I’m tryna pay bills – Georgia Power, cable bill, babysitter tonight you will, “ sings the sex-driven songstress.
Michelle then sends her prayers to the Lord above on “Sometimes.” The hopeless romantic tries to stay optimistic on an old-fling returning but she quickly realizes its once in a blue moon that happens.
“I should be praying for better things/instead of praying for a man/who don’t give a f-ck about me/Sometimes they do come back/and sometimes they don’t.”
The R&B songstress chucks up the deuces on “Ride Out” after waiting too long for her man to get his act right. “So don’t get mad when I get in my sh-t and ride out — you gon’ be mad when another n-gga show up and show out,” echos Michelle. Produced by Oakwud, the snooze-you-lose record is definitely a personal favorite from the LP and has the potential of becoming the next Urban hit for the singer/reality star.
The “How Many Times” singer gives the sideline-ho a pass on “Hate On Her” then readies herself to be a trophy wife “When I Get A Man.” She closes the diary with “A Mother’s Prayer,” a heartwarming lullaby dedicated to her son, Chase.
After several listens of the debut offering, there are a couple of high points which need to be addressed. First, out of all the producers on the LP, Eric Hudson’s production stood out the most. Not depreciating “Damn” or “When I Get A Man” but “Hate On Her” is an absolute winner. The song tapped into the harmonies and melodies of two talented artist, R-Kelly and The-Dream but with K.Michelle’s honest vocals. Bravo, E. Hudson!
From the samples of Barry White ( “Ride Out”) to the 70′s funk band Black Heat (“Pay My Bills”) and the soulfulness and sincerity in every lyric she sung, K.Michelle truly captured the essence of what the genre of rhythm and blues means to the culture of African-Americans. In addition, she didn’t alter her personality or her sound to satisfy radio or her label, which is a true testament to her artistry.
While “Rebellious Soul” had its share of high points, it a few lows too. With “Can’t Raise A Man” being a heard over a year ago on her last mixtape, it would have been much appreciated if she replaced it with a latter tune like “Pain Killa,” from “The Hold Over” EP or even “I Just Wanna F*ck.“ As far as “My Life,” the production could have evoked more of a darker mood along by axing Meek Mill’s verse.
Nevertheless, “Rebellious Soul” lived up to its name. Rebelling against judgement (“My Life”), low-self esteem (“I Don’t Like Me”) and being man-less (“When I Get A Man”), she finally shuts ups all the naysayers and delivers a solid debut.
3 Must Listens: “V.S.O.P,” ”A Mother’s Prayer,” and “Hate On Her”
Single Worthies: ”Ride Out,” ”My Life” and “When I Get A Man”
Get your copy of K.Michelle’s debut album “Rebellious Soul,” in stores or iTunes now.