ALBUM REVIEW: K. Michelle – ‘Rebellious Soul’

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.

k-michelle-rebellious-soul

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 k-michelle-vsopshe 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.”

Coochie-SymphonyShe brings the humor and the theatrics on “Coochie Symphony (Interlude),” revisiting her hot-pocket trouble from this season of “Love and Hip-Hop Atlanta.”

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.

K-Michelle-Rebellous-Soul

 

Facebook Comments

7 Comments

  1. K Michelle came with it..like you said it some highs and low but it’s a solid debut!! “Sometimes” touches my soul!! B+

  2. Love it! Sooo proud of K. I loved the album. I bought four albums just because I want her to win. She deserves it. Love you K!

  3. YES! “Sometimes” is beautiful. K. Michelle is an amazing singer, combined with an amazing song like “Sometimes” you get fireworks. Real classic soul influences matched with a voice like hers, timeless song.

  4. “I would run down the street bare feet, if I could write my destiny”, lyric from “Sometimes” best track on the album “Rebellious Soul”. This song is timeless and proves how much talent K. Micelle has.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

K. Michelle Shares ‘Crazy Like You’ Video

Don’t mess with K. Michelle or you’ll come up missing. The versatile artist reveals her plans for revenge to her therapist Annabelle in the video for “Crazy Like You.”

The eerie picture starts with K. Michelle and several look-a-likes strutting around an abandoned warehouse in a revealing black outfit. The camera flashes to more women, one holding a tank of gasoline, who seem to be ready to set fire to the rain. Going back to K, sporting a platinum blonde ponytail, an over-sized dress and plaid boots, she gets comfy on a vintage sofa to share her plot for vengeance to a red-headed doll.

“Crazy Like You” is lifted from K. Michelle’s latest album, Kimberly: The People I Used To Know.

See how K. Michelle and her bandits get even with their mate below.

Facebook Comments

Justine Skye, Let’s Talk ‘Ultraviolet’: A Career Conversation

I’ve been following Justine Skye for a while. Not as far back as her Tumblr days, but around the time her Tyga-assisted cut “Collide” began to pick up some steam.

Over the past three years since, Skye has produced a couple of solid records, had some impressive sponsorships and endorsements, and even landed a record deal with Roc Nation. Minor successes aside, there’s been a common note when I’ve mentioned her name in conversation: “She’s not memorable.” And that criticism is more than valid. As someone who has kept up with her work, I even have trouble remembering most of the tracks from her three EPs (although, admittedly, I’d rather not remember her 8 Ounces EP.) Skye’s musical issues ultimately boil down to two things: artistry and execution.

We all know that every successful recording artist isn’t original, or even necessarily talented. However, those type of artists know their market, work within the limits of their artistry, and execute accordingly. The reason why it’s been hard for this Brooklyn beauty to pop is because we, as consumers, don’t know what sport she’s playing nor the arena she’s playing in.

On the artistic side of things, Skye has always struggled to nail her “sound.” Her singing voice is quite generic — which isn’t a dig, nor a hindrance necessarily — but her lyrics are also somewhat lackluster, as well as her ad-libs. Nothing truly stands out, and because Skye’s artistry hasn’t developed, her music sways with the trends of the and sounds of the time. I expressed these concerns in a series of tweets back in 2016 — which ultimately got me blocked on my old Twitter account by Ms. Skye, but that’s neither here nor there.)

Justine Skye Tweet 3Let’s talk execution. Skye released “U Don’t Know” featuring Nigerian singer WizKid in September 2016, with the accompanying video released the following month. Then, a little over a month after the video release, she releases her 8 Ounces EP without “U Don’t Know.” Yet, in 2018, she included the mid-tempo track on her album, and this time without the WizKid feature.

Poor execution.

Sometimes the first single doesn’t work, so that’s okay. She tried again in July with “Back for More” featuring Jeremih. Despite the seven month stretch between singles, the song was an appropriate, summer jam. Unfortunately, even with the feature, the song didn’t get past a few adds at urban radio. The video was released in early August, and then it was silence again from Team Skye.

Poor execution.

Skye then releases third single “Don’t Think About It” on December 1. A week later, she announced the release of her debut album with another single — the PARTYNEXTDOOR-penned “Goodlove” and the video for “Don’t Think About It.” By the time the album dropped, she released another single (“Heaven”), which totaled a five tracks from a 10-track album.

Even with all of these musical misfires, I decided to give the album a listen. After listening to the 33-minute project, I was left generally underwhelmed. Although short albums aren’t common, they can definitely work with a strong thematic direction (see: Lalah Hathaway’s honestly. and Bruno Mars’ 24K Magic.)

Ultraviolet suffers from a combination of issues, but ultimately the music just fails to hit. I must say, though, that “Goodlove” and “You Got Me” have been on repeat, and guess who penned both of these tracks? PARTYNEXTDOOR. On a 10-track album, if the two standouts are written by the same person, I think that’s worth noting. Hit-Boy’s production on “Lil’ Boy” was also a bright spot for me on this otherwise mid-tempo album.

I don’t have anything against Justine Skye or her music, even. She’s given us jams like “Never Leave,” “I’m Yours” and “Messin’ w/You.” However, if she wants a serious shot at chart success, she’s going to need to find her artistic voice and learn how to properly execute when it comes to the visuals, singles, and the art of timing.

Ultraviolet has left me with more questions than answers, but the biggest question of all is still, “Who is Justine Skye?”

Follow Nathan on Twitter @TheGreatIsNate.

Facebook Comments

Top 10 R&B Albums of 2017

2017 started off kind of slow with R&B releases but quickly picked up as the year progressed. There were a good amount of newcomers like SZA and Daniel Caesar who made an impact on their debut projects. We also saw comebacks from R&B vets like Bell Biv DeVoe and Xscape. The Rated R&B editorial team has compiled a list of the top 10 albums of 2017.

Check it out below (please note: these are in no particular order).

Chante Moore – The Rise of the Phoenix

Chante Moore has taken “50 and Fabulous” to another level with her seventh solo studio album The Rise of the Phoenix. Her artistry has aged well over the course of her 25-year career, as she sounds “Moore” confident than ever. While the LP covers the entire spectrum of love, the album’s upbeat, feel-good tracks stand out the most for their radio appeal and contemporary sound. The album’s current sound doesn’t come at the cost of Ms. Moore’s vocals, as she showcases her range (including whistle tones!) on her most tender ballads of regret and vulnerability. Even the interludes deserve a playback! Chante Moore simply delivered, and if you just can’t get enough of this album, then her latest Christmas album should carry you through every holiday season to come. — Nathan

Standout Selections: “Something to Remember,” “Offa-U,” “Saving Grace,” “Pray,” “I’d Be a Fool”

Daley – The Spectrum

Daley is probably one of the most underrated R&B acts out now. Known for his spacey R&B sound, the British singer adds a little color to his sophomore effort, The Spectrum. Feel-good songs like “Sympathy” and “Slow Burn” will have you dancing to the rhythmic production. But don’t let that fool you, though. There are vulnerable moments of heartbreak (“Until the Pain is Gone”) and self-reflection (“True”). — Keithan

Standout selections: “Until the Pain is Gone” feat. Jill Scott, “On Fire,” “Sympathy” and “Second to None”

SZA – Ctrl

Insecurities, fear, and doubt may permeate the lyrical content of this body of work, but SZA is more artistically reassured than ever on her breakout record Ctrl. Sonically gorgeous, the album not only sounds better with each listens, but it feels better with each listen as well. Over time, you’ll find yourself liking songs you didn’t like before and loving the ones you initially did even more. It’s evident that SZA is still adjusting to the overwhelming response of praise for her debut effort, but as the only female R&B artist to find major urban mainstream success this year, it’s simply par for the course of success. If she continues to ride in her own lane, there’s no telling what destinations she will reach by the end of her musical journey. — Nathan

Standout Selections: “Broken Clocks,” “Garden (Say it Like Dat),” “Wavy (Interlude) [feat. James Fauntleroy)” and “Go Gina”

Daniel Caesar – Freudian 

A product of the black church, the Toronto-born R&B singer’s debut album, Freudian, is very much rooted in gospel influences — from the piano-driven sound to solid backing vocals from a full choir. While there is much celebration of love on this album, there are also songs of regret and sorrow, as if Caesar is grappling with his own personal struggles with religion and theology as it relates to a past love. Perhaps, this is why he chose to name his album Freudian. — Nathan 

Standout selections: “Get You,” “Best Part,” “Blessed” and “Hold Me Down”

K. Michelle – Kimberly: The People I Used to Know

K. Michelle has never been one to hold anything back, but on Kimberly: The People I Used to Know, she unveils every inch of herself in an unprecedented unapologetic fashion. The album kicks off with her rapping obscenities and concludes with one of her most soulful records to date – and in between lies an ode to James Brown, a timely Debarge sample-led criticism of mainstream media’s treatment of black women, a jazzy dose of shade to Kirk Frost (and his three or four earrings), and back-to-back country ballads. While this may sound musically sporadic, the flow of the album is quite natural and effortless. Her heart may lie in country music, but she knows how to make a solid R&B record; This is certainly her first album with multiple viable radio singles.The People I Used to Know is less about switching musical lanes and more about shifting artistic gears as the album progresses — leading the Memphis-bred songstress down the road to one of the most complete R&B works of the year. — Nathan

Standout Selections: “Takes Two” feat. Jeremih, “Crazy Like You,” “Giving Up on Love,” “God, Love, Sex, and Drugs”

Mary J. Blige – Strength of a Woman

Capitalizing on her divorce news and cringe-worthy moments that logged the past five years of her personal and professional existence, Mary J. Blige wore her troubled emotions heavily on sleeves of Strength of a Woman. Beginning with a powerful opening track that revisits Blige’s hip-hop soul roots and yields her first-ever music union with Yeezy, Strength scales between claiming back the power she regretfully hid behind the love for her estranged husband-manager to now recognizing how resilient she is well beyond her celebrity status. Blige even found time to be the right amount of petty and unleash a high dose of saltiness topped with sweet revenge over trapsoul instrumentations ushered in by a new school of hungry music tasters like Camper and Prince Charlez who wanted to see her win again. — Antwane

Standout selections: “U + Me (Love Lesson),”  “Set Me Free” “Survivor” and “Telling the Truth” featuring Kaytranada

Ledisi – Let Love Rule

Shining a fully charged flashlight of hope, Ledisi tunnels her way through all love’s madness on Let Love Rule. Even though the New Orléans native has the voice of an angel, Rule doesn’t digest well on the first or second listen. I say this not bash or discredit Ledisi’s musical abilities but to say, if you’re a frequent radio listener, this album won’t impress you. This record isn’t chasing the minute, ready to serve sounds of R&B. It’s an album that increasingly ages after each playback. With Let Love Rule, Ledisi uses this collection of ballads and melodic compositions to educate hearers about social injustices, how to present in your relationship and the power of waiting for the stars to align in your favor. She doesn’t do half bad either. — Antwane

Standout selections: “Here,” “All the Way,” “High” and “Us 4 Ever” featuring BJ the Chicago Kid

Tamar Braxton – Bluebird of Happiness

Bluebird of Happiness may universally signify prosperity, joy, and delight but Tamar Braxton’s album version has a far deeper meaning. Absorbed by samples from the yesteryears of R&B, the youngest Braxton sister uses her definition of Bluebird to share the private wounds from her dissolving marriage from Vincent Herbert. Balancing the dark and light colors of musical tones, this solid recording not only hears Braxton harping on the foulness of love but finding moments to celebrate its presence and all its other glorious wonders. While being fully against Braxton calling it quits as a solo artist, Bluebird of Happiness definitely leaves a lasting impression in the hearts and minds of her loyal Tamartian fans – for now. — Antwane

Standout selections: “The Makings of You,” “My Forever,” “My Man,” and “Wanna Love Me Boy”

Tank – Savage

Serving as the follow-up to 2016’s Sex Pain & Love II, Tank takes an aggressive approach on Savage. He instantly hooks listeners with the title track before taking them on a musical journey through the bedroom with songs like “When We” and “F It Up.” The album isn’t just about sex, though. There are moments when he’s just singing about love, whether it’s the good times or trying to rekindle an old flame. — Keithan

Standout selections: “When We,” “Good Thing,” “Do For Me” and “Nothing On”

Jhene Aiko – Trip

After making a false start with her 2016 single “Maniac,” Jhene Aiko made a strong recovery with her second studio album, Trip. Released with no prior announcement, the 22-track LP is Aiko’s open diary that uncovers some of her most vulnerable moments. From dealing with the death of her brother to breakups, Aiko takes her listeners on an emotional rollercoaster through love, pain, depression, and happiness. Trip may be her most raw and honest project to date. — Keithan

Standout selections: “Sativa” featuring Swae Lee, “While We’re Young,” “New Balance” and “OLLA” featuring Big Sean

Sabrina Claudio – About Time
**honorary mention**

OK, About Time may technically be a mixtape but Sabrina Claudio certainly made it feel like an album. Laced with angelic harmonies and mesmerizing lyrics, About Time finds Claudio singing about…time (literally). “During the process of writing these songs, I was worried about time for some reason,” she said. “And it didn’t have to do with a relationship — maybe just career-wise I was worried about time and it translated through my music.” — Keithan

Standout selections: “Belong to You,” “Frozen,” “Natural” and “Stand Still”

Facebook Comments

Send this to a friend