The Naked Truth
The Notorious K.I.M. has returned with a new album, again bringing hip-hop to the streets of New York. The Naked Truth serves as her voice in addressing criticism regarding her plastic surgery, the betrayal of longtime friend, Lil’ Cease and her capabilities as a songwriter.
Her popular, explicit raunchiness and cockiness are all still part of the formula. But now listeners are treated to her craft on another level as she retaliates against her former clique, Junior Mafia, and the FBI. What doesn’t kill you will make you stronger. Kim exemplifies this cliché to the fullest.
All the hype surrounding her conviction on conspiracy and perjury charges is not a publicity stunt. Kim’s album content delves into her personal life, outside of sexual relationships, and her spiritual side more than any of her other material as a songwriter. The first track, “Spell Check,” declares in the first verse: “I’m Bella to that death and, don’t ask why cause the Mafia is [expletive], cause they took the stand, on the D.A.’s side.”
With plenty of anger and aggression to release, Kim has left hip-hop fans with food to feed the flock while she is incarcerated in the Federal Detention Center in Philadelphia. Throughout the album, Kim tells her side of the court saga that began in 2001. All opponents need to return to their studios in order to compete with serious tracks like, “All Good” and “Whoa.” She talks about former friends and emphasizes a personal change in her lifestyle that will help her maintain it “In the Jail Jumpsuit.”
Her versatility is showcased as she ventures outside of her box with reggae-influenced “Lighters Up,” and almost fools us with “Durty,” a tune with old-school dancehall vibes that seems to be pumping straight from the streets of Jamaica. So much about the current state of hip-hop, Kim touches all corners knowing it is essential for her appeal to a wider audience now loving the South’s vibe. Although evidently present, the southern flavor culminating on “I know You See Me,” “We Don’t Give a [expletive]” and “Get Yours!” enhances the magic created on her up-tempo beats.
Staying true to her origins as the protégé of the Notorious B.I.G., Kim doesn’t fail to show her sex appeal, style and writing skills on “Gimme That,” “Kitty Box” and “Kronik.” Kim shows that she is about self-empowerment and self-expression while celebrating everyone’s hustle.
With guest appearances from rappers T.I., Snoop Dogg, The Game, Bun B., Twista and Maino, Kim pays homage to Biggie, who also appears on her album.
Bringing her sound full circle, her album intro along with interludes supports Kim and pokes fun at her critics.
The plain truth is that Lil’ Kim has topped her previous multi-platinum albums and set the bar higher, while bringing excitement to the hip-hop game, solely representing her humble beginnings in Brooklyn [Bedstuy], New York.
– Sherice Brammer
The Love Experience
Raheem Devaughn is the perfect man and he can prove it in less than 70 minutes.
That’s about how much time you’ll need to rotate his first album, The Love Experience, which feels like a first date that should never end. Musically, he fits somewhere between D’Angelo and John Legend, but Devaughn’s real charm lies in the well-roundedness that he, unlike his contemporaries, uses to his advantage.
Even though he’s just an R&B neophyte, he already knows exactly when to play the sensitive role, as he does on his first single, “Guess Who Loves You More.” On this smooth, jazzy track, he seals his falsetto promise of undying affection with a convincing “pinky swear” worth at least a handful of brownie points.
Ever the gentleman, he’s careful not to come on too strong, but instead eases into sexy mode on tracks like “Ask Yourself” and “Is It Possible,” which features an airy Spanish guitar arrangement perfect for setting the mood. On these songs, Devaughn invokes the musical and emotional purity of soul greats like Donny Hathaway and Marvin Gaye. A quiet confidence shines through on these tracks, which shows that he’s learned from the failures of other overly-confident R&B fellas and understands that when it comes to seduction, less is usually more.
As soon as he’s comfortable enough, Devaughn dares to reveal his most personal thoughts. A sample from an Isley Brothers’ classic provides the groundwork for “Until,” a beautifully cathartic tune that he uses to illuminate the darkest struggles of his life. He displays wisdom beyond his years on “Who,” which is just as poignant as any great Bob Marley anthem. “For every picket fence in the suburbs down the street/ there’s a growing ghetto,” he sings. Neither forced nor pretentious, his lyrics capture a compassion for humanity that hasn’t been so genuine in quite some time.
The creative highlight of the album arrives on “Cadillac,” which combines Devaughn’s silky vocals with an electric guitar instrumental that sounds more like Lenny Kravitz than anything from your father’s treasured R&B collection. Here, he tries his hand at storytelling as he creates an interesting, even if unrealistic hitchhiking adventure that begins when a seductress rescues him from a flat tire on I-95. Playful and funky, the finished product proves that he knows how to have a good time.
Armed with sensitivity, subtle sex appeal and intelligence to boot, Devaughn creates an intimate Love Experience which meets all the expectations that come with such an aptly-titled record.
Benae Mosby can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org