R&B used to be so simple. For the longest time it seemed that you’d be influenced by either Prince, Michael Jackson or a few peripheral players. As the music landscape changed and those pillars could no longer dominant music as they once did, a vast creative vacuum opened.
Styles came and went, but the void left many longing for the simple nostalgia of the recent past. This is about the time neo-soul stepped in. It’s early stars fed into the yearning for the old, while introducing new musical paradigms in much the same way Prince did during his most experimental and chart busting years.
All of the sudden the field of possible saviors of R&B exploded with the first wave being D’Angelo, Blia and Raphael Saadiq. As the genre matured other artists like Van Hunt and Raheem DeVaughn were offering an alternative to the simplistic rap that was dominating the charts. And that’s not mentioning the genre’s biggest stars who both happen to be female.
Of these initial stars to have come into prominence in the late ’90s, Rashaan Patterson arguably had the most potential critically. He had a string of interesting soul albums in the mode of Raphael Saadiq that made some if not little impact on R&B charts. On his 5th album Bleuphoria, he would team up with his longtime collaborators Jamey Jaz and Keith Crouch for his most daring album yet by stepping outside of his normal parameters of echoing the style of Saadiq.
Bleuphoria featured an all-star cast including Jody Watley, Faith Evans, Shanice Wilson and Lalah Hathaway. Songs ranged from the funky and playful ‘Crazy’ with Faith Evans to the sprawling gospel of ‘The Mountaintop’ with Andre Crouch and the Andre’ Crouch Singers.
Patterson’s falsetto held all the diverse styles together in a playful Prince-like manner. The album had two singles ‘Easier Said Than Done’ and ‘6 AM’ (featuring Lalah Hathaway) that basically went nowhere, which is not surprising considering how contemporary R&B audiences have become accustomed to the low the bar that has been set thanks to rap noise that passes for music on the charts.
Bleuphoria starts incredibly strong with a Frank Sinatra cover of ‘I Only Have Eyes For You’ and does not let up until the 13th track has wrapped up. Any one of the songs could have been a #1 single if all the world looked like progressive Buckhead or Harlem. In all actuality most of the music that made up the neo-soul movement was (is) sadly underrepresented on the charts.
It’s not for the lack of quality either. The genre’s primary stars (Eryka Badu, Jill Scott or Raphael Saadiq) deserve all the critical acclaim bestowed on them, but they are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg where the deep well of talent is concerned.
Neo-soul or whatever its called now would seem to appeal to a more sophisticated audience made up of college educated urban professionals. In the black community it’s assumed that these people are few and far between outside of Negro hotspots like D.C. Atlanta or New York.
That may explain how talented artist like Patterson may have gone unnoticed to the greater music downloading public. Not that Bleuphoria was unsuccessful, but I’m sure Patterson would gladly swap chart places with crap makers like Lil Wayne.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RvKlGMjuGoY Sounds like: Raphael Saadiq Prince