Soul is more than a sound. It is a timeless idea and an immortal condition. It can’t be borrowed or traded, bequeathed or imitated (no matter how much they try). Soul isn’t the blues, but the best blues has soul. Hip-Hop isn’t soul, but it’s the most fundamental component of its DNA. R&B is the genre, but soul is the yearning, the lust, the regret. Without soul, love is merely sex. With it, you get something like Lovesick.
Lovesick is a collaboration between the 3x Grammy-nominated singer Raheem DeVaughn and the hip-hop producer, Apollo Brown, best known for making hip-hop so grimy that it permanently lodges in your lungs and underneath your fingernails. It is a work of startling beauty, a blend of modern R&B, classic soul, and guttural funk that recalls Smokey Robinson, Al Green, and Marvin Gaye. Yet it doesn’t sound out of step alongside DeVaughn’s peers The-Dream, Anderson .Paak, and Miguel. It is an album that bears the echoes of Jodeci and James Brown, but it is ultimately the clarion vision of two masters of their respective forms.
Released on Mello Music, Lovesick is a stylistic departure from Apollo Brown’s cold-blooded 21st century boom-bap, but it shouldn’t come as a shock considering his historical skill at soulful sample chopping. Still, it’s testament to the Michigan native’s versatility and emotional depth; he has turned a sonic left turn into an eternal groove — an expansion that feels reminiscent of DJ Premier producing for D’Angelo, Salaam Remi collaborating with Amy Winehouse, J Dilla’s bible material with Erykah Badu, or more recently, Knxlwdge’s NxWorries project with .Paak.
Credit DeVaughn for making the extraordinary feel effortless. In Lovesick, the Love King has built a vessel to transport you to a different, better time. It is a tribute to the artists who came before him: all those aforementioned names, plus Parliament and Prince. Listening to the lead single, “When a Man,” which was premiered by Rolling Stone, you intuit the sweat and soulful anguish of the hardest working man in show business, but also float from Apollo’s head nod to A Tribe Called Quest’s “Luck of Lucien.” The post-modern commentary seductively fused into a warm-hearted nostalgia.