Multi-instrumentalist, writer, and producer Van Hunt has been fusing together rock, funk, and soul ever since his self-titled debut album on Capitol in 2004. Based in Ohio , he extends the esteemed thread of "one-man bands" like Sly Stone and Prince into the 21st century. Even before earning a legion of fans that fell under the spell of "Dust," "Seconds of Pleasure," and "Down Here in Hell (With You)," Van Hunt wrote and produced tracks on Rahsaan Patterson's acclaimed Love in Stereo (1999); the two teamed up again in late 2004 for Patterson's After Hours. He's also contributed his considerable music talents to albums by Joi, Trina Broussard, and Count Bass D.
2006 was a banner year for Van Hunt. On the Jungle Floor, his follow-up, held the top spot on Billboard's Top Heatseekers album chart, garnering nearly unanimous praise across a spectrum of music critics. He employed an even more variegated approach to his sound design and challenged listeners to appreciate more than just the strains of R&B that defined his first effort. Nikka Costa joined him on the plaintive "Mean Sleep" alongside tracks that ran the gamut from blistering rock ("Ride, Ride, Ride") to quietly pulsating funk ("Being a Girl") to an Iggy Pop cover ("No Sense of Crime"). Taking his show on the road, his signature bandana absorbed buckets of sweat during his riveting stage performances in support of the album.
Later that year, Van Hunt and Nikka Costa teamed up with soul man Sam Moore on a re-make of Tony! Toni! TonÃ©!'s "If I Had No Loot" for Moore 's Overnight Sensational duets album. A guest spot with Joss Stone and John Legend on "Family Affair", from the Sly & the Family Stone tribute Different Strokes by Different Folks, would earn Van Hunt his first Grammy Award in early 2007.
Citing the way his music had been marketed and branded earlier on as "ghetto music," Van Hunt announced in April 2007, "I shall never again bow down - in any measure - to insecurity, corporate or peer pressure to do anything other than my very best and most honest." With his creativity well-nourished, he resumed recording and released The Popular Machine E.P. on Blue Note in August 2007, a teaser for his third full-length album, Popular (2008). Tunes like "Turn My T.V. On" and "The Lowest 1 of My Desires" were explicit yet witty expressions of sexuality that further exemplified Van Hunt's distinct songwriting style.
Like the progenitors who paved the way for Van Hunt, it's taken a little bit of time for the mainstream to catch up with an artist who isn't so easily categorized. To hear Van Hunt, though, is to hear an artist deftly brushing a canvas that knows no boundaries.
By Christian John Wikane