Black i - For You (2007)

Black i
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Singer, songwriter and drummer Eric Brown was birthed into a family full of musicians. Both parents were vocally inclined while Eric's brothers played the drums and bass. At the age of 7, Eric began regular jam sessions with his siblings. He started out learning to play the drums then added piano to his repertoire at the age of 16.  Michael Griot also gained an interest in music at the age of 7, picking up a classical cello and eventually navigating his way to the electric bass. 

In 2002, Brown and Griot met while working together on an R&B/gospel gig. California-native Brown and New Jersey-native Griot have collaborated with a variety of artists such as Common, Angie Stone and UK soul legend Omar. The duo, known as Black I, served as part of Omar's tour band for years. Now, Eric and Michael have joined forces to create their highly anticipated independent debut album For You.

Singer, songwriter and drummer Eric Brown was birthed into a family full of musicians. Both parents were vocally inclined while Eric's brothers played the drums and bass. At the age of 7, Eric began regular jam sessions with his siblings. He started out learning to play the drums then added piano to his repertoire at the age of 16.  Michael Griot also gained an interest in music at the age of 7, picking up a classical cello and eventually navigating his way to the electric bass. 

In 2002, Brown and Griot met while working together on an R&B/gospel gig. California-native Brown and New Jersey-native Griot have collaborated with a variety of artists such as Common, Angie Stone and UK soul legend Omar. The duo, known as Black I, served as part of Omar's tour band for years. Now, Eric and Michael have joined forces to create their highly anticipated independent debut album For You.  With a strong electronic drum-n-bass groove throughout For You, Black I manages to infuse the brand of soul with which many of Omar's fans have fallen in love.

Lyrically, For You runs the gamut of expressing love and contemplating the meaning of life. On "Peace of Mind," the struggle for prosperity becomes a little daunting, so the singers hope and pray for relief. It's an emotion-filled ballad complete with rocking-chair-esque guitar licks from beginning to end.   "Please U" is a mid-tempo track that elicits a smooth nod of the head with its flamboyant hip-hop-centric language. "No More" is one of the many cuts full of multiple elements from jazz to electronica to R&B. The live saxophone and trumpet compliment this cut very nicely. There's a female backing vocal with a texture reminiscent of underrated-R&B-singer Tweet's angelic tonalities.

Omar lends his vocals to the project on the remake of Sly & the Family Stone's signature song, "Family Affair." The track also features Kenny Whitehead, who was part of the R&B duo The Whitehead Brothers. Unfortunately, this number is nothing more than a glorified jam session amongst longtime friends. This version of the ultimate African-American barbeque classic doesn't bring anything new to the original recording. In fact, this cut is endemic of this generally strong album's one notable weakness: For You does at times come across a bit dated in its approach and sound, and is perhaps too traditional in its presentation of the neo-soul genre.

While not earth-shattering, Black I's debut album For You is a solid effort that the average neo-soul fan can enjoy, in the vein of music by such notables as Omar, India.Arie and Raheem DeVaughn.  Displaying the artistry of Eric Brown and Michael Griot, it is a disc that works well in its precision and the artists' technical prowess, even if sometimes at the expense of breaking new ground.

by Akim Bryant

 
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