There is the all too familiar story of up and coming artists who were about to sign their first record contract only to have the deal fall apart at the seams. Singer/songwriter J. Hollins traveled down that frustrating path in 1998 while recording a project as part of the vocal group Laid Back. He eventually found work as a solo singer/songwriter in the U.K. for a season to pay his commercial dues. When he returned to the U.S.
, Hollins was ready to produce music on his own terms. Barely out of his teens, Hollins formed Block Bleeders Entertainment North America (BBE N.A.) and has never looked back since. His albums This Is Me (2004), The Chronicles (2005) and Untitled (2008) paid homage to his hometown Chicago 's soul traditions with plenty of R&B/hip-hop swagger. Lyrically, Hollins never shied away from any topics, from his upbringing in the projects to relationships. Without compromising his creative integrity, everything Hollins put down in the studio was a testament to the fact that BBE N.A. was in the game for "the quality, not the quantity." His latest release, The Soul Renaissance LP is no exception.
The Soul Renaissance LP documents Hollins' metamorphosis from young adulthood to mature manhood. For fans of the Minneapolis sound, "Just Wanna Luv U" kicks in those funky rhythms and synthesizers straight out of the Morris Day & The Time's 1982 smash, "777-9311." Hollins flexes his abilities as a rapper and vocalist on " Wanna Know U. " He also shows off his classic balladeer skills on "Toast." The smooth Chicago soul era of the sixties and seventies comes alive on "Because of You." Even with a few bumpy spots on The Soul Renaissance LP (the humdrum bravado on "Grown Man" and "Make-Up Sex"), Hollins continues to successfully buck most of the current R&B/hip-hop radio trends.
Other Notable Tracks: "Secret Trust," "I'm Not Ready" and "Her High" featuring Juice
Music: 3.0 stars
Vocals: 3.0 stars
Lyrics: 2.5 stars
Production: 3.0 stars
SoulTracks Call: Recommended
By Peggy Oliver