Singer/songwriter/producer M.D. West grew up in Detroit under less than ideal circumstances. While he was a child in a musical family, he grew up without a father in the house, and that forever affected both his outlook and his priorities (he currently is a stay-at-home dad as well as a musician). He began singing and playing the saxophone as a pre-teen, and by the time he hit his teen years he had performed on multiple continents with the legendary Spain Middle School international performing program.
West continued to follow music throughout his teens and, largely due to his friendship with Gospel writer Parkes Stewart, was able to witness the recording sessions of a number of the Gospel greats, from Commissioned to the Winans. West attended Detroit's elite high school, Cass Technical (the graduates of which include a virtual Who's Who of the city's entertainment and business leaders, including Diana Ross, Donald Byrd and current Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick) and was surrounded by a number of future notable jazz musicians, including Carlos Mckinney, Ali M. Jackson and Khalil Jackson. He developed as a musician, publishing his first song at age 16 and obtaining gigs playing saxophone for and with many leading pop, jazz and Gospel performers, including Paul Anka, Deitrick Haddon, Fred Hammond and Branford Marsalis.
After spending time at both Hampton University and The Recording Institute, West became a producer at Detroit's WMUZ radio station. However, he ultimately came back to his first love, music, and began working as a writer or producer with a number of local Gospel acts, including the V.I.P Choir and Lexi. He had his biggest success in 2003 as his composition "Exalt the King" became a regional hit for Chris Jones & Word of Praise.
In 2005, West self-released his debut album, Ink From My Heart, a disc that covered elements of Gospel, R&B and pop. It was one of the year's most pleasant surprises. The title is indicative of the lyrical content of the disc. It is really a heartfelt album that is quite touching without being sappy. The recurrent theme that runs through the disc is family: whether it is expressing his emotional love for family or lamenting his absent father and promising a better life for his child, West "leaves it all on the floor" lyrically in a thoughtful, intelligent fashion.
Musically, the album is even more impressive. Initial attention was focused on "Mother's Day," an excellent acoustic soul song that serves as a nice introduction to West's impressive vocal arrangements and generally muted instrumentation. Similarly, "Rain" is an engaging ballad that sounds like a hit Babyface composition, circa 1995. But despite a healthy dose of slow songs, West shows he can go uptempo with the funky old school number "Supafine" and the album's hottest track, "The Idea," an infectious modern cut that urban radio should be all over -- it stands favorably next to recent hits by such artists as Mario and Omarion.
Ink From My Heart is an impressive debut and is the kind of uniformly strong, accessible soul album that Boyz II Men could have released a decade ago but simply haven't been able to pull off for awhile. It is also an auspicious debut for a very talented young artist from whom I believe we'll be hearing for years to come. Highly recommended.
by Chris Rizik