“Music is about passion, not science.” That is how Muhammad Ayers described his vision to a blog talk radio station. Even though he admits that technology is not one of his strongest suits, his relentless pursuit of his passion for artistry has never fazed this Louisiana-born singer/songwriter in honing his craft. Beginning at age fifteen, his studio tools of a Mac computer, a microphone and a closet was sufficient enough to become his bread and butter to reach the biggest stage. Despite Ayers’ thoughts on his production capabilities, he never lacked confidence regarding his ‘for real’ smooth, no-nonsense vocals. No matter if he was behind the boards or in front of the microphone, Ayers always set his standards high.
There was plenty of inspiration on Ayers’ side. Partially fueled by his father naming him after boxing legend Muhammad Ali, and being a product of Southern University’s jazz ensemble directed by avant garde clarinetist Dr. Alvin Batiste (a man who also tutored Bradford Marsalis and Cameo’s Charlie Singleton), there was plenty to motivate the artist.
Graduating with a theater degree after switching to L.S.U., Ayers heart and desire for music still burned inside, leading to his formation of Jazz 77 Productions. His debut disc in 2006, 26, signified the number of years of invested passion towards his first love. Its single, “Nothing Better,” was a qualified regional success in Baton Rouge, Lousiana.
After five years of grinding, Ayers was finally recognized on a national level in 2011 by mega producer Andre Harrell for his performances on Superstar Soul Search; ultimately being rewarded with an Atlantic Records contract. In the meantime, Ayers releases his independent mix tape, F.R.E.D., a smorgasbord of love songs and a motivational anthem served up with new and old school raw, gritty R&B a la Keith Sweat and Usher respectively. “Mine Tonight,” aided by the silky voice of Robin Thicke, is full of infectious grooves. Joining Ayers for “Always On My Mind” is Kennedi Rayne, whose voice echoes Keith Sweat girl group, Kut Klose’s lead vocalist Athena Cage. “Ain’t Really Looking” observes love’s cynical side when it comes to finding the right one: “Tired of the clubs…The fast life.” Ayers meshes pop and urban nuances with the One Republic-like “It’s Your Move,” about a frustrated partner putting the ball in the other partner’s court: “Do you think this is a game we are playing/Are you listening to the words I’m saying?” “Someone Else’s Girl” presents a tantalizing storyline dealing with jealousy and how the man dreams that special girl will run to him. F.R.E.D. briefly changes gears with the declaratory anthem, “I Am the 99,” about exercising one’s rights and challenging future leaders to stand up for honest change.
F.R.E.D. clearly thrives on Ayers’ dynamic performance that never diminishes from the get go, considering some monotony and dullness in the production tracks. With Ayers’ vocal twists and turns, rich tones and fervor, his unbridled passion and apparent talents are inevitable. The R&B loyalists should be ready to fully embrace Ayers when his major label debut opportunity finally arrives. Recommended.
By Peggy Oliver