Raheem DeVaughn - Decade of a Love King (2018)

Raheem DeVaughn
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Raheem DeVaughn: Decade of a Love King

Raheem DeVaughn loyalists are used to waiting out extended periods of time for new music from the multifaceted artist. Despite his vocal suppleness, his music is often just edgy enough that it can’t be snugly fit into broad-strokes mass marketing campaigns. After all, nearly two years passed between the release of his first single, 2003’s “Until,” and the unveiling of its parent album, 2005’s The Love Experience. Since parting ways with Jive Records shortly after 2010’s underexposed The Love & War Masterpeace, he has kept the musical well running respectably with several independent albums, as well as a handful of online mixtapes.

Raheem DeVaughn: Decade of a Love King

Raheem DeVaughn loyalists are used to waiting out extended periods of time for new music from the multifaceted artist. Despite his vocal suppleness, his music is often just edgy enough that it can’t be snugly fit into broad-strokes mass marketing campaigns. After all, nearly two years passed between the release of his first single, 2003’s “Until,” and the unveiling of its parent album, 2005’s The Love Experience. Since parting ways with Jive Records shortly after 2010’s underexposed The Love & War Masterpeace, he has kept the musical well running respectably with several independent albums, as well as a handful of online mixtapes.

Arriving three years after the impressive Love Sex Passion, DeVaughn’s sixth full-length CD, Decade of a Love King, rises to the occasion with a focused and well-balanced brew of sensually minded slow jams. With just a couple of bumpy detours into overtly commercial terrain plagued by desultory rap cameos and pandering lyric passages, the bulk of the set finds a pleasing and consistent groove that is romantic yet gritty, smooth yet appealingly angular. With the exception of the opening “What It Feels Like” and the low-ridin’ “Say the Word,” the pace of each selection is decidedly downtempo and the mood more low key than adrenaline-rushing.

With an ear to the streets and a mindset in the sheets, DeVaughn delivers his strongest on numbers like “Reverse” and “#BFF,” as well as showing especially effective restraint on the understated “Don’t Come Easy” and the gently flowing “When It’s Real.” From the outset of “Reverse,” the pairing of salacious verse with soft and melodious vocal ostinatos makes for an entry with wide appeal. “Let the heavens open up and put it in…your angelic nastiness,” he croons with longing, going on to detail a number of positions and scenarios against a backdrop of entrancing keyboard layers, blurred, breathy sound effects, and a percussive wall. Veering from sensitive falsetto to passionate growls, the desired effect of slow-burning arousal is achieved. Meanwhile, “#BFF,” an ode to every physical component of his female partner’s “best friend” (read: anatomy), is executed in a coolly gliding tenor sweat punctuated by belted trills. Only the feature by rapper Fat Trel temporarily detracts from the mood.

The aforementioned uptempo moments, “What It Feels Like” and “Say the Word,” show DeVaughn in equally effective form, making the listener crave for just a tad more of that shake-your-groove-thing goodness. “Say the Word” is a bouncy little jam layered with enrapturing harmonies and yearning tones that beckon, ’Top down!’ “It’s as simple as a text message, reading ‘Baby, I miss your sex’…It’s as simple as ‘See me later, for the simple fact there’s no one greater.’” The words may be simple, but they resound with sincere earnestness as DeVaughn exhales each line over the assertive sway of the rhythm track. “What It Feels Like,” on the other hand, is a reminder of his ability to come through meaningfully with a positive-minded declaration of dedication amidst a straight-ahead, ol’ skool-flavored arrangement.

15 years in the spotlight, DeVaughn shows nary a trace of running out of artistic fuel. As both a songwriter and performer, he’s consistently stayed honed in on the sexy, authentic musical essence that he began cultivating in the late 1990s. While the title Decade of a Love King might be a bit grandiose, there’s no doubt that he’s continuing to put in the work to keep the amorous flames burning in a sonically satisfying way. Recommended.

by Justin Kantor

 
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