Raheem DeVaughn - The Love Reunion (2019)

Raheem DeVaughn
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Raheem DeVaughn is something of a musical anomaly. He’s made club bangers, tossed numerous musical roses to the ladies and created the kind of tunes that could be found on any ‘woke’ person’s playlist. However, from the time DeVaughn’s closeup came with 2005’s The Love Experience - where he incorporated one of R&B’s most identifiable bass lines into his hit “Guess Who Loves You More” - he crafted his reputation and his living as an R&B crooner. DeVaughn became a commercially and critically successful artist even though mainstream R&B largely turned away from balladry for much of his career.

Raheem DeVaughn is something of a musical anomaly. He’s made club bangers, tossed numerous musical roses to the ladies and created the kind of tunes that could be found on any ‘woke’ person’s playlist. However, from the time DeVaughn’s closeup came with 2005’s The Love Experience - where he incorporated one of R&B’s most identifiable bass lines into his hit “Guess Who Loves You More” - he crafted his reputation and his living as an R&B crooner. DeVaughn became a commercially and critically successful artist even though mainstream R&B largely turned away from balladry for much of his career.

DeVaughn never shied from his status as a ballad singer. Rather he reveled in it, adopting nicknames like the Neo-Soul Hippy and giving his albums names such as last year’s Decade of a Love King. DeVaughn’s steadfast devotion to adding contemporary production elements to the classic R&B love ballad leaves him well-positioned to take advantage of the market’s rediscovery of the slow jam. DeVaughn’s new project, The Love Reunion, reveals him as someone who is as eloquent at offering mea culpas and creating a playlist for the makeup.

To be sure The Love Reunion includes those other elements found on previous DeVaughn projects. “Magnet,” is bouncy fusion of raggaeton and funk that will get crowds moving on the beach and the dance floor. DeVaughn remains in the Caribbean on the up-tempo “Kissed By the Sun,” a track that sports an Afro-Latin shuffle beat and lyrics that describe a woman who possesses looks blessed by the warmth of the summer sun.

Still, it is when DeVaughn dives into the slow songs, starting with the Prince influenced “Rose Gold,” that The Love Reunion finds its stride. “Rose Gold,” which lyrically paints a picture of a man entranced in a sensual spell, showcases everything that makes DeVaughn such a talented balladeer. Vocally, he has the range to fill in the spaces left unoccupied by an instrumental arrangement that puts the emphasis on a simple, slow and grinding groove. 

DeVaughn’s comfort with addressing subject matter that is intimate comes through in all of these ballads, but none more clearly than the record’s best track “Ballerina,” although a strong argument can be made for the jazz infused ballad “Joyful Noise.” The track’s arrangement is hypnotic with both the drums and bass creating a spinning sensation that falls in line with the choreographed imagery of lovemaking that DeVaughn draws with his lyrics.

DeVaughn’s career is a testament to the virtue of knowing who you are and standing firm on what you do. Even as he managed to make music that touches on many elements of what is heard on the radio, DeVaughn never succumbed to crowd chasing. Now the crowd is coming back his way and the Underground King has the look of a leader. Recommended.

By Howard Dukes

 
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