Robert Gee - The EP (2016)

Robert Gee
robertgee-ep.jpg
Click on CD cover
to listen or purchase

Robert Gee – The EP

There was an article published in the Atlanta Black Star that has been making the rounds and drawing attention and commentary on forums such as Facebook. The article carries the provocative headline “8 Reasons Why R&B Has Died in the Black Community,” and postulates that factors such as the lack of creative freedom that black mainstream R&B artists enjoy as compared to their non-black counterparts who perform in the genre, the hypersexualized music that limits its broad based appeal, production techniques that increasingly blur the boundaries between R&B and hip-hop, and the related trend of the move away from live instruments to the increasing and nearly exclusive reliance on digital technology combine to work to the genre’s detriment.   

Robert Gee – The EP

There was an article published in the Atlanta Black Star that has been making the rounds and drawing attention and commentary on forums such as Facebook. The article carries the provocative headline “8 Reasons Why R&B Has Died in the Black Community,” and postulates that factors such as the lack of creative freedom that black mainstream R&B artists enjoy as compared to their non-black counterparts who perform in the genre, the hypersexualized music that limits its broad based appeal, production techniques that increasingly blur the boundaries between R&B and hip-hop, and the related trend of the move away from live instruments to the increasing and nearly exclusive reliance on digital technology combine to work to the genre’s detriment.   

Lovers of R&B, funk and soul music have remarked and expressed concern about these trends in mainstream R&B music for years, and existence of the ‘indie soul’ movement and websites such as this one are both a reaction against those trends and a shining example of the diversity and creativity that continues to exist in the genre.

I happened to be listening to the EP by Philadelphia native Robert Gee when that article showed up on my Facebook newsfeed, and at that moment it appeared as if Gee had aimed to create a musical rebuttal to the article’s entire narrative. His album liner notes even include musician names along with the clearly analog instruments that they played, and that accounts for the fact that one of the songs – “Let’s Start All Over” – features guest rapper Kae Fields.

No matter how well executed those collaborations are – and Gee and Fields have a natural vocal chemistry – it will always be fair to wonder how much these efforts add to the song. Still, the tune serves to highlight the creativity and musical diversity found on the EP and throughout the indie soul community where artists constantly display a respect for traditions, as well as a willingness to expand the genre’s boundaries.

However, fans put off by the collaboration will find comfort in the fact that it is the exception. The rule finds Gee lending his buttery and rangy tenor to ballads such as the mournful “All I Ever Wanted” and the longing of “A Love Of My Own,” a track that might recall the work of legendary Philly band Blue Magic.

The deep funk of the mid-tempo “All This Love,” with its brassy inflections and soul/jazz inspired electric organ, finds Gee pledging to put his entire focus on satisfying his lover, and shows that he knows how to make his intentions clear without being making them explicit; and the celebratory “Step’n Out Tonight” appears destined to be included in the set lists of steppers DJs from Chicago to Detroit, Philadelphia to Atlanta. 

Gee uses the EP to honor the legendary music created in his hometown. He has created a project that shows why rhythm and blues music will remain vibrant when placed in hands of artists willing to follow their creative principles and zoom past the musical graveyard to which the genre’s critics seem all too eager to consign it. And music lovers who find this album will certainly welcome it. Solidly Recommended.

By Howard Dukes

 
Choice Cut - V3 - "Getting Better"
Listening Room - Avery Sunshine - Twenty Sixty Four
CD of the Month - Raul Midon - Bad Ass and Blind
SoulTracks Choice Cut - Toni Redd - "Underneath My Skin"

Leave a comment!