Slim of 112 - Refueled (2016)

Slim of 112
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Perhaps due to the tepid response afforded his 2008 solo debut, Love’s Crazy, 112 frontman Slim takes a predictable and compromised musical road on his sophomore release, Refueled. While the group continues to perform on a regular basis, it has released no new music over the last decade (although members Q Parker and Michael Keith also released solo sets to limited success). It’s understandable that Slim would want to keep things current in the production vein. After all, 112’s mixture of smooth R&B harmonies with hip-hop-inspired grooves during the late 1990s and early 2000s made them easily distinguishable from many of their contemporaries. But on Refueled, Slim’s attempt to remain current is mostly derivative and half-baked, rather than fresh and edgy.

Perhaps due to the tepid response afforded his 2008 solo debut, Love’s Crazy, 112 frontman Slim takes a predictable and compromised musical road on his sophomore release, Refueled. While the group continues to perform on a regular basis, it has released no new music over the last decade (although members Q Parker and Michael Keith also released solo sets to limited success). It’s understandable that Slim would want to keep things current in the production vein. After all, 112’s mixture of smooth R&B harmonies with hip-hop-inspired grooves during the late 1990s and early 2000s made them easily distinguishable from many of their contemporaries. But on Refueled, Slim’s attempt to remain current is mostly derivative and half-baked, rather than fresh and edgy.

Aside from containing far too few memorable melodies to engage listeners in singing along, Refueled falls sadly short on the lyrical front, going for the lowest common denominator with unimaginative, sex-drenched phrases that have been sung thousands of times before. That makes Slim’s claim in his press release that “you can say something without saying it outright” all the more puzzling. Surely, the clear but fun metaphorical approach of 112’s “Peaches & Cream” or even “Na Na Na” left more to the imagination than cuts here such as “Drug” and “Take You Down.” On the former, Slim croons a few ‘ooh’s’ and ‘aah’s’ before launching into pompous phrases like “You may turn into a feen when I give you that thing/When you get a dose of me up in your face, it might make you go dumb, it might make your body numb.” Meanwhile, he proclaims on the latter, “Ima take your body down through there/Girl, you must have known who you’re f****n’ with.” It’s hard to fathom just how these types of lines are “very positive and maybe more subtle than what is out there,” as he further states in the press release.

While each member of 112 has considerable vocal chops, Slim is considered by many the defining voice of the unit because of his gently unique tenor tone and distinctive ad-libbing skills. It’s therefore sad that he fails to make much use of those special qualities on Refueled; and on the few occasions when he does, it’s wasted on subpar material backed by stale production. Only on the opening “Forever,” a duet with Carl Thomas, and the reasonably emotive “Ain’t Going Nowhere” does it feel like he’s being presented as a serious vocalist capable of attracting more than a fickle teenage audience. Otherwise, on entries such as the lead single, “Never Break Up,” the effects used on his performance are just as novel as the shabby lyrics (which don’t warrant reprinting). Then there’s the rhythmically sufficient “Killin’ Em Girl,” which finds Slim in an appealingly smooth vocal zone; but the song ultimately goes nowhere with a chorus that repeats its title ad nauseum before Ma$e enters with a rap that concludes, “Way your legs spread, I could live with you/You need a big lane, not the miniature.”

The last three cuts on Refueled show Slim exploring styles different than the bulk of the set. Although he’s not necessarily treading any new ground, the overall vibes of “Ain’t Going Nowhere” and “Ready to Fall” leave a more meaningful impression than any of the other selections. “Nowhere” has an acoustic-R&B feel that brings to mind Tony Rich, albeit with Slim’s carefully placed high notes making the atmosphere calm and somewhat dreamy. “Ready” makes for an ideal closing number, blending a satisfying arrangement with introspective lyrics and melodies that do a far better job of displaying his abilities than most of the album. These two moments of redemption aren’t enough to counteract the poor musical and lyrical content (and consequently inadequate vocal performances) of over half of the disc; but at least they’re evidence that, when paired with the right songs and not trying to simply appease the masses, Slim is still a viable singer with a likable style. Not recommended.

by Justin Kantor
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