An Independent Classic for Hip Hop and Soul Muze Heads
Y. C. James | Atlanta, Georgia | 12/06/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
""The Essence of Soul" is - simply put - amazing. Remember growing up and jammin' in Moms' kitchen with Stevie Wonder, Earth Wind + Fire? Well, J. Rawls remembers it too.
He's created smooth, unique beats and just let a host of singers come in and do their thing. Eric Roberson, Jonell, Tavaris and Middle Child's voices bring his music to life. And there's an even a brief cameo by indie hip-hopper Wordsworth.
For all of those who love music, who constantly ask their fellow music-lovin' friends and record store owners, "What's new? I need something new!" This is it. "
rica bleu | usa | 01/09/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This cd is absolutely a must-have if you enjoy good music. It is very well produced and is one of those best kept secrets. We need to put it out there - give it more radio play. I heard a song from the cd on a local jazz station and fell in love. Kudos to J.Rawls!!"
will power | BELTSVILLE ,MD | 06/18/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"A GREAT BUNCH OF HIP HOP FLAVORED SOUL,TOO BAD! PEOPLE ARE SLEEPIN ON THIS FUTURE CLASSIC.......SEEK ALL OF THIS GENTS CD'S FOLKS"
C. W. Hall | Atlanta, GA USA | 01/25/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"J Rawls is the producer behind the hip-hop duo Lone Catalyst, as well as "Brown Skin Lady", the black girl anthem from a few years back that came courtesy of Mos and Kweli. The calling card of Rawls production has always been that it was just incredibly beautiful. As he himself says, "So many people told me I should have people sing over it that I finally just started working on some things." The Essence of Soul is the result of pairing one of hip-hop's most musical producers with a host of established and up-and-coming singers.
The results mostly mirror the talent levels of Rawls' collaborators. The production rides the highest level of consistency with songs either held back or taken over the top by the individual guest vocalist and their corresponding writing talent. Fortunately, the slow points are few and far between. On the top end, "Pleasure Before Pain" featuring Eric Roberson is one of those tunes that makes you wonder why you haven't heard it 50 times a day ever since it dropped. The oft-praised songwriter proves why his name is gold among the soul underground, building from Rawls' base to incredible heights.
"Inhale, Exhale" sees Rawls form up with Venus Malone and Wordsworth to channel the very best attributes of Zhané.
The song that finds Rawls working closest to his hip-hop roots is "Miss You (Bring It Back)" with Jonell. The singer revisits the incredible flavor she flashed with Hi-Tek and Method Man for "Round and Round" versions 1 and 2 and the song hits it out of the park.
Tavaris, damn Tavaris. That's all I can say. Both joints that Tavaris drops with Rawls are must haves. These songs cry out for an album's worth of collab.
It's one thing for a talented producer to work with established artists and make a dope song. It's an entirely different thing for a talented producer to use his own project to showcase an artist you've never heard of and manage to pull it off. That's what Rawls does with Middle Child. The singer is a virtual unknown, but paired with Rawls' tracks she comes off like a veteran. Check "Soul (Again & Again)" and "What If" and you'll be a convert. I've got her marked down as one to watch.
All told, The Essence of Soul shows that what people always said about J Rawls was true. His beats do sound extraordinary with singers. Not to take anything away from his hip-hop records, but I can't wait for volume 2."