The last ten years have been strange for male R&B royalty. While rap has for the most part held steady, with Jay-Z, Kanye and Eminem forming a triumvirate leadership, R&B has undergone more changes than a Beverly Hills trophy wife. The OGs have been unable to maintain the lead they once enjoyed; Usher stumbled with Here I Stand and only now seems to be regaining his footing and even the almighty R. Kelly isn’t the hitmaking machine he was a few years ago. The young guns – Mario, Chris Brown, Omarion, etc. - have, for … ...Read the full album review
DJBooth Album Review
The last ten years have been strange for male R&B royalty. While rap has for the most part held steady, with Jay-Z, Kanye and Eminem forming a triumvirate leadership, R&B has undergone more changes than a Beverly Hills trophy wife. The OGs have been unable to maintain the lead they once enjoyed; Usher stumbled with Here I Stand and only now seems to be regaining his footing and even the almighty R. Kelly isn’t the hitmaking machine he was a few years ago. The young guns – Mario, Chris Brown, Omarion, etc. - have, for reasons personal, musical or legal have burned brightly at moments but haven’t been consistent enough to lay claim to the crown. The-Dream had it for a moment, more specifically 2009, but Love King was, ironically, a step away from the throne for Mr. Nash. In the meantime the top spots are wide open, and after his new album King of Hearts it’s time to treat Lloyd as a serious contender.
It feels like Lloyd’s been around forever, but the truth is he’s still relatively new on the block. His first album, Southside, dropped in 2004, when he was still just a teen. But in that time he’s managed to do what many of his peers haven’t – slowly but surely transition from a boy to a full grown man. Instead of reaching back to a teenage fan base that will inevitably only grow more distant (cough, Omarion, cough), King of Hearts, his fourth studio album, is strictly for the grown and sexy. It may not be a new school classic (it’s not) but this is a damn good album, and if you’re still thinking of Lloyd as the skinny, falsettoed kid promising a shawty that he was going to get it, think differently.
A singer’s voice, like their fingerprints, tends to stay the same over time, but Lloyd’s vocal cords have stretched substantially over the years. While he rightfully earned the nickname Young Goldie for his perpetually bright crooning, his vocals never betrayed much depth or personality. Lead single Lay It Down, although in many ways a template for the radio jam, finds him for the most part sticking to his trademark high pitch, but a careful listen will reveal a newfound grit and charisma, most notably on the second verse. He also more openly pays homage to R&B’s biggest voices, nailing Michael Jackson’s high pitched growl (the 3:22 mark for those with attention to detail) on the hypnotizing This Is For My Baby and there’s an obvious R. Kelly influence on Naked. Speaking of which, Kells himself joins in for the festivities for the suddenly serious World Cry, which simultaneously proves that Lloyd’s got a long way to go before he becomes a political leader like Marvin, and that he’s more willing to stray from the sex and relationships box than ever.
In many ways King of Hearts is as much Polow Da Don’s album as Lloyd’s, maybe even more so. Polow has a hand in every one of the album’s tracks and, if I’m being honest, listening to King of Hearts from beginning to end gives me a newfound respect for Polow which, perhaps, I should have had all along. While Lloyd gets props for getting his hustle and flow on for Shake It For Daddy, it’s Daddy’s insanely hypnotic beat that elevates the cut from stripper anthem to album standout, and everyone will be talking about the Andre 3K verse and the “Pu**y!” filled hook, but Dedication to My Ex’s production finds Polow seamlessly blending retro soul, doo-wop and modern pop. Throw in the sparkling Angels and you’ve got the resume of a producer with extraordinary range. I’m ready to say it; Polow’s the closest thing we have to vintage Timbaland now that Timbaland’s no longer vintage Timbaland.
King of Hearts isn’t all highlights. I’m still trying to figure out what the hell happened on Bang!!!, a banger that somehow manages to top Tity Boi’s mediocre guest verse with an even worse verse from newcomer Salo, who somehow manages to combine the worst traits of Ke$ha and Nicki. On the other side of the sonic spectrum, You II drowns in R&B ballad cliché, sprinkling in some unnecessary Euro house elements for good measure. Still, these low points are largely shielded by King of Heart’s roster – Be The One alone is more than enough to make up for Bang and You II. All that adds up to an album that isn’t quite enough to earn Lloyd the King of R&B crown, he can make a case for the Prince of R&B, and certainly deserves at least a Duke. And yes, when he titles his next album The Duke of R&B I expect royalties.
(Update: People have pointed out that I forgot Trey Songz in the opening paragraph. You’re absolutely right, huge oversight on my part. Trey’s absolutely in the discussion for the male R&B crown right now.)
Listen to More: Lloyd Written by Nathan S.
First DJ Booth Appearance:
"You ft. Lil' Wayne" (2006)
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