Ray J’s not going to like this, but if I wrote an abbreviated biography of Mr. J, there are three crucial facts I’d have to include. One, he’s Brandy’s brother; he’ll always be compared to her and there’s almost no chance he’ll achieve her level of musical success. Sorry, it’s true. Second, he got his start in the entertainment industry on the UPN sitcom Moesha (thanks to Brandy) playing the adorable bad-boy Dorian. Third, as our very own DJ Z pointed out repeatedly, he did a possibly staged sex tape with Kim Kardashian. These three …
DJBooth Album Review
”Did you hear that new Ray J song?”
”You know, Brandy’s brother, that dude who was on Moesha and did the sextape with Kim Kardashian.
”Oh yeah, Ray J.”
I bring all this up not to infuriate Ray J, but because in order to understand Mr. J’s present, including the release of his new album All I Feel, you have to understand his past. Ray J seems so driven to prove he’s no longer that wholesome kid whose “first name is Brandy’s brother” he’s gone completely overboard in the other direction. Nearly every song on All I Feel could most accurately be summed up as “I’m a grown man who has sex with sexy women. Sex, sex, women, sex. Oh, and by the way, I f**k models.” Apparently, all Ray J feels is horny. And before I get lumped in with all the Ray J haters, I sincerely believe Ray is truly talented, and that’s why it’s so disappointing to hear him stuck on such one-dimensional material.
With album sales down across the hip-hop and r&b landscape, the importance of a hit single has risen dramatically, and by that measure All I Feel is already successful thanks to Sexy Can I. Sexy Can I’s bright production, addictive as meth-hook and the inclusion of teenage-girl favorite Yung Berg has guaranteed it spins across the country. In this way Sexy Can I is the epitome of the modern single; it will garner a boatload of ringtone sales and will be completely forgotten in six months. Sexy Can I is by no means family-friendly, but compared to the rest of the album it sounds positively Sesame Street. Like To Trick starts off with a chopped-n-screwed voice declaring “all five models swallow”, followed by Ray’s ode to strippers over some winding production. It’s the same story across All I Feel, nearly every song veers into ass and titties territory. In fact, by my count Ray sings some version of the line “shorty climbed the pole and dropped into a split” 8 times over the course of the album. Someone check my math.
When Ray’s not busy reminding us how heterosexual he is, he’s trying to convince us he’s tough. Where You At is Ray’s attempt at a pill-poppin West Coast rider, even bringing on The Game to give him some credibility. The tactic backfires; next to Game, Ray’s swagger sounds almost ridiculous. I don’t pretend to know what dirt Ray has really done, but it’s impossible not to think that while Game was gang-bangin in Compton, Ray J was doing script-rehearsal on the set of Moesha. Real N***a falls into exactly the same trap. I don’t blink an eye when Styles P raps about dope dealing and handguns, when Ray hints at the same I have to do a double take. I can’t be the only one.
Ray’s biggest hit to date was the beautifully harmonized One Wish, and while Ray certainly shouldn’t be forced to do different versions of One Wish for the rest of his career, I do believe he’s at his best on sincere slow-jams - all the better to showcase his remarkable voice. All I Feel is notably short on ballads, though Jump Off’s slowly winding piano melody (think a less electronic Ice Box) and the title-track All I Feel come the closest. But even these slow jams unexpectedly veer into pimpin and bitches territory on occasion; it’s as if Ray’s developed some kind of r&b Tourettes syndrome. Ultimately that means fans will have to continue imaging the musical heights Ray is capable of when he lets go of all the posturing and is comfortable just being himself. Which brings up an important question; just who is Ray J, really? I’m not sure even he knows.
DJBooth Rating - 3 Spins
Written by Nathan S. on 04/7/08
KO Entertainment/Fifth Amendment
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