Although her name may somewhat ring a bell, T-Love has never in her more than 10-year career, released an LP up until now. Already hitting the shores of the UK, Europe and Japan before the U.S., Long Way Back actually gathers a lifelong assembly of T-Love’s old and new works – some from as far back as the mid-1990s, when her associations with the likes of Eazy E, Egyptian Lover, Fat Lip, and others from her South Central hometown shaped her upbringing. It was back then, she discovered Jurassic 5, released their debut Jurassic 5 EP on her own Pickininny Records imprint, as well as her debut, The Return of the B-Girl EP. From the latter, she takes her “Wanna-Beez” classic featuring Charli 2na, slapping it right onto this new release. On this track, you’re tossed back into 1996 as the feel of reverb on the smoky trumpets lightly push the kick-drums along the bass line groove. Such a delightful technique and T-Love displays the choppy style raps to go with a time where albums by others like Tribe Called Quest, Pete Rock & CL Smooth, Pharcyde, and Bush Babees defined the end of hip hop’s jazzy era.
With her recent relocation to London, hooking up with Herbaliser and the Ninja Tune crew, T-Love safely and finally finds herself to make sense of the creative forces within, without the stranglehold Los Angeles had placed on her thus far. T-Love, who has been compared to other female artists such as Jill Scott, Lauryn Hill, and even Erykah Badu, immediately kicks off this LP singing “Swing Malindy,” a jazzy-ballad that sometimes sees her vocals dive into bursts of French-lingo, steering her soulful and sophisticated patterns as if in a cabaret. With much less of a mainstream R&B draw as some of the above-mentioned divas she’s been compared to, T-Love exposes the true B-Girl demeanor out of the bunch, and if anything, is best compared to Bahamadia in her emceeing style and flow. Either choosing to sing solo along to the vintage jazzy moods provided on other live-band arrangements such as “When Malindy Sings,” or spitting raging raps of fire on select cuts like “Fortress (of a Prophet)” and “Witch Pitch?,” T-Love is unapologetic in her biographical memory-lane passages.
But the strength of this CD really lies in the songs that somewhat mix the jazzy, soulful vibes with the hardcore, rough undertones - a blending that perfectly carves the platform for T-Love to comfortable emcee on the mic, as well as create the freedom for her to sing and seduce listeners with her inner most feelings through her sweet vocals. Manifesting this rare duality of talent is the result of her strongest cuts, “When You’re Older (Ode to a Pickininny)” and “Who smoked Sunshine” produced by Jay Dee, Detroit’s finest. Whether it’s on Herbaliser’s 9-minute “Oh So Suite” medley of her breaks at the album’s end, which helps solidify her blacker-the-berry sweetness blended with rawness, it’s really her two collaborations with nu-soul artist Dwele on the title track and ‘Seven” that makes this album a tremendous worth having. On these two gems, T-Love sings, raps and when Dwele marinates the soul with his silky smooth ad lib alongside the keyboards and punctuated bass lines, you’ll be eye-shut with a relaxed smile as your head bops to the beat. Sweet dreams…
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