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A while back a friend proposed the question of who had the better catalogue, Curtis Mayfield or Gil-Scott Heron.  If there’s a modern equivalent to that question it might be Raheem DeVaughn (Curtis Mayfield) or Erykah Badu.  The album kicks off with an intro by Dr. Cornell West, who’s also later featured in multiple interludes and establishes the album as more than just a LP full of love ballads.

The first two tracks “Bulletproof” (feat. Ludacris) and “The Greatness” (feat. Wale) kick off the album on a good note.  While Luda is capable of stealing a verse on anyone’s album, here he comes in about twice and loud and seems to miss the complete vibe of the track.  It might have been a better fit to call someone like Black Thought or Talib Kweli, but a big name is probably what was pushed on DeVaughn.

When the album settles into the radio ready love songs it starts to falter.  “Black and Blue” and “Mr. Right” just don’t do anything different.  They are above average R&B songs and they’ll get the ladies to pick up the album, but they don’t hit as hard as something like “Bulletproof”.  Both “My Wife” and “The Bedroom” are worthy Al Green-esque ballads, however.

When he gets back on his political tip with “Nobody Wins A War”, the album gets interesting again.  Featuring everyone from Citizen Cope to Jill Scott, Bilal and Anthony Hamilton it’s a socio-political beautiful R&B church chorus and the type of thing that had it carried over to the rest of the album could have made it a standout this year.

Additionally, “Revelations” is another great track with a slow, horn assisted jam that features a guest spot by Damian Marley, who between this and his project with Nas. is making Hip Hop waves and welcome on any more albums he can get on.

This album is strange, part standard R&B and part neo-soul politics, it’s just hard to listen to a simple ballad on an album with four or five cuts that focus on the times.   Raheem DeVaughn is still one of the most interesting soul singers today and is capable of making interesting music if only he can carry it across a whole album.  While we’re aware it’s titledThe Love and War Masterpiece, he’s a better fighter than he is lover.

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