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Following his intriguing mixtape of covers, The Life of Love’s Cupid, emerging soul singer BJ the Chicago Kid delivers his official debut, Pineapple Now-Laters, a smooth, rich R&B experience. After writing and singing backup for big-name artists such as Mary J. Blige and Musiq Soulchild, he steps out on his own and commands our attention.

There is a crowded field of talented young crooners right now (Frank Ocean, Miguel, Drake, Mayer Hawthorne), but BJ manages to find his own niche. Neither a throwback like Hawthorne or a modernist like Drake or Ocean, BJ seems to take his cues from the 90s school of Jodeci or Blackstreet).

Check out “Good Love,” a straight-forward but passionate post-coital ballad, and “Sex is the Best Breakfast,” a high-pitched A.M. come-on for some silky-sheet bedroom music.

BJ hits harder subject matter with “The Other Side,” a bluesy take on appreciating what you have, and the nearly brilliant “His Pain,” which matches a jazz piano and bass backrop with an extended, vivid guest appearance of potent lyrics from Kendrick Lamar. Straying from the standard verse/hook pattern, BJ lets Kendrick drop two full verses before coming in to take the reigns.

There is still a hip-hop sensibility to some of his lyrics and beats, a la Musiq, but BJ is a full-on singer of R&B/soul. He is not really trying to mix the genres.

BJ also comes off as a one-woman man on Pineapple and it brings a refreshing, heartfelt change-of-pace from the sometimes hollow player/groupie/club tales of his more popular peers.

“Dream II” leads off with and then intersperses some truly inspiring and insightful samples of Will Smith talking. Supposedly BJ used to listen to Smith’s words on the value of hard work every day. It’s the album’s most motivational track, and it provides a window into BJ the Chicago Kid as an artists on the come-up.

  Mixtape D.L.
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