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Musiq Soulchild : Aijuswanaseing

Musiq Soulchild refreshes the parts D'Angelo can't reach...

Musiq Soulchild : Aijuswanaseing

8 / 10 Is there anyone left in Philly without a record deal? After Jill Scott, The Roots, Jazzyfatnastees, Lina (actually from Texas but Philly-nurtured) here comes another bod who chooses the afrocentric/boho look over sportswear and wears necklaces and wanton hair rather than gold and skullcap.

Musiq Soulchild actually has Taalib Johnson on his birth certificate but it's about the only pretentious thing about him. 'Aijuswanaseing' spots a gap in the market: the gaping hole left in fact when D'Angelo decided he had spoiled us with detailed, sensuous reportage from under the duvet. Musiq is there to fill the void and he's got D'Angelo producer James Poyser along for the ride. It's a more commercial sound, but real invention and originality shines through too.

On the linear groove of 'Just Friends (Sunny)' he explains to some nameless honey that he doesn't necessarily have to lay exclusive girlfriend/boyfriend rights to her. No, he just wants to be her friend. If she falls for that one she's a mug, but under the influence of its easy finger-clicking groove that's quite possible. He pulls it off again on 'Girl Next Door' which is spookily reminiscent of PM Dawn.

But it's the bad times that Musiq does best. He credits co-writer Carvin Haggins with the skillz in the ballad department and that's what really grips you here. 'Mary Go Round' is a deliciously simple trinket and 'Seventeen' a dark brooding account of the fella who discovers his new woman is only 17 years old. He does it again on '143' which turns the cliche-ridden love declaration into something original. Er, it's a digital enunciation of amour.

But you still haven't got to the dramatic change of gear that is 'L Is Gone', a supremely lithe and witty account of spliffed-up sex ("Huff til we go blind like my man Stevie"). The music, lyrics and delivery add up to something awesome. A worthy addition to the nu soul camp. A great way to start the year.

Michael Odell

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