J.Robb - Soulection White Label #21 (SWL021), 2017
Signed up the 06/06/2017Soulection White Label: 021, an EP by J.Robb
Through their White Label EP series, LA beat collective Soulection have been able to introduce to listeners a myriad of producers all aiming to push the envelope within the future beat scene, with the likes of Monte Booker, AbJo and DKVPZ adding to the wonder of the series. Baltimore native J.Robb is the latest to get his own White Label and with his garnering some of the most anticipation for a White Label in recent times, the pressure was on to come up with something good.
Fortunately, J.Robb doesn’t disappoint and while his effort is not as forward thinking and experimental as some of the other releases, his penchant for combining R&B sensibilities with his unique yet orthodox take on contemporary as well as classic hip-hop leaves us with one of the best, most fully realized White Labels Soulection have ever released. One thing that jumps out from this EP is its focus on RnB. J.Robb has for the most part, made RnB inspired songs and future beat reworks of RnB classics but on this White Label, he embraces these leanings fully. All but one of the four songs feature vocalists at the helm and while the levels of RnB influence vary from track to track, the EP is very laid back, with J.Robb’s smooth backdrops allowing Devin Tracy and DEJA to shine through.
The man himself
Opener TakeMee sees Devin Tracy float over a smooth, bouncy, bass-heavy composition with the grace of a feather. Tracy blends his ‘90s RnB vocal style with modern day songwriting, cadences and catchy refrains like “Smoking and drinking, drinking and smoking”. His chorus, accompanied by a serene woodwind and saxophone paint a smokey picture of two lovers taking each other to new heights. Tracy lends his vocals again for the final track GoodLovinn, and it’s pretty easy to see that he and J.Robb are a good fit. Opting to ride shotgun on this occasion, Robb lays out a more subdued backdrop peppered with poignant guitar plucks as Tracy lays his soul on the song. He definitely stands out more on this song than TakeMee and it is a good choice on J.Robb’s part to have him bookend the EP.
In between the J.Robb/Devin Tracy collaborations are the songs Drumss and WhatUWantt. Drums is the only instrumental song on the album and it plays with the relationship hip-hop and RnB enjoyed in the ‘90s. The combination of boom bap drums and smooth chords never gets old and J.Robb lets the song swell, adding element after element without letting the song get out of hand. WhatUWantt, which features DEJA and fellow DMV native Ciscero, offers the most energy you will get out of this EP and even then, the song finds a way to straddle the boundary between serene and energetic. DEJA majestically glides over Robb’s bouncy piano keys, slick drums and controlled 808 while Ciscero weaves between aforementioned elements like an Olympic slalom skier. His rap verse is well delivered and serves as a refreshing change of pace in the EP.
With a runtime just shy of 15 minutes, Soulection White Label #21 is a quick, convenient little project. In this case, a little goes a long way as J.Robb puts his spin on familiar tropes to deliver a smooth experience and despite its short length, this one is definitely one of my favourite projects of the year.
Listen to Soulection White Label: 021 here
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