The Soul and R&B genre is attempting a renaissance, but popular music tastes tend to skew toward the “art-rap” genre with artists like Future, Young Thug and the like. Against these odds, singer/songwriter/professional crooner BJ The Chicago Kid is leading this revival. He’s been putting out music since 2001, but was recently signed to classic soul record company Motown Records. He’s worked with other rappers, like Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West and Chance the Rapper, but his Motown Records debut goes back to the Soul/R&B classics. In My Mind features relaxed grooves, loose bass lines and puts BJ’s voice at the forefront— which may be the best part of the whole album. He guides the listener across the story of a relationship, painting a picture of how each stage of the relationship goes. His music is personal, but open, letting the listener connect easily.
The album starts with a powerful statement in “Intro (Inside My Mind)” with BJ saying, “I don’t agree with everything I understand” alluding to all the problems that plague society; especially sexism and racism. This is what shapes him as he grows. These hardships bring out his brash side as he learns to grow more comfortable within himself. This confidence is quickly realized on the song “Man Down” with the lines, “Listen or do what I say/ Betta get outta my way/ I ain’t got no time to play.” His self-faith is what he thrives on during periods of self-doubt or reflection.
As BJ grows up, he attempts to discern between love and lust in personal relationships. He experiences the balancing act of staying true to himself in the song “Church”, but this doesn’t affect his ego, as he shows on the songs “Love Inside” and “The Resume”. This adolescent stage of his relationship looks to progress into something more as he becomes more content with his personal relationships.
Carrying this new sense of bravado of finding a lover, his song “Shine” talks about this fondness and appreciation he feels, “I see you smiling now/ It’s like a dream but far from make believe.” However, this moment of bliss is temporary as his relationship starts to fall apart. The bumps in the road (“Wait Til The Morning”) and the eventual breakup he experiences (“Heart Crush”) are the driving force for him to start questioning where he stands. BJ is not one to get over this bump as he experiences jealousy on “Jeremiah & World Needs More Love” of someone else holding his girl, “But it don’t make me all right/ To know another one’s holding you tight”. This leads BJ into a spiral of self-sabotage as takes a hard stance against love, “Fuck your love, motherfuck your love” and he looks to plug this feeling with one-night stands.
The search for solace does not last long. He begins to look inward on “Woman’s World” and “Crazy,” looking to find his inner-strength and passion in life. Even with Chicago in his name, BJ has moved out to Los Angeles but starts to regret that on the song “Home” as yearns for the support of his home base — the place where he learned everything. BJ’s sad-sack shtick doesn’t last long as he returns to his roots on “Turnin’ Me Up” and ultimately finds happiness through music, “Music take me away, Music take me away” ending the album on an overwhelmingly positive note.
This relationship arc is a prime example of phenomenally direct storytelling. It’s what shapes this record, and all-in-all, has shaped BJ as a man. The insightfulness he has about growing up and staying true to yourself makes for a great record. All of this is only complemented with wonderful instrument arrangements, guest appearances and other samples for a truly great experience.
– Eric N.