By Diana Powers, Contributor
Key Tracks: “Church,” “Jeremiah / World Needs More Love,” “The New Cupid”
Bryan James Sledge, aka BJ the Chicago Kid, has not released an album since 2012’s Pineapple Now-Laters. Since then, Sledge has become one of the most sought after collaborators in the industry, working with Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West and other big names in hip-hop. In My Mind, Sledge’s first full-length release on Motown Records is an ambitious endeavor. Although he’s primarily a soul singer, In My Mind also blends elements R&B, hip-hop, blues and even jazz to create a unique sound that, for the most part, works well.
Lyrically, Sledge discusses religion, love, lust and how these topics conflict. On the third track — one of the strongest — “Church,” Sledge sings “She say she wanna drink, do drugs and have sex tonight / But I got church in the morning,” juxtaposing his lifestyle with his religion, a theme carried throughout the album. “Church” is also where Sledge’s broader vision shines; his soulful voice perfectly combines with the R&B instrumentals, easily transitioning into features from Chance the Rapper and Buddy. Sledge’s soul influence is most apparent in “Jeremiah / World Needs More Love,” which creates a powerful track that highlights Sledge’s falsetto.
Another strong song on In My Mind is “The New Cupid,” which features Kendrick Lamar. Crisp drumbeats, lush strings and a verse from Lamar make for a fun, catchy track. Sledge’s soul influence is also apparent here, blending really well with Lamar’s verse.
Despite all this, In My Mind falls short toward the end. At a little over an hour in length, In My Mind could have benefitted in pulling some of the later tracks. The twelfth track, “Crazy,” attempts to blend Sledge’s different styles, but comes across as jumbled and confused. There’s simply too much going on. Tracks also start to sound too similar, resulting in a loss of the spark apparent earlier in the album.
Still, In My Mind is a bold major label debut. The vocals feel equally at home with both R&B and soul-influenced instrumentals, establishing BJ the Chicago Kid as a promising, versatile artist.