Review: Raheem DeVaughn & Apollo Brown, ‘Lovesick’

R&B legend, Raheem DeVaughn, and underground hip-hop producer, Apollo Brown, link up to rekindle a fire in R&B that hasn’t been seen in over a decade.

Hip-hop and R&B have always had an odd synergy with one another since the late 80’s. Many believed that the two genres would never be able to mesh well, until the mid-90’s. This era brought R&B into the world of hip-hop which created a much needed energy of soulfulness and intimacy into records of both music categories. Raheem was one of the last to deliver to this energy by the mid-2000’s and is still going strong with his contributions; same could be said for hip-hop producer, Apollo Brown, who is well known for his timeless soul-sampled production.

Lovesick builds the bridge for the perfect balance of hip-hop and soul; a sound and energy that many thought had died due to the new wave of R&B infusions.

The album presents a satisfying run time of 49 minutes rolled into 12 individual tracks. From start to finish, Lovesick radiates the same soulful vibrations and delivers a wide array of harmonies over the perfect mesh of R&B and hip-hop production. The project kicks off with the tenderhearted track, “If You’re the One”, featuring an exceptional feature from close collaborator of both artists, Skyzoo. This combination of hip-hop and R&B is present throughout the entire album, but primarily focusing on the grand aspects of R&B in terms of the project’s core.

While it is still primarily an R&B album, the tracklist balances features contributed from artists of both genres. Skyzoo laces an intimate verse for the first track, fitting for the song’s subject matter of finding the right partners; then transitions into the second track, “One Time”, which contains guest vocals from singer, Becky Cane. The project also features vocals from rappers, 3D Na’Tee and Westside Boogie, who both manage to maintain the balance of genres present throughout the project’s duration.

Since his debut in the game, Raheem has consistently delivered with his vocal performance on features and solo work. His soulful delivery took the R&B world by storm throughout the 2000’s and still manages to leave the same effect on listeners as it once did. While Lovesick does take a different approach with taking traditional R&B instrumentals on hip-hop drums, Raheem glides throughout the entire albums with breathtaking vocals as smooth as butter. From the high-pitched vocals on “Zaddy” to his flexible harmonic range on “I Still Love You”, Raheem exceeds expectations in every aspect throughout the project.

While Raheem was definitely the star of the show, Apollo Brown’s contributions are equally as pivotal in the creation of this project. The blend between hip-hop and R&B is one that we see very often, more now than ever. However, the model for R&B in it current form is vastly different from its roots, placing more emphasis on the atmosphere of the production rather than the vocal performance. The combination of Raheem’s soulful vocals and Apollo’s hip-hop infused production mesh perfectly together, delivering a sound that perfectly captures the core of classic R&B music, but with a twist of hip-hop sprinkled in as the base of the sound.

The synergy between the two genres of hip-hop and R&B on this project is phenomenal and bring out the fusion in its strongest form. Raheem and Apollo make for a powerful duo and bring the best out of each other while working together on Lovesick. In terms of vocal performance, Raheem has never sounded better and hits all marks with each individual track, while Apollo provides a suitable base for the production, nailing every beat on the album. For being his first R&B-album, Apollo perfectly displays how much of an asset his production is to both genres.

Lovesick is a breath of fresh air in today’s moody trap-infused R&B state, triumphing with its heartwarming ambience, soulful delivery and hip-hop infused production. Despite the two taking it back to the basics, this project provides a sound that many feared would never exist again in the current musical landscape. From start to finish, Lovesick maintains a passionately expressive atmosphere and fully expresses the core fundamentals that make a classic R&B album.

8.5 / 10

Best tracks: “I Still Love You”, “When a Man”, “If You’re the One”, “Broken Pieces”, “Zaddy”, “Rick James”