What do Prince, Mary J. Blige, Janet Jackson, Elton John, BB King, India Arie, Queen Latifa, Jill Scott, and Jamie Foxx all have in common? They have all toured with the same incredible drummer. If those names aren’t impressive enough, try these: Stevie Wonder, Al Green, Paula Abdul, Ne-Yo, Joss Stone, and the list goes on and on. We won’t get started on television credits, which include every morning, evening, and late show you can think of. Somehow, despite a hectic tour schedule, Lil John has found the time to cut a solo record that might just become one of the biggest releases of 2014.
The Heartbeat is labeled R&B/Soul. However, no matter what genre you want to push onto this record, it will fit about as well as Taylor Swift and country music (it just doesn’t). Lil John’s diverse career bleeds through every track making each song a unique blend of hundreds of different styles.
I started the record while on tour with Ne-Yo. The whole project has been over a year in the making…really really excited to finally let these songs out.
Though the album starts with strong Jazz roots, by the third track (Grand Scheme feat. Byron Sowell) the sound progresses into a Colplay-esque pop/rock sound. The build in Grand Scheme is both moving and punishingly savory. It is the kind of song that you will immediately want to put on your running playlist.
A few tracks down from that experience and you’ll find one of the most anticipated songs on the album, collaboration between Lil John and the late jazz icon George Duke. In a Duke Kinda Way is an instrumental track that has all the flavor and taste of two great masters coming together. The song does not disappoint with smooth flowing movements perfect for a glass of wine and good company. If that doesn’t do the trick, just skip to the next track and let your ears be held captive by a striking and sensual spoken word piece called Real.Love.Easy written by wildly acclaimed poet Ursula Rucker.
It can fix broken things, and mend what’s come unseamed it’s/ What rises to the top all the way from bottoms bottom it’s…the cream/ It’s the sweetest dream
Examiner favorites on the album are Get Right (feat Sa-Roc & Sol Messiah) and The A (feat. Kebbi Williams and the Wolfpack). Get Right features a powerful lyrical rap. The beat becomes hard, balancing on a hip-hop edge and seamlessly flowing with the bounce of each vocal phrase. By track 14, The A, Lil John has managed to change up the sound again with an incredible band arrangement that pays tribute to his time and growth as an artist in Atlanta.
The song features an all-star cast of musicians that come together and play with Kebbi Williams as an orchestrated band at Music in the Park. It’s a real collaboration of different instrumentation. We joined forces with some other ensembles around town avenue for kids to express themselves with all star musicians. For years we decided to call it the Wolfpack. It’s a real mix of players. The tuba players on the album are from Westlake High School.
Though The Heartbeat is incredibly diverse, it no doubt successfully captures the skill and 25+ year career of Lil John Roberts. This album is a true experience. Like good records should, it holds the kind of music that can stir your mood from happy, to excited, to sad, to everything in between. It might even help you get lucky. The Heartbeat is available now on iTunes and Amazon and can be found record stores across the country and overseas.
Keep up with Lil John’s soon to be released tour dates on his website (LilJohnRoberts.com). For day to day updates and daily entertainment you can also follow him on Facebook (Facebook.com/liljohnroberts) and Twitter (Twitter.com/liljohnroberts).