When we last spoke (about Jacquees), it was in the midst of Mr. Rodriguez Jacquees Broadnax’s ill-advised decision to proclaim that he was the “King of R&B,” a title that none of the contenders were really laying claim to, but that nearly all agreed was not Jacquees. And because of his claim, he became a punching bag, even though I’d wager that a significant number of people clowning him couldn’t identify one of his songs if their lives depended on it.
The thing is, since anybody willing to make such a brash statement is asking for the shenanigans, I decided to listen to his debut studio album, 4275. I mean, if he wants this smoke, it’s only right to accurately give it to him. As it turns out, the album was actually pretty good...but he made that King of R&B claim well after his album dropped. To double down on that claim—and after run-ins with folks like Keith Sweat, who chin-checked Young Quee—he decided to name his sophomore album King of R&B. (Meanwhile, in the world I want to live in, a bunch of R&B niggas annually meet in a warehouse in an undisclosed location—probably in Atlanta—and have a March Madness-style single-elimination sing-off voted on by the participants until they got down to the one single solitary annual king. In my world, Jagged Edge always wins the group sing-off and, right now, Chris Brown wins the singles tourney.)
Now, it’s one thing to make this claim in an offhanded heat-of-the-moment video. Considering that his album wasn’t terrible and he was actually singing, as long as he didn’t keep up the malarkey he could fade back into the under-25 R&B obscurity he crawled out from under. But he couldn’t just do that. He couldn’t leave well enough alone. He wants the smoke. He pulled a page from T.I. when he named his critically-acclaimed 2006 album King. We’ll get back to T.I. in a minute. Let’s start with the forest and drill down to the trees:
Jacquees, in my estimation, can actually sing. Now, he isn’t K-Ci, Stevie or Donnie. He isn’t Case or Tank. He ain’t Tyrese. He’s more of an RL or Donnell Jones type of singer. He’s got a thinnish voice that works well over the production he chooses. But if he got up to sing in your church, you’d allow it. He makes the current version of R&B, which really isn’t a thing, but for the sake of the discussion, his brand is sex-filled trap ballads and songs that could easily be today’s version of hip-hop. Young black music now is fairly genreless and the only difference between Jacquees and say, Lil Uzi Vert, is that Quee doesn’t just harmonize; he’s not just riding the vibe wave, he’s putting effort into it. But this does get into a question I asked the last time I wrote about the singer: What exactly is R&B nowadays? I truly don’t know. There are no more love songs, though the breakup and hater-jams are ever-present.
So much of rap and R&B, as it were, is more sing-talking than singing; basically everybody nowadays could also be a modern rapper. The true school R&B types are to modern R&B what neo-soul was to the true school stuff—kinda sorta relegated to the folks willing to dig deep to find it, save for, say Miguel. To that end, Jacquees’ album, King of R&B, sounds a lot like the modern sound and a whole lot like his first album. There is literally nothing special about this album. I don’t even mean that in a negative way, but it’s true; his last album was more interesting, which is unfortunate.
The thing that surprised me about 4275 was that the album showed many influences from traditional R&B, which is why I wasn’t as hard on him and his King of R&B claim. It isn’t like he’s some kid who didn’t listen to “real music”; he clearly did and does.
That’s what disappointed me about this new album: He decided to double down and title it provocatively without a hint of trying to actually claim the throne; he actually is an artist who could have really made an effort to make an album that reflected his modern take on R&B in a way that actual R&B artists would have to take seriously. I think he really could have made an impactful album that showed that even though he was arrogantly laying claim to the title, he was taking it seriously enough to really go for it. It’s the difference between Drake albums and Kendrick albums. Drake has hits, but he largely makes the same album over and over (when he has tried to foray into “artist” territory, his efforts have fallen flat). Kendrick has proven himself to be an actual artist, creating projects that are ambitious and amazing. I thought Jacquees might have had it in him to create an ambitious project. Maybe he does, but this ain’t it.
Which brings me back to T.I. and his King album. By all accounts, that album is amazing and worth every bit of praise it received. He titled it King and made mention of being “King of The South,” referring to being the king of southern hip-hop. But T.I. ALSO had a whole ass skit where Pimp C (RIP) makes mention that T.I. is a king of the south, not THE king of the south (that skit has been removed from the album for some odd reason, and is not on YouTube), essentially giving him an out from his super-provocative claim. It’s basically a copout.
Jacquees does this same thing on his album. While the title implies that he is emphatically stating himself to be the king of R&B, the album opens up with him talking about being one of many kings, which is just stupid. As it stands, Jacquees could have really made an attempt, but he didn’t. And frankly, if you are the kind of person who will listen to Jacquees albums critically—and I literally have no idea who that person is aside from myself—you’d be better off listening to 4275.
Jacquees, you could have tried to change the game, though. It turns out you don’t really want to do that, and I don’t even believe you when you say “king of R&B,” either. I was rooting for you, homie. You had one job. For now, the throne sits empty. Or more accurately, it isn’t occupied by Jacquees.