Decade of a Love King

by: Raheem DeVaughn

Considering that Raheem DeVaughn has been behind some of the most substantive sociopolitical R&B since he debuted -- "Until" and "Nobody Wins a War," for starters -- it might be surprising that the D.C. native's first LP since 2015 is exclusively intimate. The singer and songwriter has instead saved the "conscious" facet of his artistry for his lower-profile work with Wes Felton as the CrossRhodes, enabling him to focus here on other matters. On his sixth album, DeVaughn honors and pleases the "you" addressed throughout, lending an ear, vowing eternal commitment, providing various spa services, bringing fruit and oils, and engaging in high indoor adventure, including multiple references to making his lady hang off fancy light fixtures (with her permission). While DeVaughn's arrogance has hit a new peak, the phrase that most typifies the album -- amid panting, gasps, and amusing wordplay -- is the second half of "Locked away 'til the light of day, lovin' all your worries away." Self-celebratory album title notwithstanding, DeVaughn and his collaborators have designed a kind of escapist fantasy filled mostly with sensual electronic slow jams and in "What It Feels Like" and "Wifey," a couple harder hitting, radiant, top-down odes to devotion. While nothing is either as magnetic or as memorable as his best-known singles, high-quality hooks continue to flow from DeVaughn, who still sounds inspired and at ease, happy to continue making albums that are unmistakably and entirely R&B. He also keeps it local with his collaborators, whether it's Muhsinah on production, YahZarah on guest vocals, or Yvette Crocker with the cover art. ~ Andy Kellman

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