“This song is for all those people that [are] putting all that crazy stuff
on their Christmas list. You don’t even use half of the stuff you’ve got.”
The irony of the words we use lies in the manner in which their meanings can change depending on your interpretation of them and how they are used in a sentence. The above quote is the first thing the Listener hears when BJ The Chicago Kid’s latest project, A Soulful Christmas EP, begins playing. At first listen, it is easy to take BJ’s words at face value and perceive him to mean that this latest project is a short and sweet gift to his fans for them to enjoy during the holidays. However, with more thought, it could also be that the statement is referring to BJ’s development and progression as an artist in recent years, and his future plans of harnessing his growth to deliver great music. Either meaning you apply to the quote turns out to be an accurate assessment, though, as the kid from the windy city fulfills both of these meanings to the best of his abilities on his holiday-themed EP.
For those who may be unfamiliar with BJ, the Illinois-bred soul singer has been around the music industry in some way, shape, or form since the early “aughts”. Having served the roles of backup singer, songwriter, and more, BJ is likely most known for his frequent collaborations with some of hip hop’s best, including Kendrick Lamar, Freddie Gibbs, Chance The Rapper, and more. In recent years, BJ has released several solo projects, with 2012’s Pineapple Now-Laters receiving the most critical acclaim for the vocalist thus far. After an increased success level, a prospective change to his government name, and a newly inked deal with the legendary Motown Records, it seems as though BJ took the time to craft this Christmas-themed EP to serve dually as a project for fans to listen to during the holidays while simultaneously showcasing a sign of things to come for the artist in the future. And quite frankly, he executes both objectives in a tremendous fashion.
Released on Christmas Eve, A Soulful Christmas EP consists of six Christmas jams that most would know and love, all of which are reworked to some extent by BJ along with Jairus Mozee (the project’s lone producer) and Joe Syring (the project’s lone engineer). The selection of songs is a versatile one, including classics like “The Christmas Song” (commonly known as “Chestnuts”) and “Santa Claus Goes Straight To The Ghetto”. The result is BJ being free to display his many skills and styles in a short span of a project, while creating a cohesive project with consistent production and a theme to tie it all together. Fans of upbeat, hip hop infused, head-bobbing R&B will enjoy “My New Christmas List”, which features Jerreau of the underground favorite rap group Fly.Union. Those who enjoy slowed, blues guitar-laden sounds won’t be able to keep “This Christmas” off repeat, as BJ’s silky vocals are able to perfectly capture the emotion of a man locked away from his family on such an important holiday. No matter the track or its style, BJ consistently sounds as smooth as butter and makes himself as comfortable as a family in front of a fireplace on every one of Mozee’s soundscapes. Overall, fans of soulful R&B are sure to find something to enjoy from this EP, if not the entire project.
As the holiday season comes to a close, we here at The Listening suggest you give BJ The Chicago Kid’s latest work a few spins before you put away the ornaments and eggnog. The project is short and sweet, yet displays several sides of the artist soon to be known as Bryan Sledge. A Soulful Christmas is a great showcase for BJ’s potential, and we look forward to seeing what he’s able to accomplish as a fresh and welcomed addition to the Hitsville family. To our readers, happy holidays, and continue Listening into the new year and beyond.
+Short, sweet, and to the point
+Showcases BJ’s versatility and talent level
+Cohesive and complimentary production handled by BJ, Jairus Mozee, and Joe Syring
+Wholly enjoyable sampler that builds anticipation for his debut Motown project
+“This Christmas”, “My New Christmas List”, “S.C.C.S.T.T.G.”
–Project’s theme may relegate it strictly to the holidays for some listeners