Rawls & Middle is surprisingly mellow. It has a neo-soul tinged sound; you know that moniker that was given to the Dwele’s, Jill Scott’s, and Angie Stone’s? And that’s not a bad thing. It’s more an observation, as I was expecting something more akin to “Monie In The Middle,” or Jean Grae-ish as she is partnered with 9th Wonder. This, especially since Middle Child is an emcee/singer hailing from Youngstown, OH and J.Rawls is one half of the duo The Lone Catalysts, as well as a renowned producer who has worked with Talib Kweli and Mos Def!
However, this team has decided to go in a more soulful direction, completing an album of material that sounds like it would be spun on a Tuesday night at the old DJ K-Knee “So What!” club night. And that’s a good thing.
The most hip-hop song is “Kick In The Door,” which features the MC Wallabe. This song is cool in the way that Bahamadia is cool. Wallabe dominates the rhyming with a nod to old school Wu-Tang. An incessantly jazzy sample carries the tunes head nodding rhythm. “By Your Side” is the anthem here, buoyed by a lead guitar and a grittier vocal styling from Middle Child. When she invokes Sade’s “Sweetest Taboo” at the end of the song it makes you feel the way you did when Lauryn Hill sang Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly.” Meanwhile, “Put Something In The Air” follows a more traditional soul vibe, riding harmonic keys and a sultry bassline. And “Get It On (Get Ghost)” is just wicked.
It’s safe to say that Middle Child’s voice rivals that of the singing Queen Latifah. The soundscapes provided by J. Rawls entice and grind, making this album rather groovalistic. There’s definitely a surprise in the package, although not to the level of expectation considering J. Ralws impressive track record. Either way, get ready to set the mood at any after hours groove shack.