A near-perfect example of soft, RnB-tinged neo-soul.
Daryl Easlea 2011
Aijuswanaseing was 23-year-old keyboard player and vocalist Taalib Johnson’s debut album as Musiq Soulchild. Released at the tail end of 2000, it immediately struck a chord with its sensual jams and often heartfelt pleas for love and understanding. Signed to Def Soul, the album was executive produced by A Touch of Jazz Productions, aka Jeff Townes, Soulchild’s fellow Philadelphian Jazzy Jeff.
It’s a smooth, soporific listen that often sounds as if it was made in 1970 rather than 2000. Samples are utilised in a most understated manner – Bobby Hebb’s classic Sunny is the reference running down the spine of Just Friends (Sunny) but you’d never really know, as Soulchild and his producers Ivan ‘Orthodox’ Barias and Carvin Haggins create a beatbox and electric piano-driven love song.
My Girl is an up-tempo celebration of relationships, while the questioning, self-doubt of Love is dark and pensive. 143 is the album’s standout cut – an amalgam of Stevie Wonder and Donny Hathaway – and is mellowness itself, with lines such as “I treat you like Valentine’s Day 365 a year / Make sure everything you need will be right here”. L’ Is Gone nods to Funkadelic, with its fine chorus vocals and Hammond organ.
Seventeen deals sensitively with one of pop’s most controversial old lyrical standbys, a potential underage relationship. However, unlike some of his predecessors, Soulchild’s out of there, rebuffing the advances of a girl he thought was older. Its use of new age label Windham Hill artist George Winston’s Rain Dance as its sample adds to its unsettling, floating ambience. The song ends in a flurry of increasingly frantic voicemails. Elsewhere, it’s actually some of the brief ‘interludes’ that delight the most – the vocal trickery of the introduction, and the self-titled track, with its thrusting hip hop beat, offers a diversion from album’s overall silkiness.
With its lush horn and string arrangements and Soulchild’s doo-wop styled, layered vocals, the album was a top 30 US hit and its influence has quietly continued to grow. Aijuswanaseing is beautiful, soulful canter through Musiq Soulchild’s mind – and acts as a near-perfect example of the soft RnB-tinged neo-soul that was so prevalent at the turn of the 21st century.