This is a record I feel like should have come earlier to this. BJ the Chicago Kid has been a memorable presence on albums from Kendrick Lamar’s Section.80 to last summer’s Compton. It was clear he has been working hard in the industry for a few years which was why I was surprised this was his first official studio album. I was not familiar with BJ before listening to this so I had almost no expectations.
It is clear that BJ was trying to make his debut a powerful one, and he is one of the best things about this record. There is no denying that he has the perfect voice for the kind of music he is trying to make. Sensual and emotional, BJ comes across as sensitive and vulnerable without seeming weak, like Charlie Puth on his last album. If I were to complain about his delivery, it be that is sounds very safe throughout. There is rarely a moment I hear something new, which does make the album feel like it does not have much to offer.
Another problem is the album seems to take a few tracks to find its footing. The first song “Man Down” has a hip-hop sound to it which causes it to stick out on this record, the song “Church” is just alright but features a poorly written chorus, and the track “The Resume” is really a mess. The track tries to compare sex with work, something that is incredible unsexy, and is backed by auto-tuned vocals that do not fit with BJ’s natural voice that fill the rest of this album.
After this track, the song “Shine” comes and, no pun intended, brightens up the rest of this record. It is a classically beautiful song that is a nice indicator of what else is to come from In My Mind. The rest of the songs begin to flow together well, dealing with themes that are not too uncommon on modern R&B albums. Love, heartbreak, all common things to sing about but when sung with the sincerity that BJ brings forward, work effectively.
The best of these type of songs is “Jeremiah/World Needs More Love” where BJ sings about the fire that burns in his heart. The biblical allusion to Jeremiah just adds more emphasis to the message of the song. The first half of this song builds to a beautiful crescendo before mellowing into a short second piece which preaches love in the world. You can call it corny, I found it very sweet.
The highlight of this record would have to be the Kendrick Lamar collaboration “The New Cupid.” While it might seem like I always give high praise to everything Kendrick does, I believe BJ is actually at his best. The song is about how date culture has moved to the club in the forms of one night stands but instead of seeming negative and whiny, the song gives optimism that love is still alive. Kendrick’s verse is particularly interesting as it shows a slower, more sensitive side to the rapper which I appreciated.
The album closes on a string of quality songs as well. The song “Home” has BJ showing some pride for Chicago and is a nice stand out in terms of themes. “Falling On My Face” works as a counter to “Shine” as it is a powerful piano ballad about falling down rather than getting up. The album closer “Turning Me Up,” features a wider variety of sounds with a jazz influence coming through strong. It is a pleasant way to close this album, since it does not step out of the comfort zone that album has established it is in.
While never getting boring, In My Mind, tends to get repetitive at time by offering little new content but when it hits its high marks, it hits them strong enough. Anyone craving traditional R&B will enjoy this album for the most part and this serves as a solid enough debut for BJ. I am hoping he will be able to build off of this record and experiment a little more in the future because I can see great things coming from this guy. He is an artist I am hoping can have some mainstream success in the nearby future.
Best Tracks: Shine, Jeremiah/World Needs More Love, The New Cupid, Falling On My Face, Turning Me Up
Worst Track: The Resume