Artist: K. Michelle
Label: Warner Bros. / Atlantic
Genre(s): Soul / R&B / Hip-hop Soul
Released: August 13, 2013
It’s been said that K. Michelle makes music for chickenheads and ratchets. And given the R&B chanteuse’s behavior on VH1’s Love & Hip-Hop Atlanta, this was to be expected. However, in an era where the genre has been dominated by EDM and pop stylings, and become victim to cultural appropriation (Robin Thicke, we’re looking at you, sir), the Memphis native has done something rather remarkable with her debut studio album Rebellious Soul she’s made an album of honest-to-God contemporary soul.
Things begin inauspiciously enough with the ghetto thump of “My Life” featuring Meek Mill. The slow-rolling beat is appropriately dark but Meek phones in a perfunctory guest verse. And for all its sturm und drang, the song is a limp, lifeless, forgettable effort. Thankfully, things improve tremendously from there.
K. Michelle takes no good men, and the women who mistakenly think they can fix them, to task on the anthemic “Can’t Raise A Man.” It’s the sort of “ladies’ empowerment” tune one would’ve heard on an early aughts Destiny’s Child album. The soaring “Damn” has K. Michelle “feeling some kind of way” about making herself vulnerable to the man in her life.
The album’s latter half fares even better thanks to strong songwriting and impressive singing on tracks like the remorseful side chick anthem “Hate on Her” and the hopeful “When I Get A Home.”
The punishing drums and stormy guitar licks match the scorned woman fury of K’s performance on “Ride Out,” which accomplishes what “My Life” failed to do at the album’s opening. Lead single “V.S.O.P.” is the album’s standout, however, its Chi-Lites and Debra Laws samples perfectly complimenting K’s romantic yearning.
And yes, it cannot be denied — the ratchet anthems are in full bloom. She extolls the power of her punanny on “Pay My Bills,” and it would be difficult (and criminal) to overlook the hilarious, Millie Jackson-channeling “Coochie Symphony.”
Some have criticized K. Michelle for being a bit too hood. Sure, she can be somewhat vulgar, come off as a bit unpolished, but that is honestly part of her charm. That rawness, mixed with a vulnerability that isn’t often show in her television appearances, is both authentic and endearing, and goes a long way toward making the case for her being the heir to Mary J. Blige‘s throne as Queen of Hip-Hop Soul. K. Michelle may make music for chickenheads and ratches, but Rebellious Soul is an album that everyone can enjoy.
“Can’t Raise A Man”