Slim of 112
Refueled (released May 13, 2016)
Let’s keep it just 99 plus one more — Slim of 112 possesses one of the most memorable voices of the 90s.
That’s just not album reviewer hyperbole.
“Cupid.” “Come See Me.” “Anywhere.” “It’s Over Now.” “Only You” and its notorious remix.
When 112 was on top of the R&B world, Slim’s vocals defined their dominance. And while it has been over a decade since 112’s last joint effort, Refueled, Slim’s second solo project, proves that he still has gas left in the tank.
Similar to Slim’s first album, 2008’s Love’s Crazy, Refueled is a careful balancing act, teetering between 112’s signature sound while incorporating elements of modern R&B and hip-hop. The opening track, “Forever,” is the perfect example: Slim teams with former Bad Boy labelmate Carl Thomas on a track that expands the boundaries of contemporary R&B without going too far left. Play this in 1996, 2006 or 2016 and you’ll still have a hit on your hands.
Slim’s never been shy about embracing hip-hop, so it’s no surprise that first single “Never Break Up” and “Killin ‘Em Girl” sound like they’ve been plucked from radio playlists. The former features Rich Homie Quan and the latter drags Pastor Ma$on Betha from the pulpit and into the studio (and yes, Ma$e still sounds like he’s rapping in his sleep).
While the hip-hop inspired tracks certainly are sonic success stories, Slim sounds most comfortable over midtempo cuts. The dreamy “Hey You” is tailor-made for Slim’s trademark falsetto, as is “Truth Is,” where Slim bares his insecurities on wax. The acoustic backing of “Ain’t Going Nowhere” is a nice change of pace as well — Slim deftly switches gears without losing a beat.
Now typically, I’m a fan of tight, concise albums. Refueled clocks in at just 10 tracks yet, unfortunately, the album feels a bit abbreviated. That might be because the album’s final two tracks, the upbeat and optimistic “Head in the Clouds” and “Ready to Fall,” are solid but lack the lasting power of earlier offerings. What’s presented here is mostly strong (only “Drug”and its “girl, that sex so addictive” metaphors are worn out) but the entire package feels slightly unfinished — it’s more like an EP than a fully-formed LP.
Refueled will undoubtedly trigger comparisons to 112’s group outings, which is expected, if a little unfair. And while Refueled can’t reach the heights of 112 at their apex, it’s a stands as a solid, breezy outing from a veteran who is still finding his footing on his own.
We all know how great 112 was. Slim’s on track to carve out his own legacy.
Best tracks: “Forever,” “Trust Is,” “Hey You”
3.5 stars out of 5