Tru (released August 30, 2018)
My apologies to my beloved readers for clicking this link seeking sage R&B wisdom and being served with a cell phone nude of Lloyd standing in some Walking Dead looking forest with a guitar on his scrotum.
Unless that’s your thing, and if so, congratulations.
Of course, that provocative cover is more than just a thirst trap. Tru, Lloyd’s fifth LP and his first following a seven-year layoff, is the singer’s most revealing and vulnerable album to date.
It takes a lot of boldness to travel down this road, both visually and professionally.
There’s one big issue to keep in mind while dissecting this album: This version of Tru is essentially an extension of Lloyd’s 2016 EP of the same name. Four of the tracks here – “Holding,” “Excited,” “Heavenly Body” and “Tru” – were also featured on that release, which could be a mild disappointment for you early adapters out there. On the bright side, all four of those songs are pretty strong, so they’ve earned their spot here.
The first half of the album stay true (see what I did there?) to Lloyd’s trademark sound. “Appreciation Day” is a warm shoutout to his supporters, from his parents to his teachers and even to Irv Gotti for launching his career. “Blown” is a woozy smokers anthem where Lloyd gets his advocacy on: “the government should legalize it, watch the crime rate drop and all the hating stop.” Of course Currensy, the crown prince of chronic, stops by for a co-sign.
Speaking of guests, Tru is filled with more high-profile names than a Marvel movie. Lil Wayne contributes to the ride or die anthem “Holding,” where Lloyd serenades the Bonnie to his Clyde (or as Wayne calls it, the Thelma to his LilWeeze).
As with many of the tracks here, it blends hip-hop elements with 90s-era R&B, which is best showcased on the Rick Ross-assisted “Heavenly Body” and current single “Caramel.” Now, no one will never accuse Lloyd’s songs of being lyrical masterpieces – I swear 40 percent of “Caramel” is just him saying “dripping” over and over again – but the exceptional production quickly lures you in.
While the first half of the LP is business as usual, it’s the second half where Lloyd really bares his soul. “Infinity” is an introspective ode to his son, where he tells the child “don’t be like me, I need you to be better.” It shifts directly into “Lil Sis,” an especially touching tribute to his deceased sister. He’s assisted by the Spelman Woman’s Choir and showcases a somber vulnerability that’s pretty rare in today’s music – and pretty absent from all of Lloyd’s releases until now.
Of course, the crowning achievement is the title track, a song that landed at No. 3 in our 100 Greatest R&B songs of 2016 list. Lloyd provides a deep dive into his psyche, addressing everything from his long hiatus, to raising his sister’s child and struggling with his partner’s decision to have an abortion.
“This is me, so please accept me for who I am/and please accept me for what I do/I’m just doing everything that I can/cuz all I wanna be is true.” The hook is almost heartbreaking in its honesty.
On the surface, Tru is by far Lloyd’s best album. But there are caveats – some of the album’s best songs have been floating around for years, so they’ll sound dated to devoted fans. And a couple tracks (“My Bestie” with Sevyn Streeter and “Porcelain”) are OK but largely forgettable.
Nitpicks aside, Lloyd truly finds himself as an artist when he strips away the facade of the music industry.
That’s the naked truth.
Best tracks: “Tru,” “Caramel,” “Holding”
4 stars out of 5