Heroes & Gods (released May 17, 2019)
Rahsaan Patterson has spent 35 years as R&B’s best-kept secret.
In a business that loves to celebrate quantity over quality while flaunting a “what have you done for me lately?” mindset, Rahsaan has proved that R&B’s real Gs often move in silence. Since his stellar 1997 debut, he has spawned a surprisingly lean four follow-ups – the last hitting way back in 2011. His biggest singles didn’t linger on Billboard’s top 10 for weeks on end. And he doesn’t spend every waking moment picking fights on social media to become the next trending topic.
But that hasn’t stopped my wife from blasting his music on the regular.
Rahsaan was never about press. He just trusts the process.
Since there’s a good number of readers of this post who weren’t even LISTENING to R&B when he dropped his last album in 2011, let me catch y’all up on the facts – there is no time table for creativity. Heroes & Gods, Rahsaan’s seventh solo LP, proves that a talent like his is immortal.
Rahsaan has gone on record to say that he refused to stick to a rigid schedule to churn out this album. Instead of forcing it, he waited until the music spoke to him. That’s evident throughout the project, a sprawling record that constantly shifts sounds (sometimes mid-record) yet still retains its cohesiveness.
The opener “Catch Me When I Fall” is an infectious, upbeat opener than seamlessly flows into the warm “Wonderful Star,” where a smitten Rahsaan is clearly having the time of his life (peep the way hilarious way he pronounces “ra-ai-ai-ainnnn”). As always, the songwriting perfectly encapsulates that infatuation: “Your heart’s my dedication, your soul’s my destination, your love’s my meditation.”
That energy remains sky-high for “Silly Love Fool,” showcasing futuristic bleeps and bloops that sounds like Rahsaan is at the helm of a spaceship while contemplating how he played himself. Meanwhile, “Rock and Roll” is the type of track that will be a showstopper at live shows – LaToiya Williams and Trina Broussard come through with a major assist on this one and waste no time turning heads.
But as mentioned earlier, the real story of Heroes & Gods is the production. Rahsaan is probably best known for his mellow R&B grooves but he refuses to be boxed in here. The incredible “Break It Down” feels like an evolution of the Earth, Wind and Fire sound while the single “Sent From Heaven” dials things back just slightly, with the background vocals blending seamlessly with the horns that live up to the track’s name.
Speaking of living up to its name, “Sweet Memories” sounds straight out of a dreamscape, while the adrenaline-fueled guitars of “Wide Awake” give it a distinct rock feel. “Soldier” is the best of both worlds, starting out like a pulsating house record before drifting into a stepper’s anthem by the track’s end. This might sound schizophrenic on paper but thanks to sound sequencing, nothing feels out of place.
In fact, you can compare the album’s almost cinematic feel to another bunch of blockbuster gods n’ heroes, the Avengers. Each song here shines with its own unique personality – individually almost all are superstars but together they make for a mighty package.
Heroes & Gods is a meticulously well-crafted body of work. In an era of microwavable music, it’s the gourmet experiences that prove to be the most satisfying.
I’m not mad at Rahsaan’s eight-year hiatus. The best things come to those who wait.
Best tracks: “Break It Down,” “Rock and Roll,” “Wonderful Star”
4 stars out of 5