Raheem DeVaughn: The Love & War MasterPeace

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Posted September 13, 2010 by J Matthew Cobb in Reviews 1.0

Neo-soul star tries to bring the powerful forces of “love and war” together on one album; musically there’s more to love

He’s definitely not the big R&B star he could be and he’s far from being the radar bleep in the pop world, but Raheem DeVaughn – the self-proclaimed underground R&B king – has the creative know-how and brilliance, if properly executed and managed, to gain that honorary distinction. With a few mixtapes under his sleeve (definitely the trendy way to experiment without getting nailed by critics) and two good, not mind-blowing, full-length albums under his sleeve, DeVaughn is ready to champion his most ambitious project to date. The Love & War MasterPeace blends the poet and the prophet together, the protest of What’s Going On and the swooning romance of Let’s Get It On on one record. DeVaughn believes, using a bold and courgeous clarity, that there’s a thin line between love and hate but believes the two are like Ying and Yang. Separate forces, but equal and explainable.

Dr. Cornel West’s presence on the record is meant to give off that militant, socio-political rootsy Black pride. But at times, it’s an overgrown ego rush for the singer. West’s remarks, although marinated in the preachiness of ‘70s Black power, shrugs itself more into a grand, elaborate introduction to the preacher of the hour. That would be Minister DeVaughn. But if you get into the lyrics and not allow the self-absorbed adjectives to get in the way of the moment, you’ll actually hear a man opening up with protest, frustration, anxiety and even fear. The musical atmosphere of the lounge opener, with West prepping the show with his rhyming words of wisdom, reacquaints listeners to the blaxplotation soul of Curtis Mayfield’s “Mighty Mighty (Spade and Whitey).” And afterwards the sensual soul of Marvin Gaye rears its populous head on the contagious eye-opener “Bulletproof.” The groove is gratifying at first listen, but lyrically stuns (Murder your sons, ravage your daughters/Here, overseas, and across the borders”) and exposes (“Some will die over oil, kill over land/Charge you for taxes and blame Uncle Sam”). It’s a tough sermon to swallow, but if Marvin Gaye could reprise his proverbial protest of “Inner City Blues (Makes Me Wanna Holler)” today, “Bulletproof,” without any reason of doubt, would be the definite text. Ludacris’s involvement in the song only tightens up and strengthens the lyrics with a critical, weighty wake-up call to our grim reality. Besides the bold messages contained in the superstar labor of love “Nobody Wins a War” and the Damien Marley collaboration “Revelations 2010″ (borrowing a sample from the juicy Isaac Hayes’ “The Look of Love”), much of the album keeps DeVaughn’s swagger for Quiet Storm soul alive. “Mr. Right” props him up to be the modern gentleman, “My Wife” does a better job, even tossing away the idea of infidelity, “Garden of Love” keeps the masculine swerve of Isaac Hayes’s psychedelic soul mystique alive and “Microphone” is a smart way to expose crafty suggestive innuendos for those looking for a little sweat and passion. Great to see this isn’t an entirely slow ride: the Ne-Yo produced “I Don’t Care” works with a bubbly ‘80s melody, the fierceness of a Mary J. Blige uptempo gem, “Greatness” sways with the vibrations of a delicious vintage ‘70s soul-meets-‘80s electronic teaser and “Bedroom” gets the thumbs-up for its smooth retro beats serenaded by DeVaughn’s Marvin Gaye-esque falsetto on the verses. But to throw in a club jam or a rumpus party maker on board would nullify the mission of bringing the emotive complexities of love and war into one record. There’s nothing on MasterPeace that feels remotely playful or childlike, unless you think offering sweet-nothings and minutes of foreplay during an exhaustive throwdown is elementary.

DeVaughn’s biggest overhaul, unfortunately a mechanical one, surrounds his mammoth decision to pull both the dark blues and the love magic into one record, without much separation between the two worlds. It’s probably why Gaye, along with Curtis Mayfield (probably another one of DeVaughn’s inner influences) did their very best to keep the two worlds apart. If the two were to coexist on the same album, it wouldn’t be as tightly interwoven as MasterPeace is. But if you excuse this glitch, you’ll most certainly equate it to the masterpieces of soul albums. Not because it’s just a timely musical reflection on eternal classics or because it mirrors the importance of concept records capturing an universal message. Those are good reasons to assert a great deal of hype around this record. But it’s really because DeVaughn, for the longest with his ear glued to the underground, creates a canvas that is unequivocally solid and worthy enough to reveal to a much greater audience.

J MATTHEW COBB

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HIFI DETAILS

  • Release Date: 02 Mar 2010
  • Label: Jive
  • Producers: Raheem DeVaughn, Kenny Dope, Lil’ Ronnnie, Stereotypes, Ne-Yo
  • Track Favs: Bulletproof, I Don’t Care, Nobody Wins a War, My Wife, Mr. Right, Black & Blue

About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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