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The best kept secret in music


"Review: Jae- Come Close"

Were one to compile a list of fresh, impressive artists, Jae would surely be at or near the top. His latest CD, “Come Close” is not an album that plods along at a uniform pace, blending all the tracks into one. It is neither boring nor repetitive, as Jae crafts his melodies and uses his skills to weave the magic of soul, blues, hip-hop and modern R&B to good effect: dropping in a contemporary bass-line here, a dash of various rap ingredients there (courtesy of K-Dawg, Shai P, Druce and Jae himself), all aside his ample vocal talent. The end product, “Come Close,” is nothing short of extraordinary.

This set is grade-A from start to finish, full of Jae’s explosive beats and soulful vocals. Give him either a down, up or medium tempo and he handles them all with equal competence. Make it funky and he gets eccentric, get down and dirty and he will tear out your heart, strike a serious ballad and he will match it with ease, lay a beat and he will compliment it with his fabulous, eminently singable hooks. And, if you ever wanted the utmost definition of a first-class independent talent, take a listen to Jae’s “The Way” and you will know for certain why I believe that Jae is one of the most significant artists to hit this genre in a very long time.

Where to start… what accolades can I not shower on this CD? On “Let’s Ride,” Jae unsheathes his lyrics with the sharp skills of the classic beatniks. He talks fast and heavy, creating movement and rhythm with his delivery. He’s not rapping. He isn’t depreciating the effect with corny rhymes; instead, he hits his peak as a master of dialect. But the talking bits represent just one side of Jae. Differing is “Just to be your Man”, which exhibits steaming sensuality, a highly sexualized croon a la Marvin Gaye or Smokey Robinson, also resembling D’Angelo (think “How does it Feel?” with a much higher I.Q, and fully clothed, that is). Jae has the tremendous crossover potential to draw fans from both traditional and modern blues, R&B, soul, and hip-hop. Moreover, if "Get at You" does not emulate the groundwork of modern hip-hop’s most coveted artists, then I don’t know what does. It will have you, in the words of Stevie Wonder, “jammin’ until the break of dawn!”

The slightly darker, heavier track “Lies” presents the most convincing delivery of the entire album, as Jae sounds full of longing, alongside his exceptionally layered, well-written lyrics. He remains unapologetic about being the subject of an unfaithful girlfriend- "Why did you lie/ would have made you my wife/ plan to spend my whole life/ and start a family" - which is very cool. He delivers them just as bluntly over some brooding, almost hip-hop-sounding production, along with some interesting background whisperings. For me, the best part of this song is his sincerity and candor, presenting a topic that is often described from the cheater’s perspective (i.e. R.Kelly’s “Trapped in the closet”, Shaggy’s “It Wasn’t Me”, Usher’s “Confessions”). Jae undertakes this issue from the opposite end, and does so flawlessly.

Listening to the album can be a little like playing “spot the soul/hip-hop reference” at times. From “Sleepless”, a Luther Vandross-esq ballad, to the candid, ingenuous “Get at You”, reminiscent of Usher’s classic “Caught Up”, Jae makes no pretence of disguising what is a homage to both soul music’s golden age and today’s most influential, groundbreaking hip-hop/rap moguls.

"Trouble" is a different Jae sound, complete with a multifaceted rhythm and eerie ambiance. Both very unadorned, yet devastating on the ears. Excellent. The final jewel in the crown is the contemporary “Work it”, wherein the infectious strings create a perfect backdrop for Jae to spit his verbal skills. The track also features a crisp addition from rapper Shai P, which is worthy of mention.

We are in an age where the cross-pollination between R&B and hip-hop has increased to the degree that, in most cases, the only prominent difference between a record being hip-hop or R&B is whether its vocals are rapped or sung. Mainstream modern R&B has a sound that relies heavily on rhythm, as opposed to its lyrically-based origin, and sadly lacks the soulful urban "grinding" feel on which hip-hop soul once relied. In this regard, Jae is truly a breath of fresh air, as his sound is not solely based on rhythmic elements nor prose, but replicates the foundation from which R&B was derived: layered vocal harmonies, a rich background of quick-fire hip-hop bursts, essentially a marriage of classic soul stylings and modern hip-hop construction. Fortunately, Jae has the production skill and the voice to pull it off. And by adding contemporary staccato beats and modern studio techniques (take “Come Close”, for example) he’s able to make something distinctive and innovative.

R&B lyricism is an art form that can stand alongside poetry as a subject worthy of serious analysis. That being said, Jae tackles some serious issues in this CD (as opposed to his last) both furthering his horizons lyrically and expanding his vocal abilities. ‘Fake Man’ discusses domestic violence and the effects of abuse on women. “What you didn’t say” follows abortion from the male perspective, which is presented in a both heartfelt yet and straight-forward manner, shedding a different light on an issue that is gaining popularity among today’s youth, and slowly making its way into the music scene (think Common “Retrospect for Life”, Ben Folds “Brick”). If music truly reflects the soul of a society, how Jae reveals the intensity and frustration of abortion is a dangerous gamble in itself, as the moral and legal aspects of this act are subject to intense debate in many places. Jae undertakes the aforementioned topics with genuine effortlessness, showcasing his lyrical dexterity. What he has delivered on this release is a seamless natural blend of good time vibes and introspective stories, while simultaneously reminding us how well soul and jazz can merge into one superior sound.

Though still learning and carving his own path, Jae is nonetheless one of the brightest new talents in the soul / R&B / hip-hop genre today. He truly exemplifies what brilliant contemporary R&B demonstrates: a slick record production style, bass-backed rhythms, and a smooth, lush style of vocal arrangement that exhibits both hip-hop and soul inspired beats. As a whole, “Come Close” is a well balanced album of groove, seduction, rough and smooth vocals and that magic ingredient…Soul!

Jae joins the ever growing list of talented soul and jazz artists, old and new, who have emerged sans the assistance of major record companies (which many independent artists have nicknamed “the conglomerate”) and has the courage to risk doing things independently. Today’s music is more and more about the little label; the David and Goliath struggle, the internet and word of mouth. This is why we must search for, discover and acknowledge our favorite talents and support them in their endeavors, for, if the fan base doesn’t - who will? As the big labels get bigger, the music many of us love gets rarer. Rather than concentrating on programmed, identical artists and fads, I recommend checking out some authentic, versatile artists. Jae’s music can’t be pigeonholed as R&B or hip-hop or blues or soul. Instead, it’s all of the above. And the truth is, it’s the proficient, multifaceted, clever talents, such as Jae, that seem to not only survive, but flourish in an independent setting. All and all this CD, its R&B foundation and smashing contemporary inclusion, is well-worth a serious listen.
- Allison Auclair- Delaware County Daily Times


Debut Album: Jae
Single, "Rebound" has recieved constant airplay on night programs in both Indianapolis and the greater Philadelphia area.

Sophomore Album: Come Close
Released Dec. 2


Feeling a bit camera shy


Growing up in Indianapolis, Indiana, Jae, the son of a preacher, was always around music in the church. His mother played the organ and all of his sisters sang in the choir. He also sang in the choir and over time, Jae began to lead songs in church and then in concerts at school. This gave him a wonderful feeling. When he saw the reactions of the people and the applause they gave him, he wanted to do it more and more.

So with a strong passion for singing, Jae began recording music with his friends. Being that his friends loved to rap, and he was a respected singer, they were all intrigued with the quality of music they were producing. With an obvious chemistry, they eventually formed the multi faceted group called “The Prodigies”. Throughout high school and college, The Prodigies performed at parties and local night clubs. They even managed to have spins at the local college bars and a respectable amount of radio play.

Over time, the group began to look for new avenues to reach new audiences. Coincidentally, there had also been a rising interest in hearing Jae on R&B tracks. Friends, fans, even industry executives, would constantly comment on the tone and range of Jae’s voice. This is when The Prodigies decided to take some time off and push for a Jae’s solo album.

Jae’s debut album was very unique. The bulk of the tracks were produced by his best friend and main producer, Krunti “K Dawg” Hester of Razkal and Vega, who had an extensive history in Indianapolis’ underground hip hop scene. With Jae’s smooth tone, and K Dawg’s eclectic hip hop production, the match was unprecedented. Fans made this self titled album one of the most frequently purchased albums on the internet for an unsigned artist. And its single, “Rebound” was frequently played by DJs and eventually place in regular rotation on one of Philadelphia’s smaller radio stations.

After a year of pushing the first “Jae” album, it was now time to take Jae’s music to another level. With an ever growing passion to make new songs, Jae began working on his new album entitled “Come Close”. This album was intended not only to create hit songs, but also to display Jae’s singing ability. With this in mind, Jae sought out two of Philly’s top R&B producers in Johnnie Croom and Clarence Brown. Their brilliantly arranged tracks brought out the sound that Jae had been looking for. That sound, in addition to the already established vibe from Razkal and Vega, the album was now complete. This album, consisting of twelve banging tracks demonstrates how a project can easily blend the true sounds of hip hop and R&B.

Along with music, Jae has been heavily involved with athletics. Following high school, he played football and participated in track and field at the University of Iowa. He then went on to play professionally for the Minnesota Vikings, New Orleans Saints, and the Atlanta Falcons. From the amazing people he met, to the knowledge of life in an entertainment business, Jae’s experience in the NFL was priceless. But most importantly, he learned about what it took to be great in any field of work.