There are no mirrors or tricks here, no sleight of hand. When J. Holiday talks earnestly of "following my dreams" and "being in love with music," it's not a deliberately sympathetic portrayal by a partial writer. In fact, J.'s talent is matched - in rarity and intensity - only by his enthusiasm. His candor and vulnerability are refreshing, given the static, formulaic state of R&B. The question most are asking, though, is where did J. Holiday come from?
The answer is short, but runs deep: D.C. And while D.C.'s trademark sounds breed musicianship - "so many talented cats playing go-go or in church"- the city remains untapped. But it's home, and home, for J. Holiday, is where the art is.
J. identifies two catharses along his creative odyssey: a 9th grade talent show, wherein he flexed his wares, and his discovery of Marvin Gaye: "I was just listening to songs that I loved. Then I found out that all the songs were by the same guy. That was a main trigger for me, getting hip to Marvin. He led me to Donny Hathaway and Al Green." Channeling these staples with newer ensembles -Jodeci, Boyz II Men, even OutKast- J. eventually formed a trio called 295, named for the famed thoroughfare between Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, Maryland.
J. Holiday set about forging his own identity. "T.A." arranged for a performance in front of Capitol Records music executives, which landed him on the fittingly named label. That passion begat his full-grown debut, Back of My 'Lac. Though the record sports the requisite club-pleasers and woman-teasers -"I get that soft side from my mother"-- Holiday has brought an unexpected edge to R&B music. He bears, proudly and boldly, a street sensibility and bravado normally reserved for hip-hop. That versatility, genuine and uncontrived, encapsulates J. Holiday. "It wasn't done purposely. I just speak from what I've been through, or what my homies been through. I just try to keep it real. I let a track talk to me. If a track feels like a love song, I write a love song. But, you have to make that song mean something. If it's not heartfelt for me, it's not going to be heartfelt for anybody. I think people are too concerned with having one hit song, and the artistry that goes into an entire album is getting lost."
Indeed, J. doesn't have one hit song on the album; he has several. His satiny croon creases the sheets on the celestial "BED," penned by The Dream and produced by Carlos "L.O.S" McKinney. Meanwhile, super producer Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins think Michael Jackson, Mary J. Blige, Beyonce lays the liquid, libidinous baseline underneath J.'s smoky, soulful vocals on "Be With Me." Outside of the booth, J.'s moves are steered by longtime manager Corey Green. Campaigning on an irresistible inaugural album, D.C.'s prized son is set to unseat R&B's incumbents.
J. Holiday is an intriguingly paradoxical figure, equal parts soldier, student, scion, and sage. Fortunately for listeners, the preacher's son has chosen R&B as his preferred pulpit and the airwaves as his congregation. "I'm very conscious and music is the number-one source of expression and emotion," he explains. "You don't have to listen to me, but I'm just trying to let you know of another perspective." That perspective, arriving with the fury of a burning bush, is sure to inspire converts. Rejoice in the Holiday seaso
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