Sterling Simms is for grown folks; adults only. The Philadelphia born R&B singer’s latest mixtape, Mary & Molly, is the soundtrack to the fast lane. Offering up a startling, wide-eyed peek into the steamy and sometimes scary world of fame, Mary & Molly feels like a sex-crazed haze, a raunchy emotional stupor fueled by the drugs this music is an ode to.
Like Kanye’s “Crack Music” before it, Mary & Molly is raw. Produced by hit-makers Oak and Pop and Stereotypes, we’re weaving in and out of strip clubs, backseats, bedrooms and shopping sprees to sticky melodies and alarming beats. You may need to take your time with this one. Hosted by three DJs from the City of Brotherly Love, Don Cannon, DJ Drama, and Philly’s #1 man about town and master of the mix, DJ Aktive, you’re inclined to pay attention.
Mary & Molly oozes out of the box with an intro of the same name, sounding like a fresh take on classic ’90s R&B. But you soon realize that this is something very, very different. Simms is naughty and profane twisted into silky romance, leading with vulgar voiceovers that still seem slyly sweet. “Make You Somebody,” a gritty stripper anthem is so rude it’s ingenious. Featuring 2 Chainz, Tyga, and Travis Porter, the syrupy groove offers dancers an identity for the day as the men in the room are kind enough to give them one. It’s the kickoff to the cultural tourism rampant throughout Mary & Molly.
Simms seems determined to show you what life is really like for an urban music performer from all angles. The nearly obscene “Orange Juice” showcases the intriguing relationship between groupies and stars over head-bobbing drums. After a while you don’t know who’s chasing who. The same theme appears on the glossy “Joey,” a brassy tune about the messy pay-to-play friendship between a baller and a prostitute, a dance around sex, business and respect.
Simms makes bad behavior seem like a day at an amusement park. Whether he’s stealing someone’s girl on “Smear” and “You Should Be with Me,” or trying to get back with his woman after cheating for the millionth time on “Kissing You,” Simms’ clean voice gives even the craziest of situations a feel of innocence. The perfect mix of street music and sheen (Simms’ single “Tell Her Again” featuring fellow Philly native Meek Mill is featured here as well), even the DJs shouting around intros and endings fits in perfectly with the Mary & Molly brand of R&B.
On “BlackHeart,” a man’s quiet confession of heartbreak since losing his woman for good due to his own selfish mistakes, “The Girl You Are,” a hypnotic, snake-charming song about a man’s pursuit of a sexual relationship, and the aptly named “Nasty,” Simms’ smooth, almost feathery vocals gently graze the pounding tracks. Here his metaphors and explicit lyrics mixed with the gripping production paint vivid images as he croons, “We go together/like Kurt Cobain and Seattle weather…”
Simms is indeed a skilled storyteller. Nowhere is this showcased more than on the tape’s strongest track, “Close To My Heart,” featuring another fiercely talented narrator, Hip-Hop artist STS. Backed by a masterful sample of The O’Jays “Cry Together,” the two fasten together head-spinning, harsh, deeply personal “love stories,” tales of casual lovers morphing into parents, constantly moving between being adversaries and tender partners; the gorgeous dysfunction of a man and woman in a high-profile relationship.
Mary and Molly is a trip, x-rated and faded, a voyeuristic voyage beyond the velvet rope. If you can handle it, it’s worth the experience. Access granted.
DOWNLOAD: Sterling Simms – Mary & Molly [Mixtape]