Album Review: Raheem Devaughn – The Love & War Masterpeace

Soul is Passion and Love. Soul is a Message. That is why Soul is Power. That is where Raheem DeVaughn is Soul.  Empowering his third album The Love And War Masterpeace with a dual vision, Raheem pens reality with neo-soul’s ink and takes a firm stance: in our world let there be love, for our world let there be outspoken social awareness.

The team for this LP is flamboyant and numerous, featuring producers Kenny Dope (who produced most of this LP), Ne-Yo, the Stereotypes, Ronnie “Lil Ronnie” Jackson, Ivan “Orthodox” Barias, Carvin “Ransom” Haggins, Big Bob, Symfoniz and Jerry Jukes Vine and spoken interludes as introductions to tracks by the mighty scholar Dr Cornel West.

The featuring artists extend a celestial line-up of R&B, Hip Hop and Raggae suns: Ludacris, Wale, Malik Yusef, Damian Marley. For the gospel soul-stirring track “Nobody Wins A War” no less than Jill Scott, Bilal, Anthony Hamilton, Algerbra, Chrisette Michele,  Shelby Johnsson, Ledisi, Citizen Cope, Dwele, Chico DeBarge and Rudy Currence lend their voices.

The album opens with a funky ’70s interlude by thought-provoking Professor Cornel West (in the academic sphere: the thinker and prolific writer, notably of the must-read ‘Race Matters’, and in the metaphors’ sphere ‘Councilor West’ of ‘The Matrix’), followed by “Bulletproof” (released last year), which paves in clear terms the thematic road this album is taking: [They] “Murder your sons, ravish your daughers / Here, overseas and across those waters… What you gonna do when the gun is pointed at you?”.

Raheem’s talent to me is two fold: his rich voice, wide musical range and interpretation and his tightly-knit music patterns.  There are always at least three layers of melodies weaving soft-tempered beats, drum-like chord and wind instruments, and percussive piano lines which themselves support the flowing symphonies of voices: Raheem’s, the chorus or companions.  Yet the effect is seemingly effortless – humble almost – and resonates a bygone time of Soul, made timeless by sheer mastery and passion.

The tracks dedicated to love revive Donny Hathaway’s spirit with smooth grooves such as “The Greatness” feat. Wale, “Mr Right”, “Fragile” feat. Malik Yusef, “My Wife” (which time-warped me back to Puff Daddy‘s “I Need A Girl”) and more.  Dr West says it best in his second interlude: brother Raheem has captured our need for “tenderness, sweetness, kindness”.  What I presonally like in Raheem’s songs about women is his respect, which seems far from feigned.

“Black & Blue” touches on domestic violence; “Love ain’t pain, ain’t bruises, ain’t fear for your life”. It reminded me of the admirable J. Medeiros who speaks against abuse perpetrated on women and children. In contrast comes the humorous “B.O.B. (Battery Operated Boyfriend)” produced by Big Bob Terry.

Do ear-mark “Nobody Wins The War”, composed by Carl Gonzalez.  Not only is it supported by 11 voices plus DeVaughn’s, and sends gospel chills to ear-spines (Does it echo Mary J Blige’s and George Michael’s “As” for you too?) but the lyrics are worth a pause…  “What would you do, what would you say if you heard a bomb headed your way?”.  Jill Scott emphasises, “[Government] You never find what you seek… You make the sky a storm…. You sent my children killing other human beings… As if there isn’t even a possibility for peace but there is always a possibility for peace”.

Raheem and Damian Marley start an apocalyptic count-down with the reggae vibes of  “Revelations 2010”, composed by Burt Bacharach. “They’re out to bury me and they’re out to bury you”, “You’d better arm yourself”, that is “educate your mind”, “exercise your praying”.

The question begs to be asked: Where are our generation’s politically engaged leaders? Who are our generation’s speakers? Maybe right here: Soul’s children?

–Nadia Ghanem

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