Slakah The Beatchild – Something Forever (Special Edition) | Album Review

Canadian producer/composer/singer and occasional rapper Byron ‘Slakah the Beatchild’ Joseph’s latest release Something Forever is a pretty little slow burner to easily rival, even outshine, 2008’s Soul Movement.

Operating under several aliases each reflecting his various modes of musical expression, Slakah is Joseph’s soulful/Hip Hop alter-ego. With Something Forever he seeks to create just that; a timeless record. This is much less of a collaborative effort than his last outing under the Beatchild moniker, with only a couple of guest appearances by long-time creative affiliates Ebrahim and Swedish singer-songwriter Tingsek.

A self-professed fan of J Dilla and what he describes as the ‘Detroit Sound’, the influence of the late great James Dewitt Yancey looms large over Slakah’s work. A little Dilla-Be-ism, as we know from experience, can hardly be a bad thing. Beatchild pays homage to some extent with the first three songs of Something Forever – the astral-inspired ‘When the Night Stood Still’, the sublime title track based on a never-ending chord progression, and the very Dilla-ish underwater-y, wonky chords/strident rhythm, combo of ‘Living for the Rush’.

However don’t be looking for that instant fix on first listen. The true beauty of these songs sneaks up on you after a few spins, much like the album as a whole.

Half-sung, half-rapped ‘Things I Do for You’ would be absolutely fine if it weren’t for the dodgy lyrics. They read as if Slakah used one take to record the first thing that the beat brought to mind, only to bypass the necessary lyrical fine-tuning; ‘…For her I’d move the earth…all the sounds that we’ll make could wake a baby, or even maybe help produce a birth…’

…Plus, Slakah is on firmer ground singing than he is busting a rhyme.

‘B-Boy Beef V2’ is a more serious-minded remix of a 2008 track of the same name. Well, less of a remix than Slakah returning to what he originally intended for the song according to the Soul Movement producer commentary. In any case, it leaves more of an impression this time around thanks to the mildly haunting guitar riff.

From certain angles Beatchild bears a strong resemblance to Raphael Saadiq (to this reviewer’s mind anyway), not just in physical appearance but sonically too. Slakah gives his most Saadiq-esque vocal performance on ‘Down’ – a great party jam that calls to mind the best of the Lucy Pearl era.

The deliciously sour tale of emotional hide-and-seek that is ‘Illusions’ has a similar pre-millennium nostalgic twist to its production, this time resembling the type of mid-late ’90s R&B ballad that would have had Timbaland at the helm. Once the accretive harmonies on the bridge and the chorus kick in, resistance is futile.

The very aptly-titled ‘This Beautiful Feeling’ exemplifies all that works so fantastically well about Mr Joseph’s production. The track fuses an intoxicatingly lyrical bassline, compulsively upbeat hand-claps, shimmering Rhodes chords and harmonies that are just as smooth.

Slakah The Beatchild – “D.A.N.C.E”:

Beatchild continues the lovesick theme on funk-ballad ‘Cure’ which, like ‘Illusions,’ has Slakah delivering his most heartfelt vocals. The triumphantly bouncy ‘D.A.N.C.E’ (sampling Minnie Riperton and using the same Kool And The Gang ‘Jungle Jazz’ sample as Jade’s monster hit ‘Don’t Walk Away’) and ‘War Within’ featuring Ebrahim and Tingsek provide some light relief after all that romance-induced pensiveness. With Ebrahim channelling his inner-D’Angelo, ‘War…’ is a fitting valediction to an unassumingly fabulous record.

It’s tempting to lazily dismiss this as background music if only giving the album a cursory listen, a far too frequent occurrence in an age that spawned the MP3 format; so designed to indulge ever decreasing attention spans. Alas, to fall into this trap with Something Forever would be to miss out on Something Special indeed.

The Special Edition of Something Forever is released on February 21st; pre-order now available from Amazon or HMV.
The original Something Forever EP is out now via BBE Records; purchase from iTunes UK / US or Amazon UK / US.