Taalib Johnson, better known as Musiq Soulchild, or sometimes just Musiq, released his debut album, Aijuswanaseing, in 2000, at the apex of the neo-soul movement. The term, coined by then-Motown president Kedar Massenburg, described a particular streak of black American music. As with any name given to a diverse and varied genre, the musicians associated with the label felt stifled and constrained by it — but the tag lives on, associated with the various records produced by The Roots' Questlove and his Soulquarians collective: D'Angelo's Voodoo, Erykah Badu's Mama's Gun, Common's Like Water for Chocolate — all records released the same year as Aijuswanaesing. But Soulchild's work has always stood just to the right of the divisive genre tag's confines, never as experimental as those works, never as political but always confident and focused on his soaring voice. The traditional soul elements of his songcraft have always been present, but with last year's Musiqinthemagic, Musiq connected '70s-influenced songwriting with modern production. Whereas other tremendous vocalists (R. Kelly comes to mind) swing back and forth between club fare and retro-soul gorgeousness, Musiq blends the two effortlessly on tracks like "dowehaveto" and "anything" (which is marred only by a sloppy verse from Swizz Beatz). The "neo" part of neo-soul still may seem awkward, but artists like Musiq prove that the combination of traditional soul and modern R&B doesn't have to sound hopelessly nostalgic, and so do the classic Soulquarian records of the early decade do. — Jason P. Woodbury
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