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Musiq Soulchild

Musiq Soulchild

Musiq Soulchild's foundation in classic soul and organic hip-hop, combined with his innate romantic and affable everyman style, has translated to longevity and acclaim spanning decades. The Philadelphian singer/songwriter arrived behind the similarly rooted likes of D'Angelo, Maxwell, and Erykah Badu -- artists who had successfully gone against the grain of pop-flavored urban contemporary radio programming -- and immediately distinguished himself at the dawn of the 2000s. "Just Friends (Sunny)" and "Love," his first singles, both went Top 40 and drove the success of Aijuswanaseing (2000), a million-selling debut that began a streak of four platinum or gold albums that included the Grammy-nominated LPs Juslisen (2002) and Luvanmusiq (2007). Since releasing six albums through major labels Def Jam and Atlantic, Musiq has recorded independently with continued success, earning his third Grammy nomination for Best R&B Album with Feel the Real (2017), and teaming with producer Hit-Boy for Victims & Villains (2023).

The Philadelphia-born Taalib Johnson grew up in a household that provided him with an education in '70s soul. As a fledgling young artist who, at first, did not intend to enter the music industry, Johnson performed wherever he could, including the streets, at schools, and even in galleries. He honed his stagecraft at open-mike events and at showcases hosted by the Five Spot and Wilhemina's until his management team, Jerome Hipps and Michael McArthur (aka Mama's Boys), facilitated a deal with Def Jam's Def Soul subsidiary. Johnson debuted in 2000 with "Just Friends (Sunny)," which first appeared on the soundtrack for Nutty Professor II: The Klumps. The song hit the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop chart that September, reached number six (number 31 pop), and was featured on Aijuswanaseing, an album released two months later. Recorded mostly at DJ Jazzy Jeff's hometown A Touch of Jazz studio, Aijuswanaseing also contained "Love," a number two R&B hit (number 24 pop) that made impact in December. Written with Carvin Haggins and Andre Harris, and produced by Harris and Vidal Davis, it helped the album reach platinum status and was nominated for a Grammy in the category of Best Male R&B Vocal Performance.

Juslisen, Johnson's second album -- credited to simply Musiq -- followed in May 2002 with creative improvements that resulted in even greater success. It debuted at number one on the R&B/Hip-Hop Albums and all-genre Billboard 200 charts, and it also produced a pair of Top Ten R&B singles. The following December brought Soulstar, which eventually went gold but ended his run with Def Soul. Johnson moved to Atlantic -- as part of a unique industry maneuver, he was traded for rapper Fabolous -- and was as productive, if not quite as popular, with that label. Luvanmusiq (March 2007), OnMyRadio (December 2008), and MusiqintheMagiq (May 2011) all offered slight refinements of Johnson's mature sound and either topped or came close to topping the R&B/Hip-Hop chart. While his albums largely retained a laid-back, ballad-oriented sound, two of this period's biggest hits, "B.U.D.D.Y." and "Anything," were uptempo club numbers that sampled post-disco hits from 1981: Taana Gardner's "Heartbeat" and Central Line's "Walking into Sunshine," respectively.

Johnson then said goodbye to the major-label system. The singer teamed up with Syleena Johnson and producer Kemar McGregor for 9ine, a set of nine contemporary reggae duets recorded during nine days. It was released in September 2013 on the independent Shanachie label. Signed to My Block, the eOne-supported label operated by previous collaborator Warryn Campbell, Johnson released his seventh proper album, Life on Earth, in April 2016. Although five years had passed since his previous solo album, he wasn't forgotten by urban AC radio programmers; the ballad "I Do" became the singer's tenth Top 20 R&B/hip-hop hit. Album eight, Feel the Real, arrived the following September, and with help from the number 11 R&B/hip-hop hit "Start Over" became Musiq's third LP Grammy-nominated for Best R&B Album. Over the next few years, Musiq co-wrote and was featured on tracks such as T3's "Once Upon a Time" and James Vickery's "Come to Me." He and producer Hit-Boy then partnered to make Victims & Villains, a concise set of progressive R&B released in March 2023. ~ Andy Kellman

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