Sade. Prince. Jodeci. The Isleys. Maxwell. Luther. Synonymous celebrated vocalists who defined the neosoul/contemporary R&B genre for generations through supple ballads of intimacy. Cosigned by American philosopher Cornell West, Raheem “Radio” DeVaughn continues his pursuit of those almost mythical individuals, looking to perch the name “Raheem” on their tier with his latest “masterpeace”.
While DeVaughn’s niche lie in his penchant for love melodies, The Love & War Masterpeace additionally sees him tackle subject matter of a political and social nature comparable to Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On?. “Black & Blue” touches on a dark side of affection; a volatile love in which he pens a letter to a female companion, consistently a victim of domestic abuse. He colorfully paints the intricate details from late night 911 calls to a constant constant fear of her life. Wale joins his DMV brethren for a groovy, uplifting number dedicated to the ladies on “The Greatness”. Even his foreboding lead single “Bulletproof” sees the soulful crooner touching on the world’s misfortunes on all fronts, both “here, overseas and across the waters” before giving way to an aggressive Ludacris, who delivers another show-stealing feature from his vast catalog.
For a project over an hour in length, feature-laden tracks are few and far between yet stand out nonetheless. The epic “Nobody Wins a War” sees DeVaughn accompanied by a bevy of neo-soul cornerstones like Jill Scott, Bilal, Anthony Hamilton and Dwele as well as relative newcomers like Algebra Blessett and Chrisette Michele for an optimistic reflection of the violence occurring worldwide. DeVaughn remains political as he enlists Dr. Cornel West to guide the album while Damien Marley arrives to wax apocalyptic visions with Raheem over the Issac Hayes-sampled “Revelations 2010?. G.O.O.D. Music’s Malik Yusef supplies spoken word pieces to open and close the ethereal ballad “Fragile” as Raheem’s supple vocals glide over the rising soundscape, echoing a request for complete trust and the most “fragile” part of a woman’s being: her heart.
Of course, Raheem DeVaughn stays true to his craft, supplying beautiful love compositions for behind closed doors. “Mr. Right” and “My Wife” are nearly companion pieces; the former, an expression of DeVaughn’s desire to practice monogamy while the latter sees him recounting past experiences before taking the ultimate step in his commitment to his partner for life. Masterpeace also features no shortage of sincere babymakers including the steamy sessions of “Bedroom” in addition to the oral sex innuendos of “Microphone” without becoming excessively raunchy. Reminiscent of Quincy Jones’ “Secret Garden”, Raheem DeVaughn reaches the climax of a lovemaking session on the stellar “Garden Of Love” and even manages to playfully compare and contrast the difference in intimate lovemaking and female one-on-one action with her favorite toy (“B.O.B.”).
An infusion of the blueprints of his predecessors combined with his own trademark sound and style have led Raheem DeVaughn to unimaginable heights on his latest opus. Outside of a few somewhat lengthy interludes and a choice questionable track (“The Greatness”), The Love & War Masterpeace is nearly flawlessly in its execution. Borrowing heavily from the template set by Marvin Gaye with What’s Going On?, the self-proclaimed “R&B Hippie Neo-Soul Rockstar” contributes a masterpiece of his own to the genre, securing his place with one comprised of both sincere love and socio-political awareness. This is his Baduizm, his Urban Hang Suite, his Words & Sounds Vol. 1, his Voodoo; unfortunately, it is this once-in-a-lifetime listening experience that will be nearly impossible for him to match for the remainder of his career.
5 spins (out of 5)