In the immortal words of Lil’ Kim and Christina Aguilera: Never can, never will, can’t hold us down.
Not one to be muzzled by her all-but-defunct, ultra shady record label Blackground Records and their contractual death grip on her career, ever-talented singer-songwriter (and birthday girl) JoJo‘s decided to exorcise some of her demons this December…for free.
Like her incredible Can’t Take That Away From Me in 2010, her newest mixtape Agápē provides a taste of the direction she’s heading in musically, mentally and spiritually at the moment. Crafted along with a team of producers and writers, including Austin Brown, Boi-1da, Scott Bruzenak and Elijah Blake, the collection wavers in between angst and frustration–largely all to do with her label–and a ‘fuck ’em all’ air of emancipation, all layered on top of slinky ’90’s R&B beats and hypnotic, hazy ambient sounds.
Highlights include the confessional opener, “Back2thebeginningagain” (“It took me 22 years to trust myself/Too many people told me to be somebody else”), and the instantly classic-sounding, The Backpackkids-produced early ’90’s R&B throwback, “I Get By.” There’s also the (amusingly retitled) “White Girl in Paris,” an acoustic cover of Joni Mitchell‘s “Free Man in Paris” which showcases not only her voice, but the diversity of her musical influences.
The spacey “Take The Canyon” sees JoJo lighting up and letting go of her cares, RiRi style (“Everything is better with a blunt in your mouth,” she monotones), all but providing a contact high from filling the speakers alone, while the too-short 1-minute piano-led ballad “Thinking Out Loud” sees Jo getting heavy on her love life (“I’ve been looking for love in all the wrong places, and telling myself I’m grown.”)
But the most thrilling cut of the entire collection is the Mr. Frank-produced “Andre,” a stupid good ode to a “super-sexy” man (inspired by, but not directly an ode to, Andre 3000) that flaunts Jo’s penchant for crafting unbelievably fresh, melodic hooks (“Ah-ah-ah-andre!“) on top of twinkling electronica and tripping drum loops: “I’m a sucker for a guy with a beautiful mind,” she cries out.
The result, as with her last mixtape, is evidence of an artist with way too much raw talent, intelligence and drive to be held down by the tiny print on a piece of paper. Jo’s gift has found a way out to the public over the years–from leaks, to live showcases, to free mixtapes like this one–because, in the end, true talent always finds a way to shine.
Click here to download Agápē.