A South Jersey native fashions himself as a new kind of R&B singer.
This V cat must think he's slick. The cover for his debut album The Revelation Is Now Televised is a complete recreation of the original cover of Gil Scott-Heron's classic 1974 album The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, right down to V himself laying back on a chair, both hands placed on the back of his head and a deep-in-thought expression on his face. This should give you an idea of what to expect when you listen to his album, set to drop Oct. 25 on BBE Records.
The thirtysomething Paulsboro, N.J., native (born Valvin Roane II) spends most of his debut not only evoking the retro soul of his Me Decade idols, but creating the most stunning R&B tracks you're likely to hear all year. Whether he's pepping up the party with the soul-house opener "Confess," singing for a lovely's affections on the slow jam "Hey Pretty Baby" or putting his own spin on the future in the optimistic "Picture This"-perhaps one of the few secular songs to ever use a piece of the Lord's prayer as a chorus hook-V goes about conceiving a debut that's surprising as it satisfying.
With tracks produced by such luminaries as Pete Kuzma, Kev Brown and co-executive producer DJ Jazzy Jeff, Revelation will hopefully be the album that'll escalate V from songwriter/session player status (he's worked on albums by Will Smith, Musiq and Justin Timberlake) to full-on soul man. V took time out to talk about his inspirations, his intentions for the album and his dream for heaven on earth.
I've listened to your album more than once, and I think it's the hot shit. I hope BBE will be doing everything to get it in people's hands.
"I know they're doing what they're usually doing, which is promoting it. I know they have it on their website. I know they have an EP [T.R.I.N.T.: The EP]. They're giving it to the DJs. And then they have a plan, along with my management, as far as shows and things of that nature, to get exposure."
How big a role did DJ Jazzy Jeff have in this?
"He executive produced the album, along with me and my manager. He physically produced a couple of tracks, like 'Would You Be Mine' and 'Anotha Phase.' He produced the song on the EP called 'Confusion.' But he pretty much oversaw all the songs and executive produced the project along with me. We have a bunch of producers who actually did the songs on the record, about six or seven producers, along with a couple of different writers, who helped put together the songs. And each song is different. It came to be a good collection of songs. I've done songs with a bunch of different cats out of Philly, out of New York and whatever. But this is a collection that everybody was feeling. So I'm glad to know that people are really appreciating it."
The press release for your album has a headline that reads: "The Antidote to Rhythm and Bullshit." Is that what you were going for when you made the album-creating an alternative to commercialized R&B?
"You know, I'd just say that I'm a product of the music from, say, the '60s and the '70s. I grew up on a lot of that '70s music, and I didn't really go in with a thought of trying to change a genre or doing anything like that, as much as I was just trying to do good music. That's what comes out when I try to do good music, and people are labeling it what they're labeling it. Like 'rhythm and bullshit'-that was somebody's feeling about that record. But I have a host of songs that I've been doing over the years that are along those same vibes. It's real. The musicianship is real. The arrangements are real. I just try to keep it like that. I mean, I don't really put down anybody else's genre of music, because I like almost every genre of music. But I do my own thing, and I try to do it from the heart. And that's what comes out."
So that whole "rhythm and bullshit" was the work of a very ballsy press agent?
[Laughs] "Exactly. That's not my statement. That's somebody else's statement. But I'm flattered. You know, for a while, R&B was kinda getting keyboardish and people were going away from live instrumentation, and they started to get away from real topics. So I stay on real, personal topics. If it's not my personal experience, it'll be a personal experience of someone I know. That's why the title is The Revelation, because that's the reality coming through the music."
I let a religion-reporter friend listen to "Picture This," and she said she never heard a gospel hymn quite like it. Is that what it is?
"Let's just define gospel. The word 'gospel' is 'good news.' I don't think it really relates to one or another religion. I came up in a religious background, believing in God and that nature. It's kind of on the faith that if you know Scripture, at some point in time we believe there's gonna be a time of heaven on earth, where we don't see all the tragedies and everything that we see going on in the world. We believe that's coming. So this is kind of like me at a point in time with my religious experience or interracial experience, when this day comes, what's it gonna look like? What's it gonna seem like? And we need to keep our faith in that if we wanna get through these times, like what we see in New Orleans. It's hard when you see tragedy in front of your face. So that's the angle that I was coming from at that time."
She also said it reminded her of John Lennon's "Imagine." Do you agree with that?
"I'd agree John Lennon embarked on a concept, which is to imagine a better place, a better world, a better situation for yourself, for your family, for your community, for your nation, for the world. And once we all realize that's the key, to picture a new situation, and that's actually the drive or the inspiration that actually makes it happen, then we'll start seeing that brighter day."
PW's Music Issue 2014