The Paradox of V
I first became conscious of Valvin Roane II’s freshman effort, “The Revelation Is Now Televised” on Amazon a couple years ago while still in the Navy. While doing a random search for some other artists, I happened to notice his LP as a “Customers who viewed this album, also bought this” item on their web marquee.
I was also tempted to listen to the samples on the Amazon page but what justice would that have really given my ears? Plus Navy life, at the time, had me bouncing from shore to sea and back in such a whirlwind that time to actually really listen to any music just hadn’t materialized yet. So the notion to do so was filed away in the “Must Do Soon” drawer of my mental cabinet.
It unfortunately became lost in the shuffle of other things I have filed in there as other music and thoughts came across my eyes and ears. That is until a year or so later, when my Twitter sister @vivrant_thang mentioned she was listening to it while I was browsing my Matrix.
Recognition of the name and album’s title immediately set my antennae on alert, plus given the fact that she’s been blogging about good music much longer than I, it would have been a huge faux pas on my part to overlook her tweet, so I quickly asked her the major perfunctory question any music hound would ask, the all important “How Does It Sound“, to which she promptly answered something along the lines of “great album”. Needless to say, I quickly got myself a copy albeit, 22 months later. Not that I really needed the validation, as I was quite aware of his vocal chops from his career singing background for the likes of Musiq and Justin Timberlake, not to mention for the incomparable Jill Scott in the good company of Ra-Re Valverde and ChinahBlac.
It’s now six months later and as always Sister Viv‘s analysis was money, since I do listen to it regularly, with this gem always popping up in my daily work commute playlist:
“Melody” – The Revelation Is Now Televised
After listening to that, one could then only imagine the fervor I felt to hear that V would be releasing his sophomore disc soon. I was then in a quandary, as I had been working on a “late pass” review of T.R.I.N.T. and didn’t want to scrap or change it too much. That was until my Twitter Aunt @trelly asked if I would be interested in doing a post about “It Is Finished: The Paradox Vol I“.
See how the muses work in mysterious ways?
Auntie Trel also sent me the link to that video as well, showcasing V in action on stage.
I immediately said yes (how could I say no or why would I want to for that matter) and deleted a good bit of my prior writing, all while emails were exchanged, files downloaded, details hashed out and I soon found myself transferring the LP to my HTC Touch Pro‘s (Idunneednostinkiniphone) 4GB storage card so I could get in some “real world” listening. As I’ve stated before, not only should people be “Active Listeners” of new music, they should also give new albums field tests or real world listening. Your field can be any place you get in a comfortable place to listen to music out in the real world such as the stereo in your car or your Mp3 player on that morning run. Mine just happens to be on my aforementioned commute.
So the following morning, I began my day as normal. I woke up, kissed Wifey, ate a quick breakfast, got dressed, checked my messenger bag for personal effects, said my “I Love You’s / See You Later’s” and hit the front door for the Charlotte Area Transit System‘s predetermined location for customer pick up across the street.
While waiting on the bus public carriage to arrive, I dug into my bag, retrieved my earphones, started the music player and tapped on the phone’s various screen commands needed to let it know I only wished to hear “The Paradox“.
The beginning track was not something I expected from V. It was spoken word and caught me a little off guard. Not because it was bad or anything of the sort, just out of the norm to hear in R&B today. I honestly don’t recall hearing a spoken word anything in R&B since Bass (née Michael McCray) from Boyz II Men used it during the early 90’s. It was refreshing though, as it attributed to my expectation of VRII being an anti-cookie cutter artist.
Kudos to him for that.
I was then, for lack of a better phrase “throwed off” by the first actual music track:
“The After Party” – The Paradox
Now in comparison to the first album, this track doesn’t seem to quite fit with his past formula, especially as a starting song which would normally set the tone of a long play but I do respect V for adding it since for all intents and purposes this is a different album and any artist worthy of the title wants to show depth, growth, change and the daring to try something new.
But certain questions now come to mind in this regard:
Will those unfamiliar with V before this LP be receptive of the song and keep listening with open minds?
Will potential listeners skip past it but listen to rest of the LP with a jaded ear?
Or even worse:
Will some listeners completely mislabel V’s talent as mediocre?
Possibly, if they aren’t willing to consider the definition of the key word in album’s title; the word Paradox.
I will leave it to you to click the link and read the technical clarification but in short, it’s very definition may hold context clues as to the why the song was placed in the lineup because once the song is complete, it seems to be back to business as usual for Valvin as he turns in
“Close Encounter” – The Paradox
as the second cut for your consideration. I suppose now the word Paradox makes more sense to you as this is closer to the type of sound we have come to expect from V. In comparison to the former LP’s
“Best Friend” – The Revelation Is Now Televised
it seems he is back to familiar ground. From this point on VRII turns in a strong performance. Love songs now abound, like the extremely memorable “Outta Body” that chronicles how meeting your soul mate can give you that oh so familiar, almost paranormal floating feeling whenever in their presence. My ears were graced by this one as I left one bus vehicle and transferred to another. Upon finding a seat on the next one away from the various unbalanced people that I share these daily trips with, V re-introduced me to what I would deem as a strong contender for the resurgence of “The Wedding Song”, be it the processional or the reception, in the embodiment of the track simply titled “Down The Aisle“. This may be the Valvin most will remember from the previous album but this time he is more mature, more cognizant of this being a sophomore effort.
Almost toward the end of my commute, the bus chariot normally stops on a certain street and sits for around five minutes. The driver will then state, loudly into his intercom, that the stop is required to facilitate the keeping of his schedule. It was during that interlude that a bass line flowed into the aural receivers permanently attached to either side of my head. It was a funky-synth-disco groove that, if I had not had the fear of being labeled as unbalanced myself rooting me firmly to my seat, would have started a riot in my legs and set me to dancing in the aisle.
“Praise To Thee” – The Paradox
Since I did have the needed restraint, I was able to notice the lyrics were quite spiritual and faith based. Subject matter like this is always a bonus in this secular world we live in. It then dawned on me that this isn’t the first time V has proclaimed his faith in song:
“Picture This” – The Revelation Is Now Televised
Two different LP’s but with two similar and much needed gems of this kind on them. If for nothing else but these two songs I would recommend V’s work to anyone and IMHO I would like to hear more from him in this realm.
So, I went through the rest of my day, humming snatches of “Praise To Thee” all the while. A lot of the little things that would normally bother me about the day job didn’t faze me at all and once my shift was over and I began my nightly commute back towards my residence, I felt more of a peace than I usually would.
I even spoke to a few of my fellow passengers. That’s something that I rarely ever do, as my mentality of the last two years (which you’ll have to blame on my stint in the Military) has always been keep to myself while riding to avoid any uncomfortable engagement with someone who’s rationale or reasoning may not match my own.
I’d like to think the song had something to do with it…
Once I touched down at homebase and got some sleep, next on the agenda was the phone interview or phoner as I’ve heard it called. After a few days of reflection and a few song repeats, I contacted Trel again to inquire if it was possible to do so which I preempted with my usual caveat/warning/disclaimer, that “I am not a professional journalist and that his agreeing would totally be at his discretion”.
Let’s just say she quickly admonished me for being humble in my request and that he would be more than willing to grant the interview. With that now established I set about relegating myself to the task of creating a series of questions for the Indie artist. I always take a day or so create new questions although sometimes they are rephrased from ones I have asked other artists in past posts. So I took a day that weekend to get my interview “Game Face” on, which consists of putting the LP in question on repeat analyzing each track again and relaxing around the homestead.
At one minute after half past the hour of 8:30, my cell phone rang with a number it’s internal contact listing didn’t recognize. Not that I have a slew of contacts or find the time to actually contact the few I do have but there was no doubt V was on the other line. I tapped answer and found myself saying hello.
He was immediately affable in his exchanging of greetings and pleasantries with me. With those out of the way, I launched into my carefully crafted questions regarding his humble upbringings/beginnings, career credits and perception on life, social media and politics in “the industry“. We even brought language arts and vocabulary into the mix of our convo.
He spoke of his genesis, with memories of always singing since a young age and vivid remembrances of Michael Jackson (RIP) and the Jackson 5 being the quote unquote idol(s) of his youth. That along with being the product of a talented Mother and Father who kept him in church where he honed his voice with Gospel music and his schooling in hometown of Paulsboro, NJ and the many High School talent shows he entered, were key factors on his path.
To further him along the fates added a few more factors that came into play.
V’s brother just happened to be part of a group by the name of The Futures who have several singles to their credit with “Party Time Man” being the most successful during the 70’s Funk era. In their early beginnings they were slated to be the next Temptations via Philly and did a lot of work with Philly Soul pioneers Gamble & Huff. Sadly their dreams never quite saw the reality they should of.
Later, V followed in his brothers foot steps by doing more talent shows and even some vocals for some of Christopher Williams‘ first records but it was a chance local radio airing of a song called “It’s Raining” from his still unreleased debut/demo LP falling upon the ears of DJ Jazzy Jeff that brought Valvin’s talents into the limelight. You thought T.R.I.N.T. was his first album, didn’t you? Until this convo, so did I. He quickly mentioned that he has plans to release it in the future but a date hasn’t been nailed down yet for that.
After the airing of that song, phone calls were made, meetings set up and before long Valvin found himself in a studio creating in the company of not only Jeff but The Fresh Prince as well. He contributed to a few of their latter LP’s but he was still somewhat of an “unknown” in the music circle. Of his vibe at the time and he admits to his early sound being Stevie Wonder-esque with a mixture of other artists he was influenced by; Sam Cooke, Donny Hathaway & Marvin Gaye to name a few.
The major issue during that time frame? Soul music had sort of taken a back seat to Hip-Hop in the public eye (if you don’t count all the sampling being done for a lot of those tracks) and Neo-Soul hadn’t truly been created per se, let alone the term even being coined by Kedar Massenburg or passing anyone’s lips yet. That would soon change with the likes of Erykah, Joi, Musiq, D’Angelo and of course Jill.
Once they helped open those doors, V saw it as his opportunity to get the proverbial foot in the door.
So with the answers to that line of questioning quickly scribbled down on my notepad (I haven’t taken time to invest in a recorder yet, soon though, very soon) I switched gears and asked some very pointed questions concerning the latest effort. Again V, took each question, analyzed it and gave back answers that belied his indie artist exterior, exposing a more seasoned professional than would be first supposed. He expounded on working/touring with Ms. Scott as one the greatest experiences in his life that immeasurably enhanced his music and stage presence.
“Working with Jill was a blessing to be able to see her in her element and her process of honing her craft is…textbook.”
When speaking of his own projects, VRII was candid, especially with his definition of self produced The Paradox and how it’s 19 tracks take the listener on a life journey. To him the album’s songs portray a persons lifecycle. How they live life, how they experience different things and situations, learning from mistakes, celebrating the joys, becoming yourself, being in relationships and the ups and downs that that come with those, all while dealing with the politics of the world we exist in before reconciling with ourselves and loved ones and giving thanks to Almighty for the life we have been given. While writing and listening, I started thinking back through each track and the message, feeling, vibe I got from each one and found myself agreeing that the album does go that deep. The aforementioned “After Party” now makes a lot more sense in this context and even has my mind segue to tracks from other artists like Andre Three Stacks‘ in your face requests in “Spread” and the whole “Where Are My Panties?” after the morning after skit from his “The Love Below” half of Outkast’s second to last LP. Well, maybe that doesn’t really fit the bill but it’s what struck my medulla at the time.
Sorry for the tangent. I digress….
At any rate, from start to finish, despite it’s overall more radio friendly approach, each track is it’s own entity yet part of the whole he was describing. V also gave me a little more insight into his songwriting process by telling me that he doesn’t just come up with these types of songs all by himself out of thin air, even though he took over a good portion of the reigns with this album. He works with several people as his writing team, and a few in-house producers including his Brother and Nephew helping out like shout with the recording.
As far as touring and other promotions, Valvin has a couple upcoming shows in Springfield, MA @ Organix Soul (Aug 22nd) and in VA Beach @ Fly’n Fishbone House of Jazz (Aug 28 th & 29th ) but no large scale production videos at the moment due to trying to accomplish everything on an Indie budget, although he did mention that he has plans for incorporating YouTube into his visual marketing plan in the future for this disc. V and I spoke at length about his spirituality as well, particularly in regard to “Picture This” and “Praise To Thee“.
“Spirituality plays a really big part in my life as I realize that everything in this world is animated by his unseen hand. I add a spiritual song to each LP to express that to the world.”
The interview was coming to a close and I interjected one final question to him that I’ve asked of other artists. “If there is one thing you would like to say to people, fans or otherwise about your music, what would it be?”
“Music has and continues to be a blessing for me to do and I’m thankful to God for the fans that show love to Indie artists and the support from them is greatly appreciated. Being an Indie artist is not easy by a long shot but for one person to just like one of my songs is a blessing and makes me ecstatic about continuing to do it.”
Well said Valvin, well said…
In summary, Valvin’s second album is solid but it may not be the LP his long time supporters were expecting. Which, from an audiophile’s perspective, is not necessarily a negative to his credit at all. What does speak loudly on his behalf, is that he is wiling to take chances to bring real change to the mundane format R&B albums & artists are prescribing to these days. Even at the risk of possibly confusing a fan or two (potential or established) in the process. Sometimes the pressing issue of shaking up the status quo can be just as important to creating a listenable LP as manufacturing a hit song or two. That is where the real mystery and juxtaposition lies for a musician, be they a “Just under the radar independent” or part of a “Well oiled cash cow of a household name music industry machine”. They must always deftly tread the line and maintain a fine balance in their effort to bring to the listener the essence of their craft while striving to remain true to their innate nature but continue to appeal to the masses.
For Valvin, that is the Paradox.
Valvin was extra gracious in allowing me to share a download of Praise To Thee with you as well. Just click the link below and it shall be yours.
Download:Praise To Thee.zip
If you are interested in getting in touch with V or just finding out more about him and his talents, here are some more links for you to browse: