Bryan James Sledge, a.k.a. BJ the Chicago Kid, has been everywhere recently. Providing vocals for artists such as Kendrick Lamar, Big K.R.I.T., Chance the Rapper, Dr. Dre, Joey Bada$$, Vic Mensa, Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment, Busta Rhymes, MF Doom, and Anderson .Paak, BJ had become the most sought after featured vocalist of the past couple of years. Now signed to Motown, his major label debut, In My Mind, brings some of those artists to give back for his project now four years in the making. BJ can sing, there’s no denying that, and he’s always able to provide the texture that his featuring artists have needed, so the anticipation for a first big BJ the Chicago Kid release was pretty high.
In My Mind‘s opening intro, “Inside My Mind,” explains that all he’s afraid of is “losing someone he loves, god, and spiderwebs.” The first two are the only themes of those three to present on the record, but the majority of the record is actually just all about sex. It’s a modern day R&B record more than it is Soul, and it actually sounds like R. Kelly had a huge influence on him, especially when it comes to sheer, unapologetic bluntness. It seems like sex and religion are really all that’s floating around BJ’s mind. From “Church’s,” “she say she wanna drink, do drugs, and have sex tonight, but I got church in the morning,” or “Love Inside’s,” blatant almost, “I wanna put my penis in you,” chorus. It’s as if he had a playbook of shitty pickup lines that he turned into R&B jams.
The production is actually pretty great, as well as the music and BJ’s vocals, it’s just the themes and lyrics that put me off. Like “The Resume’s,” “I need a job, baby can you hire me?” repetition, and a complete waste of a Big K.R.I.T.feature turned into a spoken word intro. It’s the struggle between just loving the songs because they’re catchy as hell, and not being able to put the lyrical content in the back of your mind. For me, it’s the latter.
The other half of the record (thematically, not tracklist-wise), is all about religion: Jeremiah, God, Church, “Shine,” “World Needs More Love,” etc. He did mention love and God as the main themes of the record, and to that he delivered, but it’s very inconsistently placed on the record. Most of the time it even blends and can become a bit confusing.
Favorite’s of the album definitely have to be “Man Down,” the most raw we have heard BJ, “Shine,” and “The New Cupid (feat. Kendrick Lamar),” probably the best one. The record might be all over the place and at the same time, lacking in diversity between tracks, but it’s still early in BJ’s career. His voice is still great, and In My Mind is in the end, promising for the future.