Given the sped-up classic soul samples with which Kanye West
has made his mark, it comes as no surprise that the producer/rapper would pick a tradition-minded R&B singer as his first big pet project. Legend first made his name on Philly's incense-clouded, '70s-obsessed neo-soul scene, then found his way to New York and became West's right-hand man in the studio. His patron's pop smarts serve Legend well--while many contemporary R&B records rely too heavily on a singer's cadence and skill to carry underdeveloped tunes, Legend and West have composed genuine songs like the perky "Number One," which has a lovestruck West jabbering that he no longer believes that "my heart don't got nothing to do with my penis." (It's way more convincing than Snoop Dogg
's pledge of love on the next track, "I Can Change.") And even when the melodies are slight, West slides some nasty bass lines underneath, hinting at just enough of a hip-hop sensibility to keep the album from drifting into retro nostalgia. Yet Legend is no mere producer's plaything. His voice isn't immediately distinctive; he's neither as careworn as Anthony Hamilton nor as creamy as D'Angelo
. But his gift for restraint sets him apart: the sex-as-drug metaphor of the title track is hardly fresh, but Legend delivers it smoothly enough to make it work, without pressing the issue. All bedroom come-ons have been used before. This late in the game, it's a matter of how well you use 'em. --Keith Harris
25 year old singer songwriter-pianist who you have seen and heard whether you know it or not. List of credits to his name so far are: Featured vocalist, pianist and co-writer on several tracks from KANYE WEST'S debut "College Dropout" including "Never Let Me Down" w/Jay-Z, Vocalist and pianist on "Encore" and "Lucifer" from Jay-Z's "The Black Album", Vocalist on "You Don't Know My Name" lead single from Alicia Keys' "The Diary of Alicia Keys", & much more.