The funk revival has been a long time coming. Musicians like Dev Hynes and D’Angelo have confirmed that there is still room for funk in today’s sometimes sullen R&B scene, while the massive success of ‘Uptown Funk’ and ‘Get Lucky’ prove that there is clearly a demand for the genre. It’s been a long time since an artist has fully embraced not only the music, but the culture of funk. Enter Boulevards.
Jamil Rashad only has one ambition with his debut album, and it’s in the title. Whether dialling a potential lover on carnal lead single ‘Cold Call’, or recalling a one-night stand on synth-heavy standout ‘Got To Go’, Rashad has both feet firmly on the dancefloor. With nothing resembling a ballad over the album’s forty-minute runtime, he commits to the tone and keeps the mood appropriately buoyant. Sure, Groove! often skirts the line between erotic and corny, but that comes with the territory. Taking the lead from Prince and Rick James, Boulevards compensates for his sometimes-questionable lyricism by fully committing to it. Rashad appreciates the fundamental puerility of telling a woman her “funk is stankin”, but still sings it with total conviction. He’s nothing if not authentic.
Smooth, sexy, and soulful, Groove! is very much the work of an musician who knows where his strengths lie. The problem is, though, that where his strengths lie don’t allow him much creative freedom. What catches out many throwback artists is a failure to imprint any personality to differentiate themselves from their influences. Rashad brings just enough flair to avoid sounding anonymous, but all too often his music is indiscernible from that which he’s emulating.
Sure, it’s easy for artists like Mark Ronson to fetishize 70s funk for an easy number one. But it sure as hell isn’t authentic. What Jamil Rashad understands is that to really embody funk, you have to live and breathe it. No, Groove! isn’t ground-breaking and nor is it meant to be. As a throwback, it’s an unqualified success. Where does he go from here, though?