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Album Review: J. Holiday - "Back of My 'Lac"

Swagger & Sensitivity

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Album Review: J. Holiday -

Album cover © Capitol Records.

Judging by his debut album, Back of My 'Lac, J. Holiday is a man with many sides: he's a streetwise hustler, but also a sensitive poet and an inner-city soldier who's an adored ladies' man. And the thing is, at no time whatsoever do his personas come across as fake. All the songs on the album are earnest, heartfelt anthems by a young artist who, like most of us, has many aspects to his personality. J. Holiday and Back of My 'Lac are a breath of fresh air compared to the stereotypical poseurs who jump through musical hoops for a quick buck. Or in other words, J. Holiday's definitely a true, genuine artist.

Not Just a Pretty Face

For an R&B singer it can be a tough balancing act, making songs that men can relate to while still making music that reaches out to the ladies. But on his debut album, Back of My 'Lac, J. Holiday does a hell of a job walking a creative tightwire. The album kicks off with Holiday letting you know that he's not just a pretty face singing love songs:

"I grew up in a house with my mother, I didn't have my punk-ass father 'cause he felt it was his time to move on/It seems when I got a little bit older, the world got a little bit colder and I had to learn everything on my own," he sings on the album's title track.
The song's title had some thinking that he was probably singing about making love in the back of his Cadillac, but that's only half right: it's about him getting nice in the back of his ride, but he's not having sex, he's smoking and drinking - by himself - to 'clear his mind.'

The album's next song, "Ghetto," much like the title track, is a life-in-the-projects anthem about "corner spots, crack rocks and gunshots," that, like the best songs by artists like Marvin Gaye and Lyfe Jennings, matter-of-factly exposes what goes on in the 'hood without sounding exploitive or too sensationalistic. And the song after that, the Jaheim-ish "Thug Commandments," does an amazing job of dispensing wisdom in a smooth, confident manner.

Image © Capitol Records.

As far as the more romantic material, the album's surprise hit "Bed," fits perfectly with the tone of the album, as does the sexy, Rodney Jerkins-produced "Be With Me." The smooth material on the album can be a little melodramatic and slightly corny on some songs, particularly the broken-heart song "Fatal" and the Toni Braxton-ish infatuation ode "Suffocate," but Holiday sings with confidence and purpose on each and every track, particularly the love song "Pimp in Me," where Holiday confesses to the love of his life that his days as a player are behind him:
"You got it all girl, the body of a call girl, the mind of a teacher, that's why I need ya, I gotta let you know/Girl, the pimp in me just died when I look into your eyes."

It's rare that young artist puts out such a well-rounded album, one that young men can totally relate to and that young women will be swept off their feet by, but Back of My 'Lac, is just such an album. It's charming, gritty, sensual, original and most of all - real. Ladies and gentlemen, J. Holiday has arrived. And he definitely is that dude.

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