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Written By: Miki Hellerbach

(5 Minute Read)


Every Saturday morning, I take a drive with my parents to a local farmers market in Baltimore. They tend to give me free rein of the Bluetooth to play whatever music is in my head. I refrain from bumping overly explicit stuff as my mom wouldn’t like it, and it’s not really the vibe of a farmers market escapade. 


If I had to describe my mom’s music taste, I think I could sum it up in about five artists: Earth Wind & Fire, Luther Vandross, India Arie, Tracy Chapman, and Bootsy Collins. She likes that pocket of 70’s soul and funk through 80’s/90’s R&B and neo-soul. The more modern r&b isn’t really her vibe. She is into a song here and there but rarely when I play the musical stylings of Bryson Tiller, 6lack, or even an Ari Lennox do her ears perk up. 


This particular Saturday, the first of the month of October, I decided to press play on the latest artist whose sounds had pierced my mental, Blxst. His debut project, No Love Lost, was released in early September, but I had just become privy. I listened to the tape once and knew it would be one of my favorites of the year. Blxst has a contemporary R&B sound with solidly distinct melodies that have that innate quality of becoming locked in your mind. I knew they would even as I was listening for the first time, which is undoubtedly rare. The immediate standout track, and still my favorite, is the shortest of the tape, “Gang Slide.” The sliding 808 synths blended with Blxst’s sustained yet blasé hook melody after one listen ran circles around my mind like a headband. He sings, “It was a midnight gang slide. I had to pull up, get right. A stick and move on the Westside. Cause you know you give me the best high.”


As you may have already inferred, this topic and sound would not necessarily fit within my mother’s preference. I knew there would be a few choice lines that made her make a face, and it probably wouldn’t be something she requested in the future. Yet I figured it wouldn’t be offensive, and my need to hear it in the car felt like having to scratch an itch. As I played the tape top to bottom on the commute, as it’s only 19 minutes, I initially didn’t get much of a reaction. However, towards the 12-14 minute mark, my mom hit me with a surprising, “hey, I really like this guy.” I was pleasantly surprised. I noticed as we kept driving that she was bobbing her head to the melodies as I had. It made me realize firstly why this guy's music, who was seemingly in the realm of a lot of other new R&B acts, had cut through. If Blxst’s music can connect to my mom and I in a similar way, his reach has got to be vast. Why that was precisely though, I had to go back and analyze.


What I came up with is a combination of a few things. Firstly, Blxst’s precision in his delivery is what gives him over-arching appeal. Though he uses contemporary terminology in his lyrics, he never goes too far into the territory of problematic behavior, and he knows how to mask it well. On the track “Wrong or Right,” he sings, “What would I be without my baby? Thought alone might break me. Gotta protect you, n***as better respect you. That's why I keep it off safety, yeah, yeah.” Blxst slyly delivers his jealousy and potential overreaction with a loving tone to mask his insecurity with charm. This particular song with the iffiest lyrics, at least for my mom, are surrounded by a fluttering pop r&b guitar, and the song has one of the happiest cadences of all of them. To cap off the gameplay, Blxst will have lines that tie in more old school love philosophies. In the hook, he sings, “Cause what we built ain't overnight.” When my mom heard that she was probably sold. 


Blxst beneath the surface, has a bit of an older soul when it comes to love, and when you look deeper into his music it becomes apparent. On the hook for the song “Be Alone,” Blxst sings, “If it's something on your mind, let me in. I be hoping that the vibe never end. I just hope you know that I understand. That you don't wanna be alone.” This set of lyrics reminded me of the intro lyrics to Luther Vandross’s “I’d Rather” when he sings, “I thought sometime alone, was what we really needed. You said this time would hurt more than it helps, but I couldn't see that.” The two crooners go into their understanding that the loneliness caused by a break up was the wrong move. They realized through choices that the love they had was worth preserving. The sincerity of the delivery is inherent from both artists. This connection potentially attached my mother to something that felt familiar. 


To be fair, Blxst has many lyrics that are very 2020. What he makes sure to do in almost every song, however, is have a sort of throwback vocal delivery that doesn’t just stay in the half-rapping half-singing tone that he, like many modern r&b artists, dwell in. On the title track “No Love Lost,” he has a pre-chorus that helps with this as he sings, “All that time spent alone (All that time spent alone). I know you miss the vibe we was on (Can't deny it, so don't).” The lines are presented in a smooth call and response fashion that hugs like a warm sweater. Then Blxst can get away with lines in the verse like, “Look, I know the streets ain't safe. I stay dangerous either way,” because those moments of silky refrain provide relief.


Blxst provides one of the most essential musical qualities on No Love Lost, balance. He keeps a level playing field of old and new and raw and endearing. Blxst’s tone is succinct, and this full combo of traits all lead to his music connecting to a broad spectrum of ears. No Love Lost is of the most elite projects of the year and you can play it anywhere from smoking blunts with the homies to the farmer's market drives with your mom.

October 25, 2020

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