BJ the Chicago Kid Credit: Alex Harper Credit: Alex Harper

R &B singer Bryan James Sledge, aka BJ the Chicago Kid, has the kind of commanding voice most rappers seek out when they’re looking for a guest artist to make a good song great—and to loosen their inhibitions in the process. On Sledge’s second album for Motown, July’s 1123, he turns the tables, showcasing guest verses from several big names in the rap game, including Offset and Rick Ross—but on nearly every track, his own performance is the most memorable. On “Feel the Vibe,” Anderson .Paak riffs on the warmth of sharing great food with family and friends in one of his unmistakably cool, leisurely verses—but then Sledge enters on the heavenly hook, welcoming listeners into his home for a feast, and you can almost smell the macaroni and cheese. Though Sledge is a little less surefooted when he’s flying solo, when his ideas jell the way they do on the sultry “Champagne,” he’s the brightest star around.   v