BJ the Chicago Kid Credit: courtesy the artist

BJ the Chicago Kid is ostensibly an R&B traditionalist: he’s reimagined Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” as a posthumous duet with the singer, he repeatedly alludes to the importance of the church in his lyrics, and he even sang the national anthem at President Obama’s farewell address here in Chicago. But it’d probably be more accurate to call BJ a restless polymath—for every reference to religion there’s a lyric about how he’s still looking for a lady friend, and for every homage to the Prince of Soul there’s a whole mixtape of Usher covers. On his most recent album, In My Mind (for Motown, of all labels), that multifarious approach manifests itself in a tug-of-war between smooth 70s funk and contemporary hip-hop. But while BJ often seems torn between the romanticism of classic soul and the realism of contemporary R&B (think Frank Ocean or Miguel), his exposed musical joints and plainspoken anxieties make for pleasures of a different kind—less mythic and more grounded.   v

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