13 Songs, 59 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

The New Jersey–bred singer Eric Roberson has said his musical education began with three elements: the progressive hip-hop trio A Tribe Called Quest, the modern gospel group Commissioned, and Stevie Wonder. Among those three points lies The Esoteric, Roberson’s independently released 2001 debut and one of the best offerings in the neo-soul field. The songs here glow with musicality. They contain references to jazz and hip-hop, as well as Wonder’s free-flowing vision of soul music. But the execution's never flagrant. Where most R&B singers go for over-the-top bravado, songs here like “4U,” “Runaway," and “Woman…” don’t seduce listeners with big hooks and bright production. Instead, Roberson uses insistent grooves and silken instrumentation to coax listeners into his world. At the same time, he doesn’t let his voice disappear into the folds of his often-subtle productions. Roberson knows how to make his voice sail: a lesson he no doubt learned from his gospel forebears.

EDITORS’ NOTES

The New Jersey–bred singer Eric Roberson has said his musical education began with three elements: the progressive hip-hop trio A Tribe Called Quest, the modern gospel group Commissioned, and Stevie Wonder. Among those three points lies The Esoteric, Roberson’s independently released 2001 debut and one of the best offerings in the neo-soul field. The songs here glow with musicality. They contain references to jazz and hip-hop, as well as Wonder’s free-flowing vision of soul music. But the execution's never flagrant. Where most R&B singers go for over-the-top bravado, songs here like “4U,” “Runaway," and “Woman…” don’t seduce listeners with big hooks and bright production. Instead, Roberson uses insistent grooves and silken instrumentation to coax listeners into his world. At the same time, he doesn’t let his voice disappear into the folds of his often-subtle productions. Roberson knows how to make his voice sail: a lesson he no doubt learned from his gospel forebears.

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