If things had turned out the way PJ Morton anticipated, 2017’s Gumbo would have been his last album as a solo artist. Despite a long run in Los Angeles where he joined Maroon 5 as their keyboardist, Morton felt fatigued from the effects of a solo career that just didn’t seem to move. In 2016, he relocated his wife and three children back to his hometown of New Orleans, where he planned to record his final studio album and drop the curtain on his solo act. But after Gumbo earned Morton two Grammy nominations (plus three more for its live-album companion Gumbo Unplugged), he backed away from the idea of calling it quits and got back into the studio for his sixth album, spinning anecdotes about love, dreams, dark times, and community. The album kicks off with the savory “READY,” a song about trusting in new love that’s assisted by a jazzy bassline. Morton matches his soulful croon with Jazmine Sullivan’s on the amorous gospel “BUILT FOR LOVE” and partners with JoJo on “SAY SO,” a ballad that makes a simple request: “So if you love me, just say so.” Alongside the album’s lovestruck duets, on “MAGA?” Morton asks who America is truly great for with the help of CNN commentator Angela Rye, and he pays homage to Nipsey Hussle on “BUY BACK THE BLOCK,” amplifying the late MC’s message of fortifying communities that the powers that be seek to take over. Morton flexes his rediscovered NOLA roots on the jazzy “KID AGAIN,” a celebration of childhood dreams featuring the voices of his own children.

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