The Introduction (Deluxe Version)
Houston native Zacardi Cortez has been an up-and-comer for a few years now, from his appearances on Wow Gospel to his strong contributions to James Fortune's hits “The Blood,” “God Can," and “I Believe.” The very trait that made Cortez a strong backup singer—his strong vocal diversity—make the 25-year-old’s solo debut album a real stunner. Cortez puts his voice through intricate runs on “God Held Me Together,” belts from the gut on “Praise You,” and shows that he can sing as smoothly as the dickens on the infectious “Living for You.” Fred Hammond, Lalah Hathaway, John P. Kee, and Isaac Carree are among the famous guests who are supposed to make you want to buy the record. Their contributions are fine, of course, but unnecessary. Cortez is the real deal; it’s hard to think of another young artist so capable of bringing together gospel sounds from the past 30 years, mixing it all up, and making them fresh again.