Darien Brockington has appeared on projects by Little Brother and Nicolay, but he’s made a name for himself by releasing small doses of his work over the years. And he’s finally stepping out in front with Somebody to Love, an excellent debut that combines familiar elements of hip-hop and soul but reinterprets them into something that sounds at the same time new and classic.
Brockington’s voice is traditional in that it’s clearly influenced by gospel and R&B, but he’s smart enough to give his album a slightly underground feel. The songwriting is aimed at the mainstream, but the productions by E. Jones and 9th Wonder are decidedly street smart. From the bumping “Somebody to Love Intro” to the ’90s-hip-hop vibe of “More and More,” the sound here is thick, full of pounding bass and complex percussion. The album is a meeting of the past and the present, with clever ’70s samples and blaxploitation vibes mingling with biting hip-hop verses and contemporary production techniques.
Clearly inspired by the recent success of artists such as John Legend, Somebody to Love is a confident exploration into the sounds of soul. Brockington succeeds at both up-tempo numbers and ballads, with tracks such as “Come on Over” standing out as much as the vibrant and fun “Can We Fall in Love Again?” The album’s themes are standard R&B fare — love, loss, relationships — but the quality of the songwriting and the variety in the productions make Somebody to Love shine.