Jaheim | Struggle Love
by Peggy Oliver
In the quest for artistic integrity of the highest degree, the absolute hit makers and music shakers usually develop a trademark body of work that fans can easily identify with. Since the day he handed a demo tape to producer Kay Gee (Naughty by Nature) at age seventeen, Jaheim already was prepared to wear his raw feelings on both sleeves, whether it’s the grown and sexy jams to striving for maturity in a relationship. Several years removed from his debut, “Ghetto Love,” the New Jersey native continues possessing those special vocal goods and artistic integrity, resulting in gold and platinum records. Though his rich baritone resonates overtones of old school R&B class of Luther, Teddy and others, there is a hip-hop, edgy spin, matched with a quiet storm feel spawning hits such as “Could It Be,” “Just In Case” and “Put That Woman First.” Fueled by the musical and emotional influence of his life, Jaheim is now mentoring artists for his Julie’s Dream Music Group in memory of his late mother.
In the meantime, his seventh release, Struggle Love (Primary Wave/BMG), recaptures Jaheim at his old school best beginning with the first single, “Back in My Arms.” Besides his magnetizing baritone, Jaheim continues maturing in his storytelling abilities, seamlessly brewing old school soul and hip-hop attitude. In the romance department, “Craziest Places” recalls the so-called unusual places to make love and unashamedly asks would you do this again. A sweet saxophone opening ushers in the groove-driven title track capturing the days of four chicken wings and rice and the joys of free and uninhibited love. “Songs to Have Sex To” lists the best soundtracks and artists like Teddy P., Luther V. and Barry White, to accompany those intimate moments. There are a few sour notes with “Nights Like This” and “Side Piece” whose lyrical substance fails in comparison with the aforementioned.
Beyond the romance on Struggle Love, Jaheim professes shear confidence in “My Shoes,” dedicated to “all of my haters”: “I never have to hate on another brother man/And I never worry because he can’t do what I can.” Serving up humble pie, “If I Were You” admits the faults even after supposedly learning the lessons so many times: “She had to go there/Ain’t no way to stop it/She needed space/So I made like a rocket ship.” “Always Come Back” provides an opportunity to recharge the human batteries and remembering that love remains unconditional when it comes to family members-pros and cons. The self-explanatory “Aholic” documents the struggles behind the addictions: “I am what I am/Doing the best I can/A natural born man/I was raised on these streets.” Frustrations that surround abuse is addressed on “Speak Up,” with shades of gospel attitude with chunky organ bits and soulful backing vocals.
In the long run, Jaheim bears no struggles when it comes to following his heart and staying locked into his musical voice and vision. These solid attributes are why Struggle Love, like his previous body of work, will undoubtedly resonate with his fans. Four and a quarter out of five stars.
The Urban Music Scene