R&R People+Culture: Real Soul Is Still Alive-Miguel, Jazmine, and Chrisette

Music seems to be bringing back the 90s with a vengeance. In the midst of a very 90s style rap "beef" between femme fatale rap veteran Lil' Kim and the pop rap rising star Nicki Minaj, three albums were released today that definitely bring back the sultry, soulful sound of mid to late 90s R&B.

Miguel has gone from being an underground singer on the mixtape circuit to an artist to watch for 2011. His first major release offers lots of variety with songs like "Vixen" and "Quickie" ( both also on his Mischief mixtape) showing us the delicate and haunting quality of his voice and "Pay Me" being a solid Euro-dance worthy track with its robotic sounding cadence like quality. I'm kind of disappointed that "Go", one of my favorites from the Mischief mixtape, didn't make the cut for the official album but his popular first single "All I Want Is You" featuring North Carolina rapper J Cole more than makes up for that.

Everytime Jazmine's first single "Holding You Down (Going In Circles)" came on the radio I had to turn it up. The cover of Mary J Blige's "Be Happy" reminded me of a time when hip hop beats were literally instrumentals and samples of soul classics instead of the heavily computerized sounds that we have today (some of which I love, but nothing is like the organic sound of real instruments). Jazmine seems to reach back past the 90s to the 80s with "Don't Make Me Wait" which has a very Whitney Houston/I Wanna Dance With Somebody feel to it. "Famous" seems to pick up where "Fear" left off on Fearless as she poignantly explains in that soaring voice of hers the very human emotions of being drawn to success but fearing it at the same time.

Chrisette seems to channel Melissa Etheridge's raspy rock edginess in her latest effort. Like Miguel, she offers a lot of variety on this album, going from the conscious title track "Let Freedom Reign" featuring Talib Kweli and Black Thought to the Broadway-like "If Nobody Sang Along" and bright and carefree "I'm A Star", which sounds like a perfect pop single. My favorite track on the album is "Unsaid", an earthy almost alternative rock/Alanis Morissette sounding song that reprises her trade mark tell-him-like-it-is style.