This article first appeared June 18, 2019 in Hype Magazine.
Just A Brooklyn Girl is a very modest way of describing Neo-Soul sorceress Cherokee, but that’s how she’s titled her new release, a divine collection of sonorous-vocals, sweetly melodic storytelling, and hooked-filled art-R&B that brings her beauty and power back into the ears and before the eyes of perfervid new urban music fans. The bohemian, feminist heroine was born in Harlem and raised in Brooklyn, but this world class model and mother’s music belongs to the world.
Led by empowering first single “Goddess” her voice weaves sumptuous and detailed imagery through dazzling timeless discotheque riffs and invitations to after-hours spiritual delights. This is the sweetness, the candid, not afraid to be coarse but always classy kind of anthem that gets people grinding and reaching for the skies on the dance floor. As Cherokee says, “It’s all about life and outer space.”
This is followed by the slowed-down diva’s elegant hedonism and survivor’s tale of “Fly Free,” the music continues to entrance; the giddily intoxicated Prince-like pop of “Kaleidoscope Kiss”; the tender cruising crunk of “Time,” with a swank rap from Azomali – a smooth ode to mechanical movement a tricked-out whip on any block (“let’s make time while we got time”); and the roots-chewing hip hop “Old School” which flickers back autobiographically into Cherokee’s past, before she was walking the catwalk, and doing songs with fellow soul specialists Outkast, Jill Scott, Bilal, and Musiq. These are the kinds of songs, with her beautiful creative image, that got her coverage in places like Vogue, Rolling Stone, Essence, Billboard, Jet, and other markets. And her new work is pointed straight towards everyone again, though it was “recorded in various backrooms and bedrooms.” This is global, international DIY groove at its tightest and highest.
Cherokee’s latest was mostly written and conceived by her and lovingly co-produced by her Grammy-crushing husband Neal H Pogue (TLC, Janelle Monáe, Robyn), with the help of some other fierce talents. Pogue has done his usual visionary and extraordinary work of making his lover’s ecstatic musical canvas gleam so her mesmerizing lyrics can really pop and intrigue. (She writes all the words.) Her nods to soul jazz, beautifully odd keys and ambitious harmonies keep every minute on Just A Brooklyn Girl a joyful rhapsody of floating through the city of the blessed mind.
Featuring production skills from David Ott, and Jairus “J. Mo” Mozzee, and background help from Duckwrth, it was produced in Los Angeles. This is a celebratory return of the artist who debuted with the life-changing I Love You … Me, a crucial cornerstone of the Neo-Soul movement of NYC 1999, in which she candidly wrote and sang about a past of abuse and changed pain into gorgeous song craft and let’s not forget about Soul Parade which is now a underground gem. The themes on Just A Brooklyn Girl are just as transforming, but in an elegiac, happier way – which is transcendent tonic to the darkness of these times.