When one looks at the influences of neo-soul, New Jack hip-hop of the late ’80s/early ’90s and funk from the late ’60s/mid ’70s, you will notice a marked originality that is lacking in the burgeoning genre. There were serious differences in the music of Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield, Parliament/Funkadelic, Sly Stone, etc., as distinct as the differences between Public Enemy, EPMD, Boogie Down Productions, and Eric B. and Rakim. However, sometimes, it just feels that producers working in neo-soul feel that if they take their originality down several notches from Erykah Badu and D’Angelo and dip just below Jill Scott that they can have a radio-friendly work that can still be dubbed “neo-soul” and be considered “cutting edge” (Musiq, anyone).
Listening to Floetic, you get the feeling that Jazzy Jeff and crew are guilty of this exact crime. Coming off of his superlative album, The Magnificent, Jazzy must’ve just wanted to make some money. The music on this disc is good and enjoyable and lays out a smooth, chilled vibe. The duo of Songstress and Floacist definitely has gifted larynxes. It’s just that this project lacks a certain imagination. Zhané and Les Nubian have done this before. And better. And, while their cover of MJ’s “Butterflies” is incredibly compelling and “Mr. Messed Up” can grab you, there’s very little here that pulls the music out of the background. It’s a good chill-out sound that’s pervading the genre that leaves you with the sinking suspicion that a music with so much promise is being codified to fit a new bubble gum wrapper to be consumed by “urban radio.”