Kevin Michael :: YaDig? :: Downtown Records
as reviewed by Rowald Pruyn

It sucks being the sidekick. Did you see what tights Boy Wonder had to put on? Watson settled for coach house straw while Sherlock slept in the master bedroom during cases. And Sancho Panza looked ridiculous on his little mule when he went out battling windmills alongside Don Quichotte. They have feelings too, you know. And and an abundance of talent.

I admire Akil Dasan. The New Yorker is a BET freestyle champion, who plays the acoustic guitar and is a skilled beatboxer. Triple threat, I'd say. He also is the steady background musician for 22 year old R&B prodigy Kevin Michael. That means he spends night after night at the back of the stage while his vocal partner scours the room for honeys with his two-by-four afro, light complexion and voice bursting with talent.

It's been a while since a charismatic singer had the girls at his feet. D'Angelo has been M.I.A for years, Lenny Kravitz rather resides in the pink oxygen tank he calls home nowadays, and Craig David went back to MC'ing on dub/garage parties in Brighton, England. Plenty of room for some new talent.

Kevin Michael's bio reads like the text book manual of how a successful performer should grow up. Black father, Italian mother. Small recording studio somewhere inside the Pennsylvanian home. Dusty record player spinning Patti Labelle all day. Little Kevin, singing all day. "I felt a real responsibility to live out my legend", says Michael, after he walked away from a full scholarship in favor of a musical career. Now, with his official label debut TBD, he is on the verge of proving the world his talent.

Before that happens, Michael's record company Downtown Records sends out a signal flare in the form of a four track EP. "YaDig?" has to spread the buzz for TBD, which will be produced by R&B connaisseurs as Wyclef Jean (Destiny's Child), Bloodshy (Madonna) and The Clutch (Usher), all men with an exquisite eye for talent.

That's where Akil Dasan's part (side)kicks in. Michael's golden throat is best introduced to the public when he doesn't have to compete with the superfluous sugarcane bass so characteristic for modern R&B music. Is there a better way imaginable than providing him with some sincerely played acoustics and self-conscious throat box beats?

"All my gangster friends, and all my skater friends
We all want the same thing, we all want the same thing
DJ's in the club, Jesus freaks and thugs
We all want the same thing
All my ex-girlfriends and all their new boyfriends
They all want the same thing, I say: they all want the same thing
From Wall Street to the hood
New York and Hollywood
we all want the same thing"

To emphasize that "We All Want The Same Thing" is the lead single of the forthcoming album, there are two alternate versions available on "YaDig?" That other new talent on the block, Lupe Fiasco, drops conscious lines over churning blues riffs and frivolous keys to mark down Kevin's vocals: "First say power to the people/The have and the have-nots/Are we willing to give up all the hours to make it equal?/And make players out of mascottes/Cuz'right now we don't see you like the Sasquatch."

Fiasco's clever rhymes give depth to the song, but they also take away attention from Michael's falsetto. On the other three tracks, Akil Dasan makes sure the right division between modesty and craftsmanship is maintained. Michael's tone-of-voice has some of Stevie Wonder's heart, some of Prince's eccentric sex appeal, and a sparkle vigor of Tracy Chapman's. To make up to the ladies for his seriousness on the previous tracks, Michael shares some bedroom secrets on "Vicki Secrets," but his true talent shows on "It Don't Make Any Difference To Me." The up-tempo guitar, combined with the pristine timing of Dasan's breath control, make Kevin Michael's live up to the huge expectations he has created for himself. He has the right attitude, background and voice to fill up the ladies lover's gap. Let's just hope he knows how to appreciate his sidekick's talent.

Music Vibes: 7.5 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 7.5 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 7.5 of 10

Originally posted: June 19, 2007