In the last couple of months since I did my End of the Decade Edition of Top Fives, I’ve been going through my media library and finding things that might have slipped through the cracks in the whole malaise of writing them. This became very apparent to me when I added a couple of songs to my mp3 player from the album How I Do, by Res.
Released in June of 2001, this album epitomized, maybe even helped craft, my love for artists who take great experimental leaps in their work. The album has tried and true hip-hop,jazz, and soul influences that you would expect in an album that would want to classified as R&B, but the inclusion of alt-rock, psychedelia,folk, and reggae influences among others is what makes this album great. The best part of this is, of course, is that this was her first album, so that she swung for the fences as hard as she did was impressive.
The opening track ,”Golden Boys” is a nice “screw you” letter to the Adonises of media, placed in a nice little funky package with a nice orchestral sample for flourish. The next song on the album is the one that is a standout as far as I’m concerned, however:
Now the reason I put the video up there is to give a more visual representation of how different the song is for someone who would, for all intents and purposes, would have been in a shiny sequined suit and would have been asked to do silly dance moves. She moves like a sultry rock star and is backed by a band in the video. The song itself plays her soulful voice over a pretty simple rock beat and it works incredibly well. This combo is played again a bit in other songs on the album, like “Ice King” and in a more subdued folky way on “Tsunami” (well, at least the first half of the song, at least), but the rock/soul fusion is done so well. That’s not to say that the other songs on the album are also of note. “700 Mile Situation” is a reggae-tinged love song that, although is slightly repetitive, still pulls on the right parts of you to make a good slow jam. Whether it is the jazzy rhythms of “If There Ain’t Nothing” or the hip-hop beats of “Sittin Back”, Res’s voice and lyrics deliver a nice little package of being a free, black woman who refuses to be pinned down to a genre.
Speaking of the lyrics, it is of note to mention that 10 of the 11 tracks on the album were written by a one Santi White. That’s one of the things that has always bothered me the most about the relative obscurity of this album. Santigold went on to relatively success in her solo career, but How I Do was a commercial failure when it came out, mainly due to poor radio airplay as a cause of its slippery genre bending songs (although “They Say Vision” did crack the charts for a bit). This is not a dig at all at Santi, it’s just sad how if this album had come out later, she would have been easily found a spot with Gnarls Barkley on the charts. That doesn’t take away from the fact that this album should have been a big one that year along with Jill Scott’s Experience: Jill Scott , Indie.Arie’s Acoustic Soul , and of course Alicia Keys’ Songs in A Minor. But people were ready for those albums then. They weren’t ready for How I Do.