Google+ Beathearts: Modern soul's best kept secret: James Fauntleroy


Modern soul's best kept secret: James Fauntleroy

Friday Sep 27th, one of modern soul's best kept secret released his new album. Well sort of. The album was the completion of Justin Timberlakes' 20/20 vision project and I'm talking about one of the most prominent soul writers/producers of the 2010's James Fauntleroy.

Michael Jackson had Quincy Jones to distillate his genius and make his visions happen. Today's r'n'b artists have James Fauntleroy. Fauntleroy is co-writer on all tracks on 20/20 vision. Teaming up with Timberlake and Rob Knox the production trio calls themselves "The Y's". Up until this summer I have to admit I'd never heard of Fauntleroy but he's produced a pile full of the top r'n'b tunes the last couple of years. It's just that you had to read the small print liner notes to realize it.

Frank Ocean, Brandy, Jay-Z, Kanye West, Destiny's Child, Ciara, Drake and as the list goes on I'm even more amazed there's hardly any interviews, TV-features or even a wikipedia article about the guy. But what's interesting is not only the artists he worked with but that his songs stand out on every single release he's contributed. Just check out the tune he did with Robert Glasper for Terrace Martin's album 3ChordFold.

Terrace Martin ft Robert Glasper & James Fauntleroy - No wrong, no right

Now I wasn't convinced by Jay-Z's "Magna Carta" album but listen close to Fauntleroy's contribution on "Part II (on the run)" or Timberlake's "Suit & tie" or Brandy's "Drum life" or GOOD Music's "Clique" and a new world opens up.

G.O.O.D. Music (Big Sean, Kanye & Jay-Z) - Clique

He's not only a brilliant songwriter but also a pretty decent vocalist. Several of his original demos later performed by other artists have been leaked over the years. "No air" is just one example. Other great tracks are "Allergic to you".

When you start to dig around for what productions he's been involved with it's even more strange he's still not a household name. Another project I recently discovered he was a part of was Cocaine80s. Along with No I.D. and Common, Fauntleroy has put out four EPs. As expected it's No I.D. on production, Fauntleroy’s writing and Common’s rapping. But just as the above mentioned productions Fauntleroy’s harmonies continues to be the stand-out part of Cocaine80s’ music.

Cocaine80s - Six feet over

But back to 20/20 vision. With the release of this double-album, there's no denying that Fauntleroy's production and song writing skills are now in the global spotlight. Or as Questlove put it in the Okayplayer forums just before the release:

"I admire the balls it took to make this record. Cause he coulda easily urshurd his work in and made Diplo his Teddy Riley to 20/20's "Dangerous" [Michael Jacksons album produced by TR] instead of sticking with Timb's Quincy. Feel me?" he played me songs out of order and off both records so I don't know what made the final cut) so I was shocked he wasn't 4 on the flooring it like the Timb of 2005 was doing. Like these joints were straight up Missy/Magoo/Timb. And Justin said he wanted Timb to "get back in his real zone" even if it meant alienating the tweens born after 86 who never ever heard of the Sly Slick and Wicked I mean "Suit and tie" is the MOST UNLIKELY James Brown production reference. 

Sly Slick & Wicked - Sho nuff (1973)

Questlove continues:

"Of course unless you got a master degree in soul-ology [the Sho Nuff reference] won't mean shit to you. And I told him my assistant Zarah (born in 88) was frowning like 'i don't like this song' and is he cool with the fact that only 35 year old people who love their soul in 95 bpm zone will "get" this song. And he was like 'why do we put all of our power in the hands of 18 year olds? I wanted to make a joint that 40 year olds would love too. And by the time the video came out all the 86 after sect were aboard again. (I agree the only thing I don't like about Suit and Tie is Jay's beat switch up. It's cute but its a pander move. If you gonna go 40 - go 40/40 with it. Anywho, I love the songs, but was worried on how he will cut the prime rib to feed to toothless babies. Ballsy move however. I applaud ballsy moves."

And with tracks like "Take back the night" even the most hardcore keep it real critics will have a hard time not to crack a smile. It will be really interesting to see where Fauntleroy will take it next.

Justin Timberlake & Fauntleroy - Take back the night

Listen on Spotify: James Fauntleroy's 20/20 vision Vol.1

Timberlake - Take back the night
Jay-Z & Beyoncé - Part II (On the run)
Good Music - Clique
Lil Wayne Timberlake & Diddy - Shades (Last train to Paris)
Jordin Sparks - No air
Timberlake & Jay-Z - Suit & Tie
Timberlake - Pusher love girl
Frank Ocean - Fertilizer
Destiny's Child - Nuclear
Ciara - Love sex magic

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