“great voice, laid-back vibes, and a classic sound” – Pitchfork
It’s been a long time coming for BJ the Chicago Kid. After four mixtapes and one indie classic, he released his major label debut in 2016, the modern yet deeply soulful In My Mind. You’ve been hearing his voice everywhere though, on the songs by some of the greatest artists of our era, punctuating tracks by Dr. Dre, Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, Mary J. Blige, Kehlani and ScHoolboy Q’s Grammy-nominated smash “Studio”.
Bryan James Sledge cooed his first note to an audience when he was five years old. His mom was a choir director and his whole family was in the congregation: BJ the youngest of three boys who all sang on Sunday. Yet outside was the constant backbeat of his youth: trunk music, rap and old-school soul, the same thump that he’d hear falling asleep at night, and at the whole-block cookouts that happened every Saturday.
The kid wrote his first song as a teen. Soon he made his way to Los Angeles. His first job, singing backup with gospel duo Mary Mary, led to studio time with Lalah Hathaway, Musiq Soulchild, Joe, Mario, and Mary J. Blige, among others. In 2005 alone he went into the booth with Stevie Wonder and onto the Grammy stage with Usher and James Brown. A year later came the big one: Kanye West’s “Impossible” for Mission: Impossible III.
It’s understandable if you’ve heard BJ and not known it—the man’s melody is classic and his voice is elastic; he sounds like a sample. But he proved his knack for present-day soul on 2012’s self-released album, Pineapple Now-Laters, a diverse collection of songs that moved from a cappella excellence to swaggy rap ‘n’ blues to the heartfelt “His Pain,” featuring Kendrick Lamar. Call it a favor returned — BJ’s on Lamar’s 2009 EP, and works with the whole T.D.E. family.
Recommended for Fans of Terrace Martin, Bilal, Anderson, Paak and Mary J. Blige.