Is Lenny Kravitz Returning To Urban Music?Published by L. Michael Gipson on Thursday, March 18, 2010 at 5:22 am.
Last year, Lenny Kravitz, 45, celebrated the 20th anniversary of his debut album, Let Love Rule, which yielded Top 40 classics like “I Built This Garden For Us” and the hit-making title track. However, for urban audiences, the real celebration of Lenny Kravitz acceptance by Black audiences en mass comes next year on the 20th anniversary of the stunningly vulnerable and traditionally soulful Mama Said, which catapulted Kravitz to the Top 40 of both pop and soul charts with the Smokey Robinson flavored, Top 10 hit “It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over,” the gut-wrenching “The Difference Is Why” and the timeless “Stand By My Woman.”
Prior to the success of Mama Said, critics dismissed Kravitz as a ’60s rock copycat and the average Joe only knew him as the bi-racial child of actress Roxie Roker (The Jeffersons), and as actress Lisa Bonet’s (The Cosby Show) avant garde “Romeo Blue” beau. Mama Said, a confessional project intended to reunite Kravtiz with the estranged Bonet, legitimized Kravitz in the black community. Through it, Kravitz reminded Blacks that rock music could be soulful and that rock was Black music first, before the community’s ultimate abdication of the genre with the advent of ’60s soul. Unfortunately, it was over seven years before Kravitz returned to elements of R&B in his craft, outside of a smattering of soulful rock moments on Circus and Are You Gonna Go My Way.
Then came what is arguably Kravitz’s opus, 5, with its electrosoul smash “Thinking Of You,” the smoldering “I Belong To You,” the ying/yang funks of “Straight Cold Player” and “Little Girl’s Eyes;” these urban gems balanced the pop/rock hype of the Grammy-winning #1 hits “Fly Away” and “American Woman.” But, as before, Kravitz walked away from these successful street sounds preferring to return to his early rock roots over the next three commercially successful, if artistically static albums. Now there is a promising buzz generating over his forthcoming 2010 project Negrophilia (previously entitled Funk) being whispered as Kravitz’s return to the kinds of blues chords and funky melodies that have been the backbone of his most successful albums, if not always the hits. Others are whispering that Negrophilia, a title based on a book about the French’s fascination and objectification of Black artists, will be something unlike anything we’ve heard from Kravitz before. Either way the video clip Kravitz released late last year on Twitter and the project’s first draft title gives us hope for a refreshed, but urban Kravitz of old. “The Difference Is Why.”