By Siceus Panossian
On Oct. 22, BJ The Chicago Kid took the stage at Le Poisson Rouge for CMJ.
While NPR hosted the event, the crowd was anything but the stereotypical demographic that one would associate with public radio. A mixture of old hip hop heads, blunted street kids, and rap nerds crowded towards the stage when it was BJ’s turn for his set.
BJ The Chicago Kid initially gained fame through his association with Top Dawg Entertainment, more commonly known as TDE.
BJ appeared from the side of the stage to enthusiastic applause and opened with “Real Love Never Dies,” a jazzy downbeat R&B song. Bathed in purple light, a bandana donning, BJ serenaded the crowd with his smooth but soulful lyrics. His voice seemed to melt into the soft guitar chords and saxophone notes in the beat. In an age where the line between rap and R&B performers is deteriorating it was immediately clear that BJ is landed firmly on the R&B side of things.
After a handful of songs, it was already apparent that he was far more comfortable and better tuned to performing live than many of the other up and coming acts at CMJ; this makes sense given that his first appearance on a significant artist’s song was 2006’s “Impossible” by Kanye West.
About halfway through the set, which had consisted predominantly of songs off of “Pineapple Now-Laters,” BJ played “My Pain,” a personal and crowd favorite. Despite not having Kendrick Lamar, a prominent feature on the track, BJ managed to capture the intense sadness of the song. At this point his voice seemed to fill the room, and the emotion with which he sang was captivating.
While his performance on that song was impressive, it was still missing an element; and indeed that was a trend that seemed to persist throughout BJ’s set. At times it was obvious that he needed the feature artists on many of his tracks to properly execute them. He rounded the show out with “Perfect,” his strongest solo song and a definite indication that with a little more experience he will be able to sharpen and perfect himself as a solo artist.
It was obvious, after his set, that BJ is somebody to keep an eye on. He has a large collection of strong feature appearances, but his CMJ performance made it clear that he has a lot of potential as a solo artist.
Siceus Panossian is a contributing writer. Email Siceus at email@example.com