Soul singers Ryan Leslie and J. Holiday kicked off the promotion for their new projects this week at the historic Howard Theater.
As the two Washington D.C. natives prepped for their performances, the show opened with the soulful sounds of newcomer Lisa Renee.
Billboard chart topper J. Holiday followed Lisa, taking the stage to lukewarm applause, dressed in a relaxed fit pair of jeans and extra-large cardigan which swallowed his small frame. He topped it off with a wide baseball fitted and thick stripped tie—very Boyz II Men circa 1996. His explanation for the dated outfit was “this my presidential sh*t!”
J. Holiday’s vibe just didn’t seem the same. During his performance of “Suffocate,” his energy was very low and the crowd’s response was almost mute despite the song peaking at #2 on Billboard’s Top Hip-Hop and R&B chart in 2008. After that, he went into his new single called “Sign My Name,” where he sang, “when I get up in it, you gonna think I’m writing in cursive.”
Of course, he ended with “Bed.” Even with that being his biggest hit, his disinterested performance only momentarily made the crowd pause from their side conversations to sing along to the track.Warm applause sent J. Holiday on his way backstage.
After a 20-minute break that felt like an hour, Ryan Leslie took the stage to rapturous applause.He rocked the crowd with a live band that had everyone grooving, cheering and smiling from ear to ear. One thing is for sure. He was definitely the man of the hour.
Going against his usual soulful vocals and loving lyrics, Ryan opened up spitting bars for days as he rapped a few unknown cuts effortlessly, introducing a new side of his artistry.
“Something I Like” had the ladies hips swaying and the fellas heads bobbing and it was that moment when he showed all those who are unfamiliar with him, why he is one of music’s best kept secrets.
Flanked by two guitarist seemed to help Ryan deliver a rockstar, meets rapper, meets soul singer persona during his entire set. Overall, this was a very mellow re-introduction to J. Holiday so we hope he kicks it up a notch or two. As for Ryan, he is bringing the heat with his new material that will hopefully catapult him into the masses.
J. Holiday’s third studio album’s release date is TBA, but his single “Sign My Name” is out right now. Ryan Leslie’s third studio album, Les Is More, comes out on October 22, 2012.
Checkout the December 2012 issue of Sister 2 Sister Magazine to read what Ryan Leslie thinks about his new music and being an underrated artist.
—Marcus A. Williams