How'd We Miss It | Devin Morrison's Bussin' is Gold-School R&B
Evan Dale // Nov 5, 2019
Perhaps the raw throwback aesthetic of the entire production threw us off course, because when we first heard Devin Morrison’s Bussin’ in the Spring, we didn’t even hesitate to assume that it was a Golden Era R&B project resurfaced by some crate-digging student of a time come and gone. It’s difficult to think in terms of modernity – or at the very least impossible to ignore circularity – when the clock starts to tick on the album’s opening moments. But, as Bussin’s opening track reiterates over and over again, maybe it’s time. Maybe it’s time R&B’s fervent experimentalism take a look in the mirror and rebuild the tenants of a 90’s Gold-School. Maybe that in and of itself is experimental. Maybe it’s time for an artist to take advantage of modern R&B’s endless breadth, capitalizing on something not old, not forgotten, but certainly overlooked. Maybe it’s time for the modern spectrum of throwback R&B artists (oh yes, there are others) to be brought into the limelight as a new wave of necessity to continue R&B and Neo-Soul’s position as one of the world’s most important and innovative stylings.
Maybe it’s time for Devin Morrison.
The Orlando-born, LA-based vocalist, instrumentalist, and producer released Bussin’ – his debut – on April 3, 2019. But had it come out on the same day in 2009, 1999, or even ‘89, no one should have questioned its presence. An element of timelessness rooted in any style’s origins make Bussin’ something of an enigma these days. But the thing about timeless projects is that they’re rare. They’re always enigmas. But, they’re never out of the question.
Once the curtain of its old-school cloth has been pulled to the side, its true genius starts to reveal itself.
Undoubtedly, vocal delivery is probably the strongest trait that has made any timeless project of the Soul and R&B lane unbound by epochal restraint. Think modern masterpieces like D’Angelo’s Black Messiah or Daniel Caesar’s Freudian, and think about the impossibility of both artists’ range and one-of-a-kind register. Think Bussin’ and think the same. Devin Morrison’s vocal delivery is one delineated first by its silky-smooth, understated texture, second by its ability to sustain unavoidable falsettos, and third by the coalescence of that texture and that sustainability to constantly instill emotionality and vibrancy into the project without sounding like anyone else in the world of modern R&B.
If Devin Morrison’s vocals are Bussin’s most attention-grabbing instrument, his deep bag of tricks across music’s soundscape are not far behind. Where his range is most reminiscent of Dru Hill’s collectivity, his keys are gifted at the same scale of a young Terrace Martin. Morrison’s own merging of funk, soul, jazz and hip-hop, and his ability to express his influences through piano as well as drums and bass, is uncanny for any artist of any generation. And yet, Devin Morrison – the son and grandson of funk, jazz, and soul musicians – a student of beat-making from his brothers and a literal undergraduate and graduate of music schools on two continents –composed, played, sung, and produced Bussin’ largely by himself.
Poetically, Bussin’ is endlessly rare these days in its largely family-friendly identity. There is inuendo of course – and a whole lot of it at that – but it doesn’t exist in the normalized realm of today’s hyper-sexualized and very much to-the-point penmanship. Instead, track after track need be listened to, digested, and assumed by the listener. Even if its true meanings aren’t buried very deep, they’re beneath the surface and up for interpretation, nonetheless. Romanticism and sexuality aren’t by any means the only thematics explored. Faith (Fairytale) and Self-Love (Love Yourself) make the project even more well-rounded. And family – expressed most forwardly by the fact that both his father (Dah-Vi featured in It’s Time) and his brother (Lakks Mable guest spotting in Fairytale) give us a glimpse into how Devin Morrison got to where he is as an artist and how important family has been to his artistic and personal growth.
But beyond the familial features, Bussin’ is also bubbling over with vocals from friend and frequent collaborator, Joyce Wrice (With You), Ace Hashimoto (Guaranteed), We Are KING (The Call (407)), and the Doggpund’s Daz Dillinger (The Struggle is Real). Together, all the features do a great job of further diving into Morrison’s old-school roots while simultaneously shining them in a modern, worldly light.
Bussin’ is a rare, timeless masterpiece. Projects of the same texture are hard to identity so early on in their existence. But, when you know, you know. Its knack at appealing to any tuned ear of R&B over the past three decades alone would make it a mirror masterpiece as a shout-out to the path that got artists from H.E.R. to The Weeknd where they are today. But it’s existence as a prophetic and experimental look into circularity and the beginnings of a throwback movement with a modern twist will come to make it a masterpiece in two directions – or, perhaps, without the mirage of direction altogether.