One of the most heartening developments of 2018 has been “At the Club,” a duet between the R&B singer Jacquees and the always malleable Dej Loaf, finding an audience. Initially released last February, the song was made a single in September and peaked at the bottom end of the Hot 100 last month, settling into a home on R&B radio stations (where it’s still being played) even as its presence on the streaming charts has remained nonexistent. In a marketplace that feels driven by the chase of the zeitgeist even more than usual, there is something wonderfully out-of-place about “At the Club,” a romantic back-and-forth between the two artists sung over a fluttering, bubbly beat that recalls J. Lo’s very early forays into pop music.
There is a Jacquees album coming at some point, probably. (He’s on Cash Money, so who knows.) Or maybe there’s a full-length mixtape with Chris Brown happening first. For now he’s holding his fans over with This Time I’m Serious, a six-song EP released late last night. It was made in conjunction with Nash B, a producer who worked heavily on Jacquees’s awesome 2016 mixtape Mood, which enveloped his airy vocals in languorous beats that seemed to emanate steam, giving the project an unusual sort of internal space. (“Bounce” is my favorite.) The highlight on This Time I’m Serious, though, is the one not handled by Nash B: “Rodeo,” a slow-mo T-Pain feature instead produced by the Miami-based musician D-Roc.
“Rodeo” begins like many a Jacquees song, with the singer’s voice hovering over the muffled thump of softly played keyboards and drums. But its chorus blooms into something more, with Jacquees elongating the title like he’s twisting gum around his finger while a screwed-down voice groans deeper in the mix as if the two are engaged in a weird harmonization. There is nothing revelatory about “Rodeo”—in fact, given its concept and the guitar strumming that is eventually folded into the beat, it might very well be an homage to the Juvenile song of the same name—but this layered effect is hypnotically catchy. It’s like experiencing a daydream in which Jeremih tries his hand at a Pretty Ricky single. It even nearly pulls off the impossible trick of making T-Pain seem superfluous. Nearly.
Listen to “Rodeo” and This Time I’m Serious below (“Why You Love Me Now” is also great).