Throughout the annals of popular music, virtually every all-world music titan reached his artistic zenith inside of the first decade of his recording career. Let’s delve into the numbers for a few of the most illustrious luminaries: Michael Jackson was in Years 7 and 10, respectively, as a solo artist, before he attained global domination with Off The Wall and Thriller; with Prince it was in Years 6 and 9 (no pun intended, I swear) that he sat on the Iron Throne with Purple Rain and Sign O’ The Times; Marvin captured the sociopolitical zeitgeist in perpetuity in Year 10 with What’s Going On; and Stevie cemented his universally recognized status as Eighth Wonder of the World on the 10-Year Anniversary of his first major album release as an adult superstar with Songs In The Key of Life. This historical deep dive is truly essential in order to place the sky-scraping heights of Heroes & Gods (Shanachie 2019) in proper perspective, as Rahsaan has pulled off what had been seemingly impossible, and quite frankly unprecedented, by engineering his magnum opus in Year 22. Yes, a staggering two decades and two years post his 1997 self-titled debut, Rahsaan’s evolution to musical sensei has culminated in a masterwork that positions him as a supreme vocalist, lyricist and composer.
Patterson’s mighty pen permeates throughout Heroes & Gods, as adroitly evidenced on the exquisite deep-soul burner “Wonderful Star,” with lyrics that would even make an in-his-prime Bobby Womack envious of the unbridled confession: /Your heart’s my dedication/Your soul’s my destination/Your love’s my meditation/And I’m lovin’ the sensation/A further exploration”.
The hallmark of any great composition is the independent strength of its individual parts: melody, lyrical content, and song structure. Enter “Oxford Blues,” a heart-wrenching tale of a willfully neglectful lover who is resigned to exist in unending anguish post-breakup. It is a 21st Century paradigm of polished Pop perfection, a spotless song that begs to be re-interpreted in the near future via studio recordings and live stage performances, in both small clubs and stadiums. Its appeal is so vast; it can easily be covered by acts as broadly diverse as Ed Sheeran, Lady Antebellum, and Rihanna.
Vocal ability tends to fade naturally with age and attrition, and after 22 years of belting, scatting, and swooping in and out of registers, one would be forgiven a certain degree of natural wear and tear. However, Rahsaan again defies the historical norm and delivers arguably the most ‘glorious’ vocal performance of his career, in the instant R&B classic “Sent From Heaven”; as his vocal power is palpable, his vocal maneuvering nimble and agile, his vocal control surgical, and his soulfulness steadfast and brimming.
Perhaps the most surprising yet wholly gratifying offering of the collection is the anthemic title track, “Heroes & Gods,” which delivers affirmation to Black and Brown people all over world by eschewing tired clichés, in favor of championing the limitless potential written in their very DNA. It reminds them that they are the greatest drivers of literature, philosophy, athletics, music, dance, art and academics that mankind has ever produced. Rahsaan succinctly implores in the hook, “If you’re looking for us/Searching the stars/Know who we are/Heroes and gods/Beautiful ones made of the sun/That’s who we are/Heroes and gods.”
The album, Heroes & Gods, presents a sonic kaleidoscope of infectious genre-spanning gems that deftly explore the vast complexities of the human experience as both spiritual and sexual beings, but also each as a singular self-contained universe of its own. And consequently, Rahsaan Patterson takes his merited place alongside the other legends, as hero and god.