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[Off The Record]
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Jaheim
GHETTO LOVE
(WARNER BROS.)

The 21-year-old R&B singer Jaheim doesnít know exactly why, but the ladies wonít leave him alone. " Could it be my chromed-out whip? " he asks on " Could It Be, " the lead single and standout cut from his debut album. " Or could it be the ice you see?/Could it be the word on the block?/Tell me why you just canít stop/What could it be? " Itís a near-perfect slice of pimped-out braggadocio thatís backed by plush orchestral layers and a slow-crawl hip-hop groove, a combination of soft and sinewy thatís so confident and alluring, it could make Bill Gates feel like a mack.

Like R. Kelly, Marvin Gaye, and the other trouble/lover men who came before him, Jaheim serves up a brand of soul thatís mad conflicted. Attempting to negotiate the struggle between sensitive and surly, infidelity and monogamy, dick and brain, the New Jersey native sets out on a quest to find a true mate on one song ( " Looking for Love " ), then gets protective on the next, threatening pesky ex-boyfriends on " Let It Go. " Fast-forward a few tracks and heís denying fatherhood ( " Lilí Nigga Ainít Mine " ) and snatching away girlfriends ( " Finders Keepers " ). Jaheim does settle down and straighten out by the end, closing the disc with a slew of middlebrow ballads that would be well suited to your next prom/graduation/wedding. But he proves to be a lot more interesting when he wrestles with that no-good, sex-crazed, ego-tripping, cheating motherfucker inside.

BY MICHAEL ENDELMAN

Issue Date: April 12 - 19, 2001





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