Willie J is back!!!
A haunting piano. A whisper of a verse, delivered to us as an ethereal, almost gospel like melody. The opening lyric “I’m living with my ups and downs, smiles and frowns,” strikes like thunder in the night sky, instantly taking us to the epicenter of Willie J’s fight to survive in this crazy world, and ushers us into the glorious realm of sensuous rhythm that is “Sunshine With the Rain.” The piano churns along at the pace of a funeral march, but its elegiac minor key is suddenly punctuated by a delicately woven Spanish guitar, and we start to see a few rays of sunlight peeking through the overcast skies above.
It can be hard to remember that there’s a heaven when your whole world is constantly cloudy, and lately in America, it’s been feeling like a long rainy day that won’t end. Everywhere you look, there’s people fighting, arguing with each other over stupid semantics and ready to kill each other because they don’t see eye to eye. Willie J harnesses all the pain and heartache that’s been weighing on our collective society and repurposes it for sheer catharsis in this track, and it doesn’t take longer than sixty seconds for him to transport us far from our worries.
Arthur Anthony stops by in “Sunshine With the Rain” to lend his golden set of pipes to the mix, and when he joins the wild ride that Willie J is taking us on, the warmth of his voice wraps around us like a much needed embrace on a cold, dark afternoon. Halfway through the song, the pair stop trading verses and come undone together, letting the colorful harmony of the guitars mesh into the epic, tension-building percussion driving the beat for what can only be described as a climax of symphonic proportions. The moment makes for an inspired release, but it cleverly stops just short of being overindulgent.
For a song that only runs about three and a half minutes, “Sunshine With the Rain” feels like a multilayered, existential journey into the mind of Willie J, where his inner demons are constantly doing battle with his desire to stay positive and do the right thing. It’s a vulnerable look for him, but it doesn’t come off as forced in the slightest. This is genuine intimacy from an artist who is ready to wear his emotions on his sleeve and get real with his listeners on a sincere level. I can’t speak for everyone, but I found his earnestness to be quite refreshing.
Upon completion, it’s tempting to immediately play this song over and analyze its intricacies a little closer the second time around. Something that has kept me from getting into modern R&B and hip-hop has been a lack of attention to detail in both genres’ mainstream hits, but with Willie J’s music, there’s almost an overwhelming amount of content to study closely. This man’s music is the antithesis of jaded hip-hop that discusses excessive greed, compromised integrity and predictable stereotypes, and it couldn’t be reaching music enthusiasts at a better time. “Sunshine With the Rain” is a look into the future of R&B, and for Willie J’s career, the forecast couldn’t look much better.
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