September 20, 2001

Test Spins: His Name Is Alive

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When Eminem first crashed onto the rap scene, it was an outrage. Here was a white guy taking on traditionally black music — and doing it, admittedly, better than most. Now Warn Defever of HNIA is aiming to do to R&B what Eminem did to rap (well, not quite). With the help of the sultry lead vocals of Lovetta Pippen, Defever’s first foray into urban soul outdoes all the so-called “authentic” R&B out there today.

The opener “Nothing Special” sets the mood with a sedate beat backed by muted strings and piano. “Write my Name in the Groove” culminates in a soulful chorus, but even the album’s most upbeat tracks have a bluesy, melancholy vibe.

The highlight comes with “One Year,” on which Pippen croons, “if you had a year to live/ do you know who you’d like to spend it with?” Strummed guitars and burbling synth tones provide the backbone. If more mainstream R&B groups could reach these kinds of highs, popular radio wouldn’t be so boring. In other words, take a cue from Warn, Beyonc