Rene Lopez' last album, People Are Just People (review here) served as a kind of homage to classic R&B and soul music. On his latest album, E.L.S., Lopez steps forward to claim his own voice. "Electric Latin Soul" is his new banner and the album largely lives up to that vision.
The title cut serves as Lopez' statement of purpose, marrying an electro-disco funk groove with Latin percussion beats. But it's the second track, I Flow, that really delivers on the Electric Latin sound. The vocals provide club braggadocio touting his rap skills as the backing track lays down the speedy beat the flow demands. The horns and rhythms make a compelling combination:
It took me twenty years to finally find my flowThe beat is club worthy, but the syncopation gives it life beyond the dance floor.
Now that it's mine, I won't, I won't let go
Pickpocket man try to steal, steal my soul
I caught him red handed when my eyes were closed
(Here I go, here I go)
To the east (I flow), yeah it's big in Japan
To the west (I flow), in the California sand
To the north (I flow), in the Bronx, I was born
To the south (I flow), it's going on and on
Despite the electro-dance elements, Lopez hasn't completely abandoned his earlier sound. The "soul" part of "Electric Latin Soul" gets a workout in tracks like Honey Got Some Love or Everything We Do. These tracks keep the clave rhythms and tight percussion, but still deliver a soulful message and vocal feel.
E.L.S. is packed with busier tracks than Lopez' previous work. As much as I enjoyed People Are Just People, the new album is exciting as Rene Lopez plays with sonic ideas. Not all of the experiments succeed (L2 the Boogaloo's electro Latin hip hop, for example), but Lopez commits to the exploration. He embraces his Puerto Rican roots while reaching for a more contemporary sound. Lopez is a talented multi-instrumentalist, so his next steps will indicate whether he plans bring the E.L.S. sound to maturity or mutate it further.
(The link above for I Flow is a live version. Follow this link to tweet about the album and get a copy of the album track)