If R. Kelly's career had been terminally derailed by his numerous court appearances, it's entirely likely that The-Dream would have stepped straight into his shoes, ensuring that silky but smutty RnB remained a chart fixture. As things have played out, the man born Terius Nash has a significantly smaller profile than Kelly in the UK (despite him winning several awards stateside); but he's been very active behind the scenes for several years, writing and producing massive hits for a succession of artists.
Rihanna's Umbrella is one of his; Beyonce's Single Ladies too. But Nash keeps plenty of winning tunes for himself, as the performance of his last album, 2009's Love vs Money, proved - the record, his second, went to number two on the Billboard Chart, and received considerable critical acclaim. Love King continues the themes of its predecessor - lady-chasing, lady-catching, lady-having. But while these lyrical cliches might sound unappealing on paper, Nash's superb production ensures almost every track here is a brilliant earworm of an arrangement. And he's picked his studio contributors wisely - Christopher Stewart has worked with Nash before, on the aforementioned among others, and Carlos McKinney is a Grammy-nominated jazz pianist who adds further textural depth to proceedings.
Nash isn't one to mince his words, though, and Love King's graphic explorations of a young man's sexual adventures might be a little much for some tastes - an album with a track called Panties to the Side is unlikely to pull its punches in this respect, and the Parental Advisory stamp on the cover is well earned. But the profanity isn't included at the expense of meticulous craft - the two-part Sex Intelligent is aural foreplay of a quality unheard since Kelly's 12 Play, its excellently segued remix version turning the tables slightly, emphasising the needs of the female half of this explicit equation. The boasts would ring hollow in the throats of many other artists, but when Nash claims to be making his rivals irrelevant his CV backs up the braggadocio. He talks the talk with ease, and the walking of the walk appears to come just as naturally.
At only 12 tracks, Love King is remarkably concise for a modern rap/RnB album, and the way tracks blend into each other makes it seem even shorter. This is a plus point: any longer and Love King's limited lyrical scope would grate. But by sticking to the point (and sticking his point here, there and everywhere) Nash has produced a fine follow-up to Love vs Money. The only question mark: can he repeat his US achievements in Britain? Over to you…