The R&B singer delivers her brand of throwback vibes on her debut album
Joyce Wrice has been bubbling for some time on the underground R&B scene. The LA-based singer/songwriter broke out in 2016 with her EP Stay Around and continued with collaborations with artists such as Westside Gunn of Griselda, The Free Nationals, and Crush. Under the partnership with R&B producer and frequent Ty Dolla $ign collaborator D’Mile, Wrice takes listeners onto a time capsule back to the heyday of 1990s hip hop soul with Overgrown.
From the jump, it’s apparent that this project takes various cues from musical elements of R&B albums of that era. The most striking takeaway of this album’s sound is the lush but gritty instrumentation across all tracks. Funky guitar licks, boom-bap drums, string melodies and winding chord progressions permeate tracks such as Chandler, Losing, and Addicted. The self-titled track is a piano laden ballad that shares similar themes of self-love and strength with Mary J. Blige’s material, particularly My Life. The collaboration with fellow half-Japanese R&B singer UMI, a remix to That’s On You, carries a bluesy feel and is noteworthy for having a crossover appeal with Japanese lyrics. So So Sick is perhaps the biggest musical tribute to 90s R&B, with a subtle sample of Jon B’s 1997 hit They Don’t Know.
Another element Overgrown borrows from 1990s R&B albums is the balance of soulfulness and hip hop swagger through its collaborations and structure. On One with Freddie Gibbs carries the spirit of singer-rapper collabs such as Anything by SWV and Wu Tang Clan and Can’t You See by Total and the Notorious BIG. Westside Gunn’s Interlude, featuring the eponymous rapper, is humorously vulgar and reminiscent of rap interludes and intros on R&B albums by the likes of Phife Dawg and Busta Rhymes. Falling In Love, with fellow D’Mile collaborator Lucky Daye, hearkens back to collabs between singers like Slow Jam by Usher and Monica, and Final Warning by Ginuwine and Aaliyah. The album’s mix of uptempos and slow jams are tied together cohesively by interludes in the same way Faith Evans and Blackstreet used them on their albums.
Overall, Overgrown is a strong debut album for Joyce Wrice with its rich melodic textures compared to a majority of modern R&B albums with heavy hip hop influence. If this project is a sign of Wrice’s future as an artist, is it clear that she’ll be a breath of fresh air for R&B.
Written by Kristian Gonzales