Every generation of artists builds from the previous generation. In my formative years during the golden era of hip hop, artists frequently sampled James Brown, Parliament and other artists who peaked 20 years prior. It was a frequent occurrence for my parents to enter my room while I was listening to music and say, “that ain't nothing but (insert artist from their generation)”! So it's only right to hear artists today build upon music from 20 years ago.
That's where H.E.R.’s EP “I Used to Know Her” takes me. The opening track “Lost Souls” brings to mind Lauryn Hill’s “Lost Ones” from the very first note. But once the beat pulls you into the memory of Lauryn, H.E.R. displays her vocal dexterity as she spits over the track in a way that's also reminiscent of Ms. Hill. Plus it doesn't hurt to have the certified 90's DJ Scratch providing the scratches for the track.
The closing track, “As I Am”, ends the EP with the same 90's vibes it began with. The mid-tempo synth stabs of “As I Am” are evocative of something you might have heard on Brandy's eponymous debut album. With minimal finger snaps and the very stereotypical 90's vocal sample of Stetsasonic, H.E.R. glides over the beat as only she can.
The standout track “Could've Been” anchors the EP in its previous generation’s influence, but in a different way from the opening and closing tracks. While “Lost Souls” and “As I Am” sound almost as if they were covers of songs from a previous era, “Could've Been” comes across as H.E.R. and Bryson Tiller’s attempt at creating their own original composition as if they were back in 1996.
The influence of the decade of the CD is clearly felt on this 6 track EP, but that's not to say that there's no trace of today's R&B to be heard. H.E.R. masterfully blends both influence and originality to create a solid offering that sounds a little like what we've previously heard and a little like we've never heard. And I'm sure 20 years from now my kids will be listening to a song they think is new and I'll walk in the room and say, “that ain't nothing but H.E.R.”!