“I’M REAL” by James Brown

Legendary Soul Brother Number One James Brown experienced a resurgence of popularity in the 1980’s. This was due to the fact that a lot of rappers and rap groups began using samples of his music and voice in various songs. And in 1985 in appeared in the hit film Rocky IV, performing the song “Living In America”, which was released as a single and became a major hit itself. So in 1988 his record company Scotti Bros. took advantage of this by hiring Full Force, who was one of the hottest R&B bands and producing teams at the time to produce James Brown’s newest album. The album features eight full songs, most of which are written and produced by Full Force.

Co-written by James Brown this song has a bass-heavy funky beat and has some of James Brown’s most forceful vocals in decades (“I invented soul!”). This song is perfect modern-day update on James Brown’s music, becoming as much an anthem as any of his classic tracks.

“Don’t start none, won’t be none!” My 2nd favorite song on the album. Another track that perfectly echoes classic James Brown. More uptempo than I’m Real, this is perfect for dancefloors, with some good piano work and inventive use of sound effects making sound like playing an old 45.

This song is like a modern-day version of Brown’s classic “I’m Black and I’m Proud,” as he sings to young people about getting an education and staying away from drugs and crime, all to another funky beat. So you can dance while getting the message.

This is a love song, a ballad. And I have to say it’s a bit of a mis-step. It just doesn’t fit in with the rest of the album, doesn’t feel natural, and almost seems like it was included just as an obligation. Like they felt that the album had to have at least one ballad on it, so they recorded this. But I never liked it, and just skip over it when replaying this album.

The album gets back on this track with this fast song, which utilizes the infamous “Funky Drummer” beat in it. It’s my 3rd favorite song from this album.

Another classic-sounding James Brown party joint, with a funky beat and some nice horns in it.

A pretty inventive call-out track, that utilizes scratching and sampling in it, it’s mostly instrumental, but it’s good.

James wrote and produced this uptempo song by himself. And you can tell he’s still got it.

There’s also a few little skits and an instrumental remix song called Godfather’s Runnin’ The Joint, but the above are the only real songs here, and at 8 songs that’s pretty standard for an 80’s album. Full Force were a good fit for James Brown, they knew how to craft songs that would appeal to his old fans and new ones. Frankly, the album should have been credited to James Brown and Full Force, since they’re pretty prominent on the songs they wrote and produced. Anyway, I remember loving this album as a wee lad when it came out, and re-listening to it all these years later, it’s just as dope now. If it weren’t for that one ballad that I don’t like, I’d give it an A+, but as it stands it definitely merits at least?


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