Before releasing their fourth album, 1997’s Evolution, R&B quartet Boyz II Men formed their record label Stonecreek records. The first artist signed to their label was Detroit-based singer Uncle Sam who released his self-titled debut on October 17th, 1997.
Uncle Sam had the pipes to transition into an Urban Adult Contemporary star with his husky gospel-infused voice. The singer opens up his debut with the up-tempo and promo single “Can You Feel It” featuring rapper Popa Chief. BIIM members Wanya Morris and Shawn Stockman wrote the song, which screams nineties R&B. Seriously, YouTube the video, and you’ll see what I mean. However, Uncle Sam’s second single, “I Don’t Ever Want to See You Again,” is the one that most R&B fans remember.
Nathan Morris of Boyz II Men wrote the song, which helped many listeners get through their first heartbreak. Particularly those who knew the pain of when the love of your life steps out with your best friend. It’s a timeless song that still holds up, but sadly, in the year 2021, some listeners would find a way to put Sam at fault instead. Michael McCray of Boyz II Men contributes a memorable spoken word to the song as well.
The third single from Uncle Sam’s debut was “Baby You Are,” written by Dennis Ross III. The song is a safe, standard R&B song from the nineties that Sam’s vocals elevate. Some trivia for you, Gabriele Union was his love interest in the video. I wouldn’t have chosen this song as the third single following the massive “I Don’t Ever Want to See You Again.” The rest of the debut is nineties R&B and showcases just how strong the nineties were when it came to R&B music.
Shawn Stockman wrote four additional songs for Sam that cover the usual tropes. “Leave Well Enough Alone” is about a woman you can’t have because she’s already with someone else. “Without Lovin You” is the apology jam, and “Someone like You” is the song to express your feelings for your lady when you can’t find the words. Shawn’s final contribution is the jazz café favored “Stop Foolin Around.”
Uncle Sam also finds time to do a soulful cover of “Tender Love,” which the singer makes his own. Ballads and slow jams were his strong point, so up-tempo material doesn’t come off as strong, in my opinion. “You Make Me Feel Like,” “Throw Your Hands in the Air,” and “Think about me” are all forgettable.
Nevertheless, overall, Uncle Sam’s eponymous debut is a strong project vocally. As I often say, nineties R&B had songs better than some entire catalogs of artists that came out in the 21st century. Featuring a signature song that still holds up twenty-four years later and solid writing from Boyz II Men’s members, Uncle Sam is worth a revisit.
Top Songs: “I Don’t Ever Want to See You Again,” “Leave Well Enough Alone,” “Someone Like You,” and “Tender Love.”
Final Grade: B+
Uncle Sam is available on all streaming platforms.