Derrick Dunn

Derrick Dunn

Second Listen Sunday: RL, RL: Elements

In the spring of 2001, the R&B singer RL was experiencing the success of his group Next’s hit single “Wifey” from their sophomore album. He began to generate ramblings of a solo album. Three years earlier, RL set himself apart from Next with the hit song “We Can’t Be Friends” alongside Deborah Cox. The success of that song had a domino effect. It led to other features, including “The Best Man I Can Be” with Ginuwine, Case, and Tyrese, and singing the hook to Tupac’s ‘Until the End of Time’.

Like some singers, RL started his solo career with soundtrack contributions. Up first was the ballad “Good Love” from The Brothers soundtrack and “Do U Wanna Roll (Doolittle Theme)” feat. Snoop Dogg & Lil Kim from the Dr. Doolittle 2 soundtrack. RL then signed with J Records and began working on his solo album “RL: Elements.” Arriving in stores on April 23, 2002, the project was led by the single “Got Me A Model” feat. Erick Sermon. 

Produced by Jermaine Dupri and Bryan Michael Cox, the track celebrates the luxurious lifestyle of its artists. Erick Sermon starts the song with a Hot 16, affirming his and R.L.’s remarkable success in the music industry. They also express their satisfaction with their home lives, surrounded by their families and significant others who are models. In the chorus, R.L. praises his girlfriend’s physical beauty and high social status, implying she is admired among his peers. The lyrics subtly convey R.L.’s pride in being associated with her. While I always thought the song was a BOP, I can see why it wasn’t a hit, as it wasn’t that different from anything else on the radio at the time.

RL released “Good Man” as his second single, a ballad produced by the highly talented duo The Underdogs. In this emotional song, RL explores profound themes such as personal growth, love, and appreciation. The lyrics expertly convey the story of a man who previously lived a reckless and promiscuous life, seeking validation through short-lived romances and superficial experiences. However, the song suggests that this individual has embarked on a journey of self-improvement, seeking to become a better person and find true fulfillment.
Sadly, the album was undersold, and RL didn’t get a third single despite having talented producers on the project. Tim & Bob provide the lush ballads “Luv Led Me 2 U” and “I’ll Do Anything,” Soulshock & Karlin deliver the club crossover song “Damn!” and Chucky Thompsons provides the album’s inspirational closer “What I’m Looking 4”. RL also collaborates with Milsap on three songs.

While I never expected RL to do groundbreaking numbers, his solo debut is worth a visit for fans of early 2000s R&B.

Final Grade: B
“RL: Elements” is available on all streaming platforms.

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