The mastermind behind Alicia Keys' "Teenage Love Affair" and John Legend's "P.D.A." steps out form behind the curtain of songwriting and his Plant Life alias to prepare audiences for his upcoming album.
Jack Splash was around for most of the past decade, but as mixtape-opener "Charlie Wilson" explains, much of Splash's career can be credited to the two years immediately following his work on Alicia Keys' As I Am. While Splash had been developing his own career for some time already under the Plant Life moniker, it was "Teenage Love Affair" that boosted Splash into the industry spotlight. Within months his name was popping up in the liner notes of Jennifer Hudson, John Legend (for the second time), Raheem DeVaughn, and Solange Knowles, to name a few. Splash is also currently burning up dancefloors behind R. Kelly's voice on "Be My #2". In a short time he's become a go-to guy for the J Records family, and as he says goodbye to the Plant Life alter ego, Splash looks to reintroduce audiences to his solo style via this promo mixtape, Heir to the Throne.
After giving a surprisingly entertaining rundown of his career to this point, Splash starts working his elbow grease immediately with "Girl, I Just Met You". The song features an Auto-tuned chorus that does an amazing job of making the Auto-tune sound as natural as it can, but there's one thing Splash didn't leave behind with Plant Life, and that's his raps. I really enjoy his vocals, but when he breaks it down for a rap like on "U Don't Know What You're Missin'", "Rick James", or his verse on the former track, it comes off as a little tacked on. It's notable that T-Pain, a self-proclaimed "rapper turnt sanger", guests on the track and raps as well, because the song seems to bend to Pain's style a little.
"In the Future" is a tantalizing slab of dubstep-meets-dancefloor R&B (the style appears again with "Rick James"), but like quite a few songs on this release it feels aware of its mixtape status and holds back from becoming more than an entertaining but ultimately disposable idea.
Don't let me over blow things and convince you the music here sounds half-baked, but with all the rapping Splash does here ("Sly Stone" is a random highlight, as he brings a little of Dilla or Madlib's style to the mic) and the amount of lyrics that sound like typical mixtape filler, it feels obvious he's intentionally holding himself back and giving us his trash. It's hard to argue the trash isn't worth digging through, but fans of "Teeenage Love Affair" or Solange's "T.O.N.Y." aren't going to find anything quite so revelatory here. As a free release, it feels kind of silly to be so picky, though.
Anyone who enjoys R&B is going to find something here to enjoy, and I don't think anyone will be less excited for this summer's debut album under the Jack Splash moniker than they were before hearing this. Heir to the Throne more than fulfills its most important function: revealing who Jack Splash is and what he's capable of. Capping the tape off with a 16-minute retrospective of Splash's most recent hits, mixed by DJ Ideal, might be both a gift and a curse. It provides fans a look into how much recognizable product he's done lately. It also shows how often his songs sound better when he's not rapping over them, trying a little harder to fill them with love stories and good vibration lyrics rather than generic self-bragging raps.