Angie Stone is the kind of artist for whom classification always does a disservice. She possesses a voice of uncommon versatility, sounding equally at home alongside the hottest emcee or fronting a choir. But she doesn’t defy classification, not in the way say a Meshell Ndegeocello or a Joi Gilliam does. Rather, she sort of obliterates the artificial lines between genres, making you realize as you listen to her music that there is really little difference between “neo-soul” and “R&B” and “hip-hop/soul”.
On her second album for Concord’s Stax imprint (and fifth overall), Angie Stone delves deeper into funk and hip-hop than on her previous outings. Her last offering, The Art of Love & War, was a critical and commercial triumph for the vastly underrated vocalist, and topped the Billboard chart. With a slew of producers including Sly Williams, Willie “Chuck” Shivers, Karrim King and Fitzroy Reid, Steven “Supe” White, Jonathan Richmond, Jazze Pha, and Stone herself, these dozen tracks continue to reveal her versatility as a vocalist and recording artist; she can sing whatever it is she wants to with equal verve, authenticity, and flair.
What’s so unexpected about Angie Stone’s fifth album? Sure, there are a few halfhearted concessions to contemporary pop currents, including one regrettable bout of robotic vocal processing. For the most part, though, Unexpected is one tasteful midtempo jam after another, with Stone’s honey-sweet harmonies unfolding over easygoing throwback vibes (assisted by samples from the likes of Sly Stone and Minnie Riperton). That’s not necessarily a bad thing — the neo-soul approach has always suited Stone.
A likeable blend of soul and funk with judicious little dashes of rap. Chris Roberts 2010 In 2007 Angie Stone came back from illness to help re-launch the hallowed soul label Stax, proving she had the vocal chops to do justice to that brand name’s proud heritage with the smoothly strident album The Art of Love & War. It was a high-class set of soul and RnB with one uncharacteristically peculiar moment, wherein Stone declared: “Bill Clinton was the first black man in the White House.