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Ask a Rapper: Jack Freeman Nerds Out with R&B Hits

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The hip-hop world is a less than sensible place -- lots of times, you're even required to clarify when bad means bad and when bad means good -- so once a week we're going to get with a rapper and ask them to explain things. Something you always wanted to ask a rapper? E-mail sheaserrano@gmail.com.

This Week's R&B Singer: Jack Freeman

This Week's Prompt: We've mentioned this before (as recently as last week, actually): Houston is beginning to flex its R&B muscle*. So, Jack Freeman, potential singing star, how's about if you list the best R&B songs (your favorites, basically)? Got it? Great. Go.

Jack Freeman: In no particular order:

Chaka Khan, "What You Gonna Do for Me": Chaka Khan happens to be my favorite female vocalist, so I had to put her in the mix. I honestly had a hard time trying to pick which one by her I liked the most, but this one is definitely close to the top of the list.

Donny Hathaway, "Someday We'll All Be Free": Donny Hathaway is actually my favorite artist of all time. This song pretty much embodies everything I love about his body of work: musicality, vocal range, song arrangement. The vocals were outstanding and it just makes you FEEL the emotion in the lyrics. Someday I hope to make music this effective and this great.

Michael Jackson, "Human Nature": What's a musical list without MJ? There are SOOOOOO many great MJ songs, of course. "Off the Wall," "Thriller," "Lady in My Life," "Bad," "Liberian Girl," "Beat It," "Smooth Criminal," etc. "Human Nature" is just one of those relaxing pieces that I could put on repeat in my house and never get tired of the vibe it puts me in.

D'Angelo...: Well, is it okay that I break the rules and just put all of his music on the list? I mean, the guy is just amazing. Voodoo and Brown Sugar were two certified classic, timeless albums.

See, nowadays everyone hears something and they immediately throw around the "classic" label. I want to save everyone the energy and time by telling them that more than likely it's not. The last real classic R&B albums: Confessions [Usher], TP2.com [R. Kelly] and Voodoo.

I could also make a strong case for John Legend's Get Lifted, but we'll get to that later. D'Angelo got here at the perfect time and teamed with the perfect people to put together an absolutely amazing body of work with Voodoo and Brown Sugar.

You absolutely couldn't give any of those songs to any other artist and have the same result. It just can't happen. There's only one D'Angelo.

Bilal, "Soul Sista": This is another one of those "repeat all day and still keep the same feeling" type of songs. I think I may have successfully found every live version anyone has on YouTube that Bilal has done. I'm a fan of Bilal (and just about all of the artists I put on this list) because they all do things vocally that I can't do.

This song was the typical moment in an artist's mind where he says, "WHY DIDN'T I THINK OF THAT?!" I still kick myself for not having put this song out first [laughs].

John Legend, "Ordinary People": This guy put together a string of great projects. However, I think it's just obvious that Get Lifted hit like a meteor, with "Ordinary People" being the driving force behind it all. It's a beautiful song by a man who somehow went from held [in] such high esteem to now being strangely UNDERRATED. But that's just my opinion.

Whitney Houston, "I Have Nothing": It's only right that I put Whitney on this list. "I Have Nothing" has been my favorite by her for as long as I can remember; vocal perfection, just like all of her music. How can you not love it? She absolutely nailed it.

Not many people can take an arrangement and absolutely nail it like she could. Her and Donny Hathaway are two artists that I have yet to hear anyone successfully cover. I'm deathly afraid to try it myself. I don't even wanna disrespect them like that [laughs].

I could go on and on about my favorites all day, but I was definitely given a limit (and rightfully so). But what I would like to say to all of those who made this particular list is "thank you." Thank you for your contribution to this art form.

Some of you are obviously no longer with us, but I definitely feel the presence when I'm jamming you guys in my home. Thank you for making music I can feel for years to come.

See Jack Freeman perform none of these songs as he headlines his first show over 220 Music, Ben Cina, D. Hayes and The Niceguys Thursday at House of Blues. $10


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