John Legend, with De La Soul and Rahzel

A little over six months ago, soul crooner John Legend released the first single, "Used to Luv U," from his major-label debut, Get Lifted. The tune, rooted in R&B but blended with hip-hop, introduced the world to Legend's throaty talents. Legend, born John Stephens in Springfield, Ohio, has lent his vocal, songwriting and piano-tickling talents to a roster of the urban elite that includes Lauryn Hill, Alicia Keys, Talib Kweli, Mary J. Blige, Dilated Peoples, Slum Village, Jay-Z and Janet Jackson. Get Lifted took on a life of its own when Columbia Records released "Ordinary People" as the second single, garnering even more appreciation from a music-buying public tired of being spoon-fed the trite imitation R&B of nondivas such as J. Lo and Xtina. On the strength of "Ordinary People," a simple composite of Legend's vocals and steady piano, Get Lifted's popularity and sales surged, causing critics to correctly describe the former choir director of Bethel AME Church in Scranton, Pennsylvania, as the new voice of soulful, gospel-tinged R&B.
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Toriano Porter