Recording information: Jungle City, New York, NY.
Photographer: Blair Caldwell.
After three albums for Def Jam and one for Motown, all of which went Top Ten R&B, Chrisette Michelle Payne went independent. She set up a label, Rich Hipster, and kicked it off in 2014 with The Lyricists' Opus. Sporting a tongue-twisting and somewhat baffling title for a 25-minute EP, it came across as an exhaustion of stray not-great ideas plus a gem in "Super Chris." The very different Milestone, her first album in three years, is surprising in that it sounds inspired more by commercial radio than any of her prior releases. It's dominated by songs that can be classified as trap-soul, with skeletal productions that serve up booming bass and metallic percussion as the primary components. To Payne's credit, she sounds like she's having a ball as she displays the combative attitude to match, bragging about her beach house, asserting her social media prowess, and tossing out the n-word. The songs that do connect -- "Soulmate," "Make Me Fall" -- are the most heartfelt. ~ Andy Kellman