When looking back on the legacy of Chico DeBarge one day, it may very well be characterized by the phrase “what could have been.” The talent and potential have always been there, but unfortunately he has been unable to avoid succumbing to personal problems. After establishing himself in the mid 80’s with his silky smooth voice on two albums, he was arrested for drug trafficking which prevented him from releasing another album for nearly ten years. After returning to the scene and entering into the newly formed neo-soul movement, he took the hard, edgy approach to soul brought on by his time spent in jail.
Although it seemed like the drug problems were a thing of the past, Chico was once again jailed in 2007 for possession. Fortunately, this sentence was not nearly as long as the first and he is able to release “Addiction” in 2009. Judging by the title as well as the interludes on the album, Chico is coming to terms with the fact that he has a problem. Despite his personal problems, he has consistently released solid neo-soul music; that is no different on “Addiction.”
What’s most amazing to me about this album is that he hasn’t lost anything in all of his time off. Despite all of the changes in r&b since he’s been active as a singer, Chico has not tinkered much with his style or sound; and that is a beautiful thing. This is obvious on the first single “Oh No” which features an up tempo beat and is fueled by his smooth soulful voice which is silky as ever.
Frequent collaborator Joe shows up on “Tell Ur Man” to provide his equally soulful vocals on this sexy mid tempo jam. The two vibe very well together in warning a woman to leave her man if he isn’t treating her right. Another highlight of the album is “Slick (Addiction)” which has an old school feel and combines elements of jazz with soul. With the use of classical instruments on the song, it wouldn’t surprise me if I was told this was a song from his debut album in the 80’s.
As mentioned, Chico does allude to his personal problems at points on the album. On “Do My Bad Alone,” he tells a story of domestic violence so vividly it made me wonder if he was speaking from first hand experience. He goes on to let the listener know that despite the trouble lurking around the corner, he is going to make it because he’s in God’s hands on “I’m Okay.” You can hear the passion in his voice and truly understand he’s suffered greatly from his mistakes.
Chico has also been able to find success when he ventures more towards traditional r&b and he does the same on “Addiction.” An example of this is the groovy up tempo “I Forgot Ur Name.” Here he finds himself running into a beautiful woman he once knew but unfortunately forgot her name. “Hey U” is another catchy up tempo jam that is also tailored more to the club than the bedroom.
“Addiction” is a very pretty impressive return to music for Chico DeBarge. It’s remarkable that despite all the inactivity, he is able to follow the same formula that he has been for years without sounding dated. While this album won’t be in the running for album of the year or probably even sell well commercially, it should be considered nothing less than a success. Let’s hope that Chico has been able to learn from his mistakes and kick his addiction so he can express himself as an artist more often.