Jaguar Wright's debut album, Denials Delusions and Decisions, arrived at a perfect time, just as the early-2000s neo-soul movement led by similar female vocalists such as Jill Scott and Mary J. Blige was at its peak. A few years earlier, Wright probably wouldn't even have been given a major-label contract; however, she debuted in early 2002 with not only a substantial major-label marketing push courtesy of MCA, but also a stellar roster of producers -- Scott Storch, James Pyser, and Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson -- and a high-profile appearance on Jay-Z's MTV Unplugged broadcast, where she sang backup vocals, just as her album was hitting the streets. And while it's easy to compare her to all the other early-2000s neo-soul divas, she's no Erykah Badu (she's a bit more street-orientated), she's no Aaliyah (she has more attitude), and she's no Alicia Keys (she isn't nearly as radio-ready); instead, Wright lives up to her "Jaguar" persona, being sexy and seductive but still vicious and somewhat of a femme fatale (for instance, in her liner notes she addresses her "enemies," "x-boyfriends," and "old sex partners"). And though it's difficult to look past her alluring image and persona and focus exclusively on her music, you don't really want to; it only adds an additional dimension, being incredibly analogous -- again, sexy, seductive, and vicious. However, even when you do focus exclusively on her music, you can't help but be effected by her overall aura. It's not just how she sings, what she sings, or the music she sings over; it's the synthesis. She exudes sassy soulfulness and sensuality. And her producers are the perfect match, all of them laying down smoked-out beats that are as informed by hip-hop as they are by '70s soul -- the most hip-hop-informed moment being her collaboration with Black Thought, "Ain't Nobody Playin'," clearly the album's crossover single; the most soul-informed moment being her cover of Patti Labelle's "Love Need and Want You," clearly an ode to her Philly soul roots. So just when you thought the early-2000s neo-soul movement was starting to get a little marketing-driven, albums like this come along and remind you that soul music never died with the rise of hip-hop in the early '80s; it just took a decade or two to rediscover itself and be embraced by a new generation.
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AllMusic Review by Jason Birchmeier
feat: Black Thought
feat: Black Thought