Although the Gap Band enjoyed their greatest commercial and creative success in the late '70s and early '80s, Charlie Wilson's influence on R&B and hip-hop continued long after that. The onetime Gap Band singer was a major influence on Guy/Aaron Hall, Keith Sweat, Bell Biv DeVoe, and other new jack swing stars who emerged in the late '80s and early '90s, and it certainly isn't hard to hear Wilson's impact on the '90s and 2000s hits of R. Kelly. But veteran R&B artists who opened doors in the past don't always have doors opened for them as they grow older; most of the R&B stars who emerged in the '70s are lucky to be recording for small indie labels in the 21st century, let alone a major label like Jive. But recording for Jive is exactly what Wilson does on 2005's Charlie, Last Name Wilson, which finds him collaborating with none other than R. Kelly. In addition to serving as executive producer, Kelly wrote, produced, and arranged three songs: "Magic," the title track, and the Stevie Wonder-ish "No Words." Kelly didn't produce the entire album -- the Platinum Brothers, T. Pain, and several others also help out -- but whoever the producer or writer is on a particular track, the obvious goal was to make Wilson sound contemporary and modern by 2005 standards. And Wilson sounds perfectly natural alongside guest Snoop Dogg on the angry "You Got Nerve" and even Justin Timberlake (who has shed some of his more bubblegum tendencies of the past) on the infectious "Floatin'." Romantic slow jams are a high priority on this CD, and grooves like "Asking Questions," "What If I'm the One," and "Let's Chill" (a remake of Guy's hit) essentially take the Gap Band's classic "Yearning for Your Love"/"Outstanding" vibe and add a big dose of hip-hop. In other words, Wilson does exactly what Kelly, Teddy Riley, Sweat, and so many of his other admirers have been doing all these years. Charlie, Last Name Wilson isn't in a class with the singer's best recordings with the Gap Band, but it's a respectable and inspired demonstration of his ability to be relevant to the hip-hop-drenched urban contemporary scene of 2005.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson
feat: Snoop Dogg