Twenty-year-old Willie “Ray J” Norwood, Jr. has been working in the entertainment business in some capacity for the past 12 years. He”s acted, produced music for commercials and released an album. However, he”s better known for being popstar Brandy”s younger brother. In fact, his career in the past few years has basically revolved around his sister”s success.
His first album failed commercially and he sought refuge on his sister”s label, Atlantic. Hoping to renew his solo career, Ray J is dropping This Ain”t A Game. Although this album will probably do better than the first, it”s still no better than anything else in the current urban music scene”s heavy rotation.
Ray J enlists the likes of the Neptunes and his sister”s favorite producer, Rodney Jerkins, to make his tracks. “Wait A Minute” features a guest spot from Lil” Kim and is receiving a lot of attention on urban format radio and video programs. It”s filled with references to Cristal, “major ice” and any other clich you can attach to the “bling bling” segment of the hip-hop and R&B world.
It”s a little funny hearing a twenty-year-old sing about all the Moet he”s drinking, ice he”s wearing and sex he”s having, but it seems like it”s his attempt to separate from whatever notions people have that he”s a light-weight or riding on Brandy”s coattails. This is captured when a confused girl asks, “Ain”t that Brandy”s brother?”
“I Got It All” starts off with DJ Clue”s signature yet annoying “Yeah!” shout and features Ray J showing his rhyme skills, or lack there of. He proclaims, “I”ve got more sounds in my truck than elephants.” He”s “not going for the G”s,” rather he”s “going for the millions.” Sprinkle in the ice, money and diamond rings, and you have the essence of this track. Nothing.
In a welcome change of pace, “Keep Your Head Up” follows in the tradition of the 2Pac song of the same name. Ray J attempts to lift the spirits of the single mothers struggling against overwhelming odds. He urges them to stay optimistic through the difficult times because they indeed can make it on their own. This is a good message, but Ray J probably isn”t the best person to convey it given the material on the rest of the album.
As suggested before, Game”s 16 tracks are Ray J”s attempt to differentiate and separate himself from Brandy. He calls his music “thug R&B” so no comparisons can be remotely drawn between himself and his older sister.
True, the Norwood kids” music isn”t similar but Ray J has put out an album that”s no different or more creative than anything else on the market now. Unfortunately for him, he”s also fashioned a thug image that may be hard to maintain and for some people to believe. After all, he is Brandy”s brother.