Premiere: Josh Dean's "Funny Valentine" And Debut EP Is The Vocal Hug We Needed

There's more than a few powerful nayhoos behind Josh Dean. The singer-songwriter has a vibrancy about him that instantaneously puts anyone that is touched by him in a good mood. It's what pulled him into Janelle Monae's Wondaland orbit and a spot on Hitco's roster. It's also what makes his latest single, "Funny Valentine" so lovable.

The visuals for "Funny Valentine" are just as nostalgic as his interpolation (Sixpence None The Richer). Shot in black and white, Dean is all alone as he sings about the wonders of a cautious love. It's almost insane to think Dean's strong vocals weren't heard until he accidentally left his vocals on an early recording of Jidenna's "Classic Man."

Dean, who was interning for Monae's Wonderland as a graphic designer, was given a slot on the label's roster as well as an opportunity to record his debut EP Dear BlackSheepe. Some might call it fate or mere coincidence but for Dean, this feels like destiny.

"When I first got to Wondaland as an intern, I was having a conversation with Mikael [Janelle’s manager] he was like, 'People change once they get fame or famous.'" he tells VIBE. "I never want to change. I do want to be smarter, more of a seasoned singer, I want my connection with people to be stronger now than it is. In terms of who I am and the things that have shaped me, my foundation, I don’t want those things to change. I’m happy to be where I’m from, I’m happy to have been raised on a farm, I don’t think I would be the same person without it. I don’t want to step into this next phase of my life and feel like I couldn’t be myself."

The Alabama native is a clear student of music. Thanks to his grandmother, Dean started at an early age. He was taught the importance of melodies in the church and continued to explore music in school. But shortly after his mother's death, Dean moved to Florida with his father where he enjoyed the thrills of graphic design. That passion would lead him to attend Morehouse College in Atlanta to study Marketing and Computer Science. The power of graphic design also led him to an internship at Doppler Studios for Grammy-Award winning producer and songwriter, Bryan Michael Cox.

“I went one day and I sat in on this session they were working on, and I was amused by everything that I saw,” he said. By the end of the internship, Dean's passions began to intertwine. “It reignited my pursuit of music again, it gave me more of a reason and hunger to not only be in [that environment] but I was sharing my gift at the time in order to be there.”

Dear BlackSheepe showcases this with an appreciation for pop-R&B and funk sounds, specifically on fan-favorite track "DropDead." Like his influences (Prince, Michael Jackson) the singer has found a way to use upbeat grooves to heal painful memories.

"'DropDead' came from a sad place," he said. "My uncle passed away before I recorded that song. I was afraid because the song doesn’t necessarily sound like that. [My family] all thought he was doing really great, but what we didn’t know and what he didn’t tell us, was [that he] was suffering from an illness. And one day he literally drops dead and my whole family was shocked by it."

It's hard to ignore the Jackson influence but it's also easy to see Dean's vision. The singer isn't trying to emulate anyone other than himself.

"For so long in my life, I shied away from really just singing or having this connection with myself," Dead admitted. "When I got to Wondaland I wanted to step outside of that box. The whole idea of Dear BlackSheepe is that. It's a journey piece for me. Dear BlackSheepe is like, ‘Yeah we’re all different but we’re all alike and there are these things inside of us.'"

With his talents blending, he's keen on how his music videos like "Funny Valentine" and "DropDead" will be perceived. Artsy but not overly provocative, his visuals prove just how much Dean is aware of his artistry.

"The video shoot for "DropDead" was also a release for me too because I had never performed like that," he said. "I do it in front of my mirror all the time but it’s different once you’re performing in front of a camera. I learned so much that day about myself, about what I want to see on future sets of my music videos."

It may be early in his career, but Dean is checking off many moments off his bucket list. This includes opening up for boss lady Janelle Monae later this month in New York.

"I’m just really grateful because I think back to four or five years ago, I was sleeping on Janelle’s couch in her studio," he said.  "When I stepped through the doors of Wondaland, I had no idea that five years from now I would be opening up for her. It’s amazing to see how so much growth has happened in that bit of time. It all went by so fast, time flew by. She’s my big sister and I’ve learned so much from her style of performance [just by] sitting on the side of the stage. I’m really excited to take a lot of what I’ve learned and put it on the big stage. This will be one of my biggest shows to date. I’m excited. I’m looking forward to it. I’m a little nervous, but the nervousness I think is a good thing."

Josh Dean is still evolving, he’s still growing. He's also a gem that can shine in today R&B space.

Stream DearBlackSheepe here.

From the Web

More on Vibe

Nick Rice

25 Hip-Hop Singles By Bomb Womxn Of 2019

Nothing hits like a rapper talking their sh*t, especially if she happens to be a womxn. There's a confidence that oozes out from the speakers and into the spirits of a listener open to that addictive feminine energy. This year, we got to see this in a big way thanks to the crossover success of a batch of very different womxn in rap. There's the hot girl also known as Megan Thee Stallion who balances her college courses while grabbing up Billboard chart-topping hits; new mama Cardi B proves you can really have it all and make history at the same time (a la her solo rap Grammy win) and Lizzo, who constantly pushes what it means to be a "rapper" with her style of vibrant pop music.

In 2018, VIBE presented a year-end list dedicated to albums by womxn and this year continues that tradition of spotlighting some of our favorite womxn– who happen to rap. The term "female rapper" has become sour by the minute, with many artists in the game refusing to pair their gender to an artform seemingly jumpstarted by a black womxn. “I don’t want to even be a female rapper,” CHIKA told Teen Vogue recently. “I’m a rapper. So for someone to have a qualifier like that and throw it out there so publicly — it feels really backhanded. I don’t like [it].” She isn't the only one. As hip-hop continues to dominate pop culture, the womxn in the genre are demanding respect for the craft. Here's a list comprised of some of our favorite songs that hit the charts or slipped under the radar.

Enjoy.

Continue Reading
From left to right, Kennedy Center Honor recipients Verdine White, Philip Bailey, and Ralph Johnson original members of Earth Wind and Fire photographed at the Eighteenth Street Lounge in Washington, D.C. on November, 16, 2019.
Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Earth Wind And Fire Hint Towards Duets Album At Kennedy Center Honors

Earth Wind & Fire's music has stood the test of time and it seems like more tunes might be on the way. On Sunday (Dec 8), the iconic band was officially inducted into the Kennedy Center Honors, making them the first African American group to receive the honor. The group's original members Philip Bailey, Ralph Johnson and Verdine White were in attendance at the 42nd annual event with the exception of the group's founder Maurice White, who died in 2016.

In addition to celebrating White's creation and the group's legacy, the remaining members hinted towards a new project. “We’re making a list, and checking it twice," Bailey told Billboard of a possible duets album. “And you’ll hear about it soon.” We can only imagine many artists would clamor for the opportunity. During the event, the group was treated to reworkings of their biggest hits by Cynthia Erivo, John Legend, the Jonas Brothers and Ne-Yo. The group has remained mum on the details of the album but were proud to celebrate their rich legacy and how proud White would be of the feat.

“You can’t play any Earth Wind & Fire songs without Maurice’s DNA being on it, so he’s always here and we’re always celebrating him and his vision,” Johnson told Billboard. “People are still coming together and having fun.” Since the release of their first album in 1971, the group has strongly influenced R&B, disco and soul. The biggest artists in the world have sampled the group including Jay Z, Drake, the late Mac Miller, Missy Elliot and Nas.

Next year will celebrate their 50 years in the industry with many more to go. The 42nd Kennedy Center Honors will air on CBS on Sunday, Dec. 15 at 8pm.

Continue Reading
Ashanti Douglas attends "It's a Wonderful Lifetime” first holiday party of the year at STK Los Angeles on October 22, 2019 in Los Angeles, California
Randy Shropshire/Getty Images for Lifetime

Ashanti Joins Omarion's Millennium Tour

Our prayers for a female presence on Omarion's Millenium Tour have been answered with one of the most talented singers in R&B.

On Thursday (Dec. 5), Omarion announced singer-songwriter Ashanti as a special guest for the upcoming tour. "So excited to announce that Ashanti will be joining The Millennium Tour lineup!" he said in an Instagram post. The singer announced the follow-up show last week to what was perceived as a B2K reunion tour featuring Mario, Lloyd, Pretty Ricky, Chingy, Bobby Valentino and the Ying Yang Twins earlier this year.

Hailed as The "Millenium Tour 2020," the new bill features Soulja Boy and Sammie, with the Ying Yang Twins, Pretty Ricky and Lloyd returning to the mix. The tour will also include Bow Wow, who has several jams (and an album) with Omarion like "Let Me Hold You" and "Girlfriend."

Before joining the tour, Ashanti was a special guest during Lloyd's performances of their 2004 hit, "Southside." With such a large and memorable discography, fans will be thrilled to hear some of the Grammy-winner's biggest hits like "Foolish," "Only U," and recent releases like "Say Less" featuring Ty Dolla $ign and "Pretty Little Thing" featuring Afro B.

This will more than likely be a another big financial boost to the tour. The inaugural Millennium Tour grossed $6.7 million from its first eight reports, according to Billboard and set a career-high for B2K. They also went on to earn $5 million from three additional dates at The Forum in Inglewood, Calif. (April 13-14), State Farm Arena in Atlanta (April 4-5), and Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif. (April 12).

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by ⚡️Omarion ⚡️ (@omarion) on Dec 5, 2019 at 5:57am PST

Continue Reading

Top Stories