ESSENCE Festival Artist BJ the Chicago Kid: My Life in 10 Songs
Shawny Smiters

As we count down to the ESSENCE Festival, taking place June 30-July 3 in New Orleans, artists from our power-packed lineup will sum up their lives—from childhood to stardom—in 10 songs. This week it’s R&B crooner BJ the Chicago Kid, who will bring his soulful sounds to the Superdome.

1. Commissioned, “Running Back to You” 
My mom played this song so many times during my childhood. I had no choice but to understand the lyrics and emotional meaning behind it.

2. Ray Charles, “(Night Time Is) The Right Time”
This song helped me understand the power that the gospel sound possessed in R&B music. Ray Charles was such a good example of that combination.

3. James Brown, “King Heroin”
This sounds like a long intro to a gospel quartet song…To me, it’s like the best part of your favorite meal.

4. James Brown, “There It Is”
This song is straight-up good times. I can never resist a James Brown groove.

5. Michael Jackson, “Got to Be There”
His voice as a child held so much conviction, I can’t help but believe him. The structure of this song musically and lyrically is plain genius.

6. Michael Jackson “Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough”
The intro alone can start a riot. That bass line purchased the ink, wooed the client and sealed the deal. Vocal production on a trillion. I love MJ. His voice and gift is one of a kind.

7. Bobby Brown, “Roni”
Anything with Babyface behind it is guaranteed to have you feeling some kinda way. To work with the new R&B crooner at the time was an honor, I’m sure. [Babyface helped Brown] build a strong R&B presence after breaking from New Edition. I feel like they did that and more.

8. R. Kelly, “I Wish”
When I first heard this song, I felt every word as if I wrote it. He has such a way with words. I believe he finds a way to say exactly what we say, but in song. This song had me shed tears before thinking of friends I’ve lost.

9. Usher, “U Got It Bad”
This song reminded me of what R&B felt like: emotional but yet cool to be a man and sing it. Honored to work with and for this talented, gifted brother. Salute Ush. 

10. BJ the Chicago Kid, ”Heart Crush”
This song embodies a lil’ bit of all these artists I’ve mentioned before. Produced by Jairus Mozee, it’s from my album In My Mind.

Don’t miss BJ the Chicago Kid and a star-studded lineup at the 2016 ESSENCE Festival. Buy your tickets now!

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