The American underground has been producing hit after hit this summer, and one of its most profound stars comes to us out of the Northwest R&B circuit in the form of Ronnue’s Introduction 2 Retro-Funk, a wrecking ball of an LP that can get anyone grooving inside of its twelve deeply melodic funk tracks. Ronnue is no stranger to the spotlight up in Seattle, where he’s been building a cult reputation for his one of a kind flow and adherence to classic funk rhythms, but in Introduction 2 Retro-Funk, he brings a caliber of content to the studio that tops anything he’s issued in the past by a mile.
Both “17 Days (The Hood Mix)” and “Do It (The Remix) [feat. Roc Phizzle, Soultry]” show this skillful songwriter giving up a huge share of the spotlight to the instrumental swagger that drives the music behind him in what I would call a rare act of selflessness in modern R&B. Ronnue is really good about balancing out every batch of lyrics that he lays out here with a powerful harmony in the backing track, and while he’s always the most commanding presence in any given composition, he never sounds like just another talented artist with an ego the size of Alaska.
“Be Your Freak,” “If We Stayed 2gether,” “Something About U (The Retro-Funk Mix)” and “I’m a Lesbian” use a lot of callous bass tones to get our attention, but it’s the vibrant dispatch of verses that keeps our focus trained on the vocalist in these tracks. As a lyricist, Ronnue has only grown more capable with every release he’s stamped his name on, and if this game really is all about creative development, then I would name him as one of the only Seattle players near the forefront of the “New West Coast” sound at the moment.
Some songs here, like “Why,” “Be Your Freak” and “You Tried Me (The Man’s Anthem)” sound more structured than others, like “In Love,” “I’m a Lesbian” and “Do It (The Remix),” which all feature a more freeform, improvisational feel. Everything on Introduction 2 Retro-Funk is rooted in professional-quality precision, but it’s important to draw a distinction between the loose, easygoing vocal style of Ronnue and some of the duller mainstream poets that he’s challenging for dominance in 2019.
This guy doesn’t want to fit in – he’s a rebel, and honestly, this genre needs his kind of attitude now more than ever. Ronnue’s talent isn’t any news to those of us who have heard his music before, but to the listeners who are finding out about his abstruse but always accessible brand of funk for the first time, Introduction 2 Retro-Funk is the best means of getting into his head. The harmonies are off the chain, the beats never tiresome nor timid, and the lyrical content is consistently more positive than the garbage that major labels have been tasking us with sorting through across FM stations around the country this year. He’s got the Emerald City in the palm of his hands right now, and if this record catches fire on the opposite coast, soon he’ll have the rest of the country as well.