The lyrics of "So," "I'm like the dawn in the morning cracking through the blinds. Embedded on the mind these thoughts I wrought. Caught on paper from ink I dab like my Dad sacrificed his genes. Genetically, phonetically, I bring from the soul butterflies and feelings of summer. I'm gonna rhymes about, whatever, baby," greet your ears halfway through LEE's first solo album, MEET LEE. The simplicity of the verse captures the very essence of the multifaceted baritone-voiced vocalist, the man behind "The Square Egg," who has chipped pieces from his shell to invite you experience music on a 'whole new level.'
While still involved with The Square Egg, a seminal rap/ funk/ soul 10-piece band known for blurring the genre lines of funk, hip-hop, jazz, spoken word, and R&B, it's floetic frontman, Lee, explores many dimensions of himself musically on his first solo album, aptly titled, Meet Lee, which he describes as his "self-portrait." "If you could strip everything down to the core and really delve into who you are emotionally, embrace vulnerability, explore what's happening in the world, and set it to music, a new voice would emerge. That's the process I went through introducing myself musically on this album. Meet Lee is my self-portrait."
For the first time in his career, he's taken complete control of every aspect of the recording - writing, creating, producing, all but two of the titles, and arranging all the live instrumentation. "There was a lot of social commentary that I wanted to deliver and discuss in ways that felt more comfortable for me on a solo album than a Square Egg project. Sure there's pressure to succumb to the pressures of creating something "for the clubs" or the charts, but Lee notes "what mattered most was writing something that I felt captured who Lee is and what my entire artistic career has been about. It was more important to share that part of myself than create 'club bangers' and 'mindless songs."
When listening to Meet Lee as a whole, you'll notice the cohesive nature that flows from song to song. Although each song can be experienced independently, they segue seamlessly as if telling a story in sequence. From the album's opener, "Whole New Level," (feat. Carol Brevard) to the last song, "The Way It Used To Be" scattered between tracks are sometimes humorous interludes edited into the album from answering machine recordings from friends, musicians, family members each adding their own brush strokes to the self-portrait.
While most of the songs are seemingly personal, they explore universal emotions from the need for reassurance to feelings of loneliness, and the need to fit in. On the very revealing, "Sometimes," (feat. Antonia Jenae) he flows, "Sometimes I wish I believed in myself. Then I wouldn't need reassurance from no one else," "Sometimes I wish they understood me more. Sometimes I wish I knew what I was fighting for…Sometimes I wish I could feel your touch, But other times I wish you'd leave me alone." He reveals a sensual side for the ladies on "Back 2 Love," suggesting that through "kisses warm as summer rain," he can "remind you how a man's supposed to feel."
Throughout Meet Lee, he embraces a myriad of musical styles and genres. At times, like on political and controversial anthems like "Move," you can truly feel a sense of urgency in his tone and delivery. He rhymes, "People come together, marching, stomping up and down the street. But when it's colder, freedom soldiers stay home warming they feet or in the club drop-popping to the latest ghetto beat. Marley said "Get Up, Stand Up," but you'd rather keep your seat…I'm ashamed to tell our fathers that we revel in defeat."
He manages to rally against an industry that casts Black men in particular into hyper-stylized caricatures by creating a work that seamlessly glides back and forth from jazzy creations, b-boy influenced rhythms to sensual ballads. "I wanted to show the dimensions of a man - his successes and disappointments, his thoughts on love and romance, his cultural and political concerns, his views on spirituality. As people we are categorized every day. We are constantly being put into little boxes in order to make it easier for the rest of the world to define us. This is me in full view, contradictions and all."
Lee, has broken out of his box, and he hopes that through his first solo album, Meet Lee, you'll join him by breaking out of yours.
During a time when so many artists are trying to create an image by showing only one side of themselves, Lee reminds us all that there's plenty to be gained by opening up and showing the world who we really are. Make no mistake, when you listen to Meet Lee you really do meet Lee. One thing's for sure, once you Meet Lee you'll be more than happy to have made his acquaintance.