If there was ever an artist who embodied the SoulBounce spirit, it would have to be Eric Roberson, and it's not just because we talk about the man to the extent that we do. Eric, or Erro as he's known the world over, just has that winning combination of honest music, forward-thinking and an awesome personality that shines through in everything he does. And boy did he shine in 2009. This year found him releasing his most ambitious and all-around delightful project to date, Music Fan First, and we were all caught up in the newness.
Receiving the only unanimous vote amongst our editors, it's no wonder that Eric Roberson's Music Fan First is SoulBounce's 2009 Album of the Year.
When Music Fan First finally dropped in August of this year, anticipation was at a fever pitch. We had been hearing talk about a new album ever since 2008, when his previous release, 2007's stellar effort ...Left, which left many wondering how Roberson would top that, was still getting major love. Then earlier this year, as the album was coming together, Erro appealed to his fans to help him name the new set. Once the title Music Fan First was motioned and seconded by many, he then decided to really make his fans a part of the process by soliciting photos of them to include in the album artwork. This album wasn't so much about him as it was about us.
Unlike previous releases, Erro really made an effort with Music Fan First to think outside of the box and utilize the power of social media and the internet to raise awareness about the release. This was definitely seen in his "17 Days of Music Fan First" online video campaign where he took his adoring public behind the groove of each song right up to the release of the album. He would talk about his motivation behind the writing, who he worked with on a particular cut and play snippets long enough to whet our appetites but short enough to have us ravenous for more.
Then on that 18th day, August 25th to be exact, Music Fan First dropped.
For many, present company included, it was love at first listen. Regardless of your allegiance to Eric, repeated listening sessions of Music Fan First brought us all to the same conclusion: this album was just that good.
From the hip-hop soul glow of the album opener "The Newness" to the retro vibe of "Celebrate," Music Fan First was 17 songs of strong. The first single, "Borrow You," took listeners to the dance floor to two-step the night away. "Dealing," his current single and smoking hot duet with Lalah Hathaway, marked a welcome return to the classic duets of old – think Marvin and Tammi, Donny and Roberta – with a new school twist. He created everything from an anthem to the lovely ladies of his alma mater ("Howard Girls") to another soon-to-be soulful house classic ("Wanna Believe It Again").
Erro took risks on MFF, experimenting with different sounds and collaborating with more artists that he ever had before, and his gamble paid off. One of those collaborations, the haunting, twisted "A Tale of Two" featuring Ben O'Neill and Michelle Thompson is nominated for a GRAMMY Award for Best Urban/Alternative Performance at the 52nd Annual Grammys.
Not bad for the hardest working brother on the independent soul scene.
Now that he is GRAMMY-nominated, selling more albums and booking more shows, more people are discovering what we already know: Eric Roberson is that dude and Music Fan First is that album.