Vikter Duplaix

Singles (Prelude to the Future)

As a modern-day soul producer, Vikter Duplaix's got an unparalleled Philadelphia pedigree. He's worked with area stars like old-school hip hop studio man Jazzy Jeff, new-school soul powerhouse James Poyser, and Kenny Gamble, half of the Gamble and Huff production team that defined the original smooth Philly Soul sound of the '70s. He's also got an irresistibly seductive vocal style. Singles (Prelude to the Future), a compilation of some of his records from the past five years, prompts the logical and baffling question: Why the hell is he virtually unknown in the urban music scene?

Singles posits Duplaix as a dynamic composer of futuristic soul who has no fewer chops than his multiplatinum peers, guys like Timbaland and Kanye West. He crafted his debut single, "Message," out of spare elements -- chiming chords, synth noise, and a thumping nu-jazz beat -- yet made it sound hugely rich. Another song, "Manhood," manages to remain sensuous while sliding between slow jam, uptempo electro, and broken beat styles. But unlike any of his mentors, Duplaix carries a one-two musical punch, matching his production talents with a strong, if double-edged, singer/songwriter role. He almost never rhymes his lines, many of which are simplistic: "I've got a question/ For you/ Will you be there/ For me/ When I need you?" he sings in "City Spirits." But when he slathers those lines in vulnerably androgynous, almost Prince-like tones during his uptempo electronic funk arrangements, Duplaix comes up with a familiar yet idiomatic brand of soul you've likely not heard before. Considering how innovative and stylistically diverse chart-topping urban music has become over the years, Singles leaves the fact of Duplaix's low profile a mystery.

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