Neo-soul has a tricky legacy: for artists like Erykah Badu and D’Angelo it was a groundbreaking way to align trends in rap music with more experimental forms of black music, but for Common and Lauryn Hill the genre came to resemble a self-indulgent rabbit hole. Greentea Peng’s debut album attempts to channel the sprit of the Soulquarians, but is too often content with a lifeless MOR substitute.
This Sound is a good example of Man Made at its peak, with infectiously syncopated grooves and verses that demonstrate a KRS-One style affection for long words (“This sound is physical, it’s very physical / and literal, but metaphysical and mystical / and no, we’re not in your peripheral”). The song is no more jam-packed with ideas than many others on the record, but crucially it hits on a catchy refrain and delivers it with vitality.
Sadly many other songs here have the vibe of a semi-productive jam session, in which a minute’s worth of solid music is created but the momentum is then squandered by another two minutes of tepid vamping.
At times the album is intensely frustrating – what could Sinner have been if its rocky groove was maintained and built upon, instead of being abandoned after 20 seconds? – but at other times it’s just tedious. Meditation is a seven-minute long tune with lyrics so repetitive and vapid, and music so utterly nondescript, that the listener may feel less like they’re rebalancing their chakras and more like they’re waiting to get through to BT customer services.
Dingaling and Satta provide some relief around the halfway point, and Jimtastic Blues’ funky coda features a level of musical development that after an hour is extremely welcome. But Man Made suffers from too much material, not enough editorial oversight, and not nearly enough inspired composition.