The other day I was listening to Anita Baker’s classic album Rapture on my way to work. You see, there are only a few artists who crafted a project this great, in my humble opinion. It’s the gift and curse of your discography because the greatness follows and literally haunts you over the years. Nas suffers the same artistic fate after he dropped Illmatic before he was 21 years old. It doesn’t matter that he was lyrically more potent on It Was Written and more creative on Stillmatic. Fans can’t escape the trip through New York displayed on Illmatic. Think about the pressure on Marvin Gaye after What’s Going On was released. I mean, how can you top perfection? Gaye talked about Racism in America, the Vietnam War and love on this stellar collection of songs. Anita Baker was already an amazing artist and vocalist before Rapture but this was no doubt her magnum opus. Anita had already entered the Music Industry with a strong debut The Songstress but her follow-up was legendary. When you hit the pinnacle of your creativity, having the ability to stay consistent is essential. As I type these random thoughts, the song “Watch Your Steps” blast from my speakers.
I remember hearing older people in my family playing Anita Baker when I was in my early teens. Obviously, I couldn’t understand the layers to her sound until I got older. I always enjoyed her songs, voice and music compositions on her albums. The instruments used on her albums were crystal clear. If you listen to an Anita Baker album, it sounds like she’s standing in your living room singing. I appreciate the pianos, horns and song structure that accompanied the brilliant writing of Michael J. Powell. The thing about Anita Baker that I love is her passion, emotions and openness in each verse. I mean “Giving You The Best That I Got” is a feeling and notion written as a song that women understand perfectly. You have to appreciate the idea that another person is doing the best they can to assist in your happiness. Today I watched the video to “Giving You The Best That I Got” and I tell you, the piano and the way the track concludes fading away is nothing short of sensual and inspirational.
Let us remember that Anita Baker was born in Detroit. When you have the spirit of Motown and culture in your blood, your soul is going to bleed into the music. Anita’s Baker was apparently born to sing. Who else sounds like Anita Baker? The only singer in the past 25-30 years that give me the same vibe is Toni Braxton. They each have a unique and authentic style. Anita Baker will make you appreciate being in love. Anita Baker will make you yearn for love in your life. Anita Baker will push you to challenge yourself in all aspects of love, commitment and dedication. When I think about the impact her music has on me over the years, I think about SADE, Marvin Gaye, Tammi Terrell, and Stevie Wonder. Some artists you “feel”, and there is no way not to feel them. You can’t escape their clutch of emotions. If you love Hip Hop, artists such as Tupac, DMX, and Eminem come to mind because they give/gave you everything they had emotionally. With regard to Anita Baker's music, I always felt that she never left anything on the table.
In 1994, I was a student at UNCG and we had a Black Student Visitation program on campus. This program is a weekend where High School students from all over the state visited the campus. The Fraternities, Sororities, Dance Troops and other Clubs/Groups would talk to the students. They would also perform and entertain the High School Students as well. During one of the events, a few College Students performed a dance routine to Anita Baker’s “Body And Soul”. The lead dancer was beautiful. My roommate and I talked about her all week. I’m not sure if she’s on Facebook or not but alums might recognize this moment. At any rate, this was the first time I'd heard this song. As I stated earlier, I was already a huge Anita Baker fan but I was a Hip Hop Head so I wasn’t checking for her as much during this time. Man, I fell in love with her music all over again. Maybe it was because the lead dancer became my college crush during my freshman year until I had a new crush. I will say that Anita was mesmerizing on this song. Years later I still hold Anita Baker in high regard. I enjoy all of her albums and Rapture is my favorite album along with What’s Going On by Marvin Gaye and SADE’s Love Deluxe. These are just some random thoughts as I scroll through some old Anita Baker tracks.