- Seven Davis Jr. spent part of his career ghostwriting for hip-hop groups. On his own records, however, the Houston-born, LA-based vocalist and producer seems to be moved by the spirits of George Clinton, Prince and Todd Edwards. The early works collected on 2013's The Lost Tapes Vol. 1 mini-album and singles like One were firmly in American funk, but have been embraced more in Europe than his homeland. Davis seems to share the sentiment, telling DJ Mag that he won't be playing in the US for the foreseeable future because he's sick of gigs where everyone stands around not dancing.
"Everybody Too Cool"—with its refrain teasing, "people don't dance no more / everybody too cool for school"—is aimed at the wallflowers, as a bassline gleaned from P-Funk Allstars' "Hydraulic Pump" hits the hips hard enough to move anyone with a soul. "Sunday Morning" makes house feel looser than a spring breaker's morals. The one pronounced European influence isn't so much the disco-loopy collaboration with Julio Bashmore ("Good Vibes"), but rather an unnamed hidden track where Davis sings over skittish drum & bass.
Though his abilities with oddball party jams are unquestionable, Davis proves he can be equally compelling when he tones it down a notch. Universes is bookended by the narcoleptic neo-soul of "Imagination" and "Welcome Back," but the most interesting low-key moments are probably "Fighters" and "Afterlife." Both songs use arresting musical and lyrical juxtapositions: the gospel-tinged vocals on "Fighters" contrast Davis' despairing racial ruminations, and "Afterlife"'s dark and disorientating music makes its message—"No matter who you are / Somebody gonna love you / Somebody gonna hate"—feel redemptive. Just as Universes builds something new from parts of past music, so Davis seems to use his former troubles as the starting point for an optimistic future. When he sings "I ain't got time to waste" on the ebullient "No Worries," there's a real spring in his step, and more than enough bounce in the bassline to put one in yours.
03. Sunday Morning
04. Everybody Too Cool
05. Good Vibes feat. Julio Bashmore
06. Be A Man feat. fLako
08. Afterlife feat. Kutmah
09. No Worries
10. Welcome Back