Recording information: Chicago Recording Company, Chicago, IL; Eightysevenfourteen Studios, Los Angeles, CA; Fisticuffs Gym, Culver City, CA; MilkBoy The Studio, Philadelphia, PA; Patchwerk Recording Studio, Atlanta, GA; The Boom Boom Room, Los Angeles, CA; The Chocolate Factory, Chicago, IL; The Hit Factory Criteria, Miami, FL.
Photographer: Christian Lantry.
Robert Kelly remains driven as ever to take a metaphorical theme to a comedic extreme and then deviate from it in direct and explicit fashion. He does so from the start of The Buffet, an album released almost exactly two years after the thin Black Panties. In the voice-only "The Poem," he sets the tone -- make that table -- by announcing that he'll be "toasting your juices all night." If that doesn't get the point across, he makes a slurping sound, for five seconds, that could make Hannibal Lecter shudder. The following "Poetic Sex" involves a sweetened plea, "Baby, feed me," and a defiant punctuation of "My lyrics got a big dick and I just fucked the shit outta y'all." Anyone who has heard more than a handful of Kelly hits could accurately predict what a song titled "Marching Band" entails, and the pied piper comes through with what's easily the set's silliest and catchiest song. With recent R&B hits from younger peers increasingly blunt with lines like "eat the booty like groceries" and "so big it's like a foot is in your mouth," Kelly's form of lewd lyricism is decreasingly distinctive. He gets by here, as he always does, on his regenerative inventory of frisky melodies, and even teams up with some of the artists who have either headlined or assisted the more explicit end of pop-R&B. Jhen Aiko appears on the Aaliyah-jacking slow jam "Let's Make Some Noise," and though she was recorded in a studio far from Kelly's Chicago-based Chocolate Factory, the duet partners don't hesitate to make like they're beneath the sheets with one another. "Switch Up" likewise features a younger and vulgar R&B artist, Jeremih, who debuted six years earlier with the Kelly-lite "Birthday Sex," though the song is closer to Empire soundtrack filler. The Buffet does have more dimensions than Black Panties, including the enjoyable "Step in the Name of Love" rewrite "Backyard Party" and the throwback, Love Letter-styled "All My Fault." ~ Andy Kellman
Rolling Stone - "'Sufferin' is some surprisingly gritty vintage Memphis soul la Hi Records, and 'Wake Up Everybody' and 'Keep Searchin' go for a plush early-1980s quiet-storm sound."
NME (Magazine) - "The beats are uniformly slinky-paced slow jams. The thudding kick drums, finger clicks and sparse synths are pretty much incidental to Kelly's acrobatic vocals..."
Clash (magazine) - "[With] back-to-back cuts 'All My Fault' and 'Wake Up Everybody'. Both are soulful and showcase the buttery smooth vocals that made the artist so popular in the first place."