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Matson on Music

Music news, concert reviews, analysis and opinion by music writer Andrew Matson.

December 15, 2010 at 8:54 AM

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Concert preview: Seattle singer JusMoni at Chop Suey 12/22/10

Posted by Andrew Matson

Photo by Janae Jones

"Almost Lover" by JusMoni (feat. The Good Sin)

Important teachings of 17-year-old R&B singer and Beacon Hill resident JusMoni:

The hip coffee shop in north Beacon is The Station, on 16th, by the light rail.

And having a kid when you're young doesn't necessarily mean giving up your creative dreams.

"I birthed two babies this year," says Moni, short for Monique. "My son, and 'Ready for Life.'"

That's the title of her nine-song solo debut, out next week. The release party is Wednesday, Dec. 22 at Chop Suey.

"Ready for Life" stands out from other local R&B recordings because of Moni's singing voice, an unaffectedly sweet soprano with subtle honk in it, like a muted trumpet.

"My voice is just my voice," she says on the back patio at The Station.

Aside from the owner, all The Station's employees moonlight in the Seattle hiphop scene. One, a rapper called Khingz, has a verse on "Ready for Life" song "Never Too Late."

It's one of Moni's favorites on the EP, a sweeping soul-hop number about facing and forgiving one's transgressions. My favorite is "Almost Lover," where she raps about a community-based parenting plan:

"My prince doesn't need a father to survive / but the kings that's around him gonna bring him up right"

Moni says one of the kings in question is Khingz, who fills an uncle role. Also filling that role is Seattle rapper The Good Sin, who guests on "Almost Lover." Contrasting with real life, he plays a character in the song who romantically pursues Moni until he learns she has a child. Then, he's not interested.

"It's happened really often lately," says Moni, talking about real life. "More often than I'd like it to. 'You have a son? I'm cool.'"

But she understands on "Almost Lover." After The Good Sin's character bows out, saying "I'm too busy focused on these goals," she forgives him for being frightened by her motherhood.

"Almost Lover" is a daring mix of play-acting and real feelings about dating and single motherhood. Moni knows those topics can be controversial, particularly outside her circle of baristas, friends and musicians. But she says she made "Ready for Life" for everybody.

Another notable aspect of "Almost Lover" is the song's excellent backing music, produced by Beacon Hill phenom Tay Sean.

"It was so smooth," says Moni, remembering when Tay Sean first played the stripped-down groove for her at his south Beacon studio. With half-step electric piano chords behind an intermittent bass guitar swerve, the instrumental uses the sound of a woman's breath to rhythmic effect.

"He actually named the beat 'sensuality,'" she says.

Other key songs on "Ready for Life," for me: "Take All Night," a slow jam about physical intimacy, and counterpoint "Can We," about emotional intimacy.

"I wrote that for a friend who always had his guard up," Moni says. "I want to say, 'Be 100 with yourself. Trust yourself. There's someone that needs to know you on that level.'"

PS: The Good Sin's "Almost Lover" verse contains a punchline that equates Jews and greed. After addressing the matter with him, I suggest listeners think about it as merely stupid.

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