Published Feb 27, 2015Tuxedo is the unlikely disco pairing of Seattle producer Jake One and Detroit crooner Mayer Hawthorne. Jake One is best known for being equally loved in mainstream and underground hip-hop, having produced an innumerable amount of songs for the likes of G-Unit, Rick Ross, Drake, Kardinal Offishall, and many more. But you'll find very little in his hip-hop catalogue that sounds anything like Tuxedo's shameless reclaiming of the pop and funk sound that dominated in the 1980s.
For Hawthorne, Tuxedo closely follows the success of his Steely Dan-esque 2013 solo album, Where Does This Door Go?, and his heavily electronic 2014 side project Jaded Incorporated. The deluxe edition of Where Does This Door Go? gave us the first hint of what was to become Tuxedo. The Jake One-produced bonus track "Designer Drug" was a nod to retro dance clubs and a worthy justification for the inflated price tag.
Tuxedo is the product of two musicians/DJs with a healthy appreciation for the likes of Shalamar and similar artists of the era. But if you're going to pay homage, you should do it well, and Tuxedo does it damn well. Nearly every song is something funky, something different and something you'll dance to. Bass lines both growl and jiggle, claps ring loud, and Hawthorne's harmonies are met with lead mono synth duets. These are original compositions with a modern polish, yet they stay very true to the styling of yesteryear.
Tracks like "So Good," "R U Ready" and "I Got U" beckon bodies to gather to whatever the acting dance floor is. As on many pop records, the songs' complexity is masked by the simplicity of it all, which begs the listener to get down. "Do It," which previously saw the light of day on Pitbull's Global Warming: Meltdown album, of all places, is a prime example; essentially all chorus, the song's calls to "do it" can only be responded to with gyration.
Otherwise a party record, Tuxedo loses a bit of energy on the mid-tempo "Two Wrongs," but it's quickly brought back to life with the twisted 3/4 time signature of "Tuxedo Groove." The album ends with one of its brightest moments: a reverse-engineered remake of Snoop and Nate Dogg's "Ain't No Fun" in the form of the non-explicit "Number One." It could easily be mistaken for a cover of the sampled original, but the guys were never able to identify the "original" — so they imagined it. So simple, so brilliant. (Stones Throw)