(Excerpted for Billboard.com feature)

Neo-soul singer/songwriter/producer Lathun is the latest artist to carry the torch for the legendary Motown Records, as he prepares for the June 11 release of his debut, "Fortunate." The Detroit native wrote 10 of the 13 tracks on "Fortunate," whose title cut was also the set's first single. The project features production by Mark Batson and an appearance by labelmate India.Arie on "When Love Came In."

Lathun, 25, emerged on the music scene several years ago as an artist signed to Jermaine Dupri's So So Def Recordings. "I was doing different things, and I think they wanted me to be something [other] than who I am. But a lot of the songs that are on my album now were on the album I was working on then. I was still who I am. I've been in this business for a long time. I started working professionally at a very young age and began producing when I was 14 or 15 years old."

Lathun classifies his music as "very passionate, very personal" with "elements of hip-hop... straight-up old-school R&B, classical, and some Latin. I would say it's a manifestation of what my life has been up to this point, because everything that you see and all of the things that you like ultimately are going to come out in the sound."

Lathun has mixed emotions about the inevitable "neo-soul" tag people use to define his style -- something he considers a "double-edged sword. To be put into that category is good in one sense, because a lot of those artists are great. I love D'Angelo, Erykah Badu, and Jill Scott. On the other hand, it's telling people that you are only one thing and that's it. That's the part of it I don't like because it almost puts you in a box. If I want to do a song with Jay-Z, I want to do it and feel comfortable and not have my audience feel alienated."

Motown is finalizing plans for "Backyard BBQ," the album's second single tentatively slated for the end of June. According to Lathun'sofficial Web site, the artist recently shot a video for the track in Los Angeles, which he says "has a host of characters most of us have encountered at a BBQ -- pimped 70's cousins, crazy uncles, friends, and Kool Aid."

Lathun is currently out on a promotional tour that kicked off May 29 and is scheduled to run through June 30.





Excerpted from the June 15, 2002, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the Billboard.com members section.

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