BJ the Chicago Kid Sets the Clock for New Single 'Time Today': Exclusive

Alex Harper
BJ the Chicago Kid

Song is the first track from Motown artist’s sophomore album ‘1123.'

It’s been three years since BJ the Chicago Kid made his Motown debut with In My Mind. The critically acclaimed 2016 album yielded the singer/songwriter three Grammy Award nominations—including best R&B album—and a No. 7 peak on Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart thanks to songs such as “Church" featuring Chance the Rapper and Buddy, “The New Cupid” featuring Kendrick Lamar and “Turnin’ Me Up.”

“We worked In My Mind all the way to literally last year,” says BJ. “And it brought many blessings like the Grammy nominations, performing the national anthem at President Obama’s farewell speech and singing all around the world.”

Now the kid is back with “Time Today.” The song -- out today (April 26) -- is the first taste from BJ’s mid-summer slated sophomore album 1123. Produced by Dre Harris and J MO, the mid-tempo “Time Today” feels like the part two to “Rather Be with You,” one of the three tracks comprising BJ’s 2018 EP The Opening Ceremony. Like its predecessor, “Time Today” underscores the soulful need to make time for that special someone no matter what.

Explains BJ, “This is the song that you play when you finally have time, the song you play as you imagine having the time and the song you send to that loved one to prepare for that time. This song simply lets that person know that they’re never forgotten about.”

Neither is BJ’s warm, supple voice. The crooner still enchants as he continues to hone his unique soul/R&B sound that meshes everything from gospel, blues and pop to hip-hop and jazz. Or as he describes his musical style: “a retro hub but with a futuristic kick.”

It’s that type of creative twist that powers BJ’s recent reinterpretation of Ella Mai’s “Close.” Acknowledging that Ella Mai “killed ‘Close’ in the way she did her thing with the lyrics and vocally,” BJ recalls he simply wanted to make a male version of the dope song and have some fun with it.

Motown released his version of “Close” last month and says it has racked up close to 3 million streams in three weeks. Recorded and finished in two days, the cover finds BJ improvising for a non-existent keyboard player.

“I didn’t have a keyboard player so I sang the chords the way I thought the keyboardist should have played them,” he says with a laugh. “It’s making soul food when you don’t have lobster and steak: it’s about not having something but knowing you can still make something happen.”

BJ, born Bryan J. Sledge, promises that kind of spirit and more on the forthcoming 1123. Derived from the singer’s birth date, the title hints at what fans can expect later this summer.

“This album is a celebratory moment,” says BJ, referencing the success of his 2016 freshman set. “It’s me giving back to the fans.”

Saying it’s too early yet, BJ declines to reveal 1123’s lineup of special guests and additional producers. Given a resumé of creative collaborations that includes Kendrick Lamar, Anderson .Paak, Kehlani, ScHoolboy Q, Chance the Rapper and Solange, there’s no telling what surprises he's planning. BJ's only hint: “There are so many details, nooks and crannies to this album that people will enjoy."

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