Imagine Aretha Franklin as formidable a guitar player as a vocalist, Sister Rosetta Tharpe if she had jumped all the way across the aisle and stomped the bejeezus out of the gospel, compressing it into pure soul. Despite the heading on her latest project, Baby, I’m Hollywood, former Prince protege Judith Hill is so not Hollywood. She’s a Hollywood native, but the vibe here is more a rough mix of Detroit soul, Minnesotan funk, and blistering street prophecy.
On Baby, I’m Hollywood, Hill powers through an eclectic set of soul, blues, jazz, and whatever else wanders cross her path, wrassling it to the ground and putting her badass stamp on it.
Hill commandeers her territory on the title cut, bulldozing all the Tinseltown pretenders out of way with an Aretha blast that backs up her assertion that she’s bad to the bone.
Prince produced played guitar, bass, and drums and sang on Hill’s 2015 debut record, Back in Time, on his NPG label, and there’s dribs and drabs of His Purpleness’ influence draped in the mix on this outing as well.
Hill’s definition of “Americana” is more worldly than most: Princely Afro-Cuban electro-psychedelic funk with a set of lyrics definitely not descended from Appalachia or its folky, rural environs. Hill warns citizens to “Stay woke on the streets. … Look both ways to see who’s coming so that / We know how to be in Americana!”
“You’ve Got the Right Thang” has The Purple One’s hoofprints all over it, like Prince channeling Sly and the Family Stone featuring Larry Graham’s bigfoot bass, elastic snap-back-in-your-face bouncy, sassy funk so thick you can chew it.
Hill shifts into low-down, slow-down mode for the bluesy “Burn It All,” a sassy ultimatum worthy of an updated and funkified Bessie Smith. “Step Out” borrows heavily from Prince collaborator Sheila E.’s percussive influence, a snappy, upbeat good-time throwdown.
Hill throws off her Princely bonds for the reggae-infused “Miss Cecilia Jones,” like Aretha on a Jamaican holiday with The Pointer Sisters swaying rhythmically behind her on the choruses.
Hill may lay claim to Hollywood, but with a sound like this, she owns wherever she is at the moment.