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Watch the Throne: Lloyd Takes Rightful R&B Crown With "King of Hearts"

Lloyd: Now the main attraction.
John Ricard

Lloyd Polite Jr. has employed a variety of aliases over his R&B career. Early on, he was Young Lloyd. On the 2009 Young Money single "Bedrock," he encouraged females to call him Mr. Flintstone, because "I can make your bed rock." That same year, he released a hyperpersonal collection of songs associated with another one of his nicknames, titled Like Me: The Young Goldie EP. These days, you could call the 25-year-old with an undeniably golden voice by the name of his recently released fourth album, King of Hearts. Eventually, all of these monikers point back to the complex individual professionally known as just Lloyd.

As the Atlanta-based artist has matured, it has been a near-hallucinogenic experience hearing a vocal timbre encapsulating the fragility, innocence, and playfulness of youth and the ever-sharpening contrast of the sly, bawdy subject matter of his songs. In that vein, Lloyd's new collaboration with Lil Wayne and Andre 3000, "Dedication to My Ex (Miss That)," is one of the most challenging (and effective) moments of his career. Although the piano-based track echoes the successful return to wholesome, retro soul in pop music, he uses the p word for female anatomy more times than Cee Lo relied on the f word in "Fuck You."

"It's almost scary when you first listen to it, if unexpected," Lloyd says during a phone conversation with New Times the morning after a night of "painting the town" in New York. "I think that for a lot of parents that bought the album for their kids, they may be riding to a family function, that song come on first. Hopefully they didn't buy the parental advisory version of the album, but if they did, I think that it will scare them. They'll say 'What the hell did I just get myself into? What did I just buy for my little sweet girl, my angel?' "

A confessed "rebellious romantic," Lloyd isn't offering any apologies about the wide range of salacious topics he's covered, though. He has long expressed his hunger for the opposite sex on his albums and admits that these are not cries for monogamy at the moment.

"It's rather natural to love two women at once," he explains. "I mean, how hard is it to really, really commit to one person, to one thing, to one idea? If we compare ourselves to animals in the wild, then how many animals just stay with one person forever? There are a few, but lions, tigers, and those kinds of animals, they don't just marry one other lioness forever. Humans have brains, have reasoning, and have choice, whereas animals are instinctive and have to do what they're made to do. Hell, Charlie Sheen lives with his girl and his dimepiece still. If Charlie Sheen can do it, well, fuck it."

The current madness of King Lloyd has welcome parallels to the overlapping R&B eras of Jodeci, Dru Hill, and H-Town, but he has never hidden his "streets to the sheets" mentality that is more in line with his current tourmate and fellow genre-hopper, Lil Wayne. The singer's ever-growing tattoo collection now includes a Guns N' Roses-inspired inking covering the entire back of his head between his ears, and the Young Goldie EP song, "Pusha," recalls Kurt Cobain's shooting himself in the head to convey the mind-blowing pull of love.

Fearless intensity need not only take a destructive path, though. Lloyd has expressed that his favorite song on King of Hearts is the song with zero sexual undertones, the charged album closer, "World Cry," featuring guest vocals by R. Kelly, Keri Hilson, and Canada's answer to Wyclef, K'Naan. "They spend up all our money, on the rockets in the sky/But they don't have a reason, so they generate a lie to distract us from the times," Lloyd sings with a mix of anger and a lump in his throat.

"It really feels good to air out your frustrations about the state of the world, about the practices of politics, about the power of poverty, and also about recognizing that you have a voice," says a guy who had humble beginnings in New Orleans. "There's so many in the world out there without one. Use it for the greater good."

During activist moments like these, Lloyd is cut closely to the legend that every successful young singer is compared to sooner or later, Michael Jackson. But as much as Usher, Ne-Yo, Chris Brown, and Justin Timberlake have heard these parallels for their dancing skills, swagger, and songwriting gifts, it's Lloyd who might have the finest voice of them all. He kept it silky while inserting a nod to Technotronic back on the 2007 single "Get It Shawty," never left a melodious falsetto for "Girls Around the World" off 2008's Year of the Lover, and then deepened to a crackling wail for "Lay It Down" on King of Hearts.

Unsurprisingly, this type of virtuosity has garnered a lot of invitations from other artists for cameos. Aside from the "Bedrock" spot, his pipes have appeared on albums from Ghostface, Young Jeezy, Pitbull, and several dozen more. "Given that I smoked a lot of weed in my teenage years, sometimes I hear songs and they remind me that I did it," he says of his numerous past collaborations. "They remind me that I forgot that I did it. How about that?" [laughs]

These days, though, it's figuring to be more and more with Lloyd as the main attraction on a track. Having just spent two all-consuming years creating King of Hearts, he's grateful that his vision for the album could be shared and nurtured by his label and management.

"It's difficult to be yourself, especially when you want to meet the status quo," he says. "Whatever you think that the standard of beauty may be in a society, it's just kind of about where you think that you fit in. I think that you should always continue to fight to be yourself."

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