Throwback: Van Hunt-Dust

Van Hunt’s “Dust” revealed his skills as a performer and a songwriter on his 2004 debut album. He had spent the ’90s building his repetoire as a songwriter working with Rahsaan Patterson, Dionne Farris, Joi and Cree Summer. The public first saw him onstage but would later learn of his past songwriting credits and also discover that he wrote the album with some input from saxophonist and fellow writer Curtis Whitehead. The critics’ first impressions of Van Hunt’s falsetto got him quickly compared to Curtis Mayfield, Marvin Gaye and Prince. The dark lyrics of “Dust” about losing oneself also had a precedent in those comparison artists. But “Dust” still had some optimism expressed in the happier rock guitar chords. The lyrics claiming insanity were sung with a lightness that acknowledged the hurt but ultimately moved away and let the band play into a sophisticated ruckus. “Dust” was the only rock song keeping company with Hunt’s mostly soul tracklisting and it received a Grammy nomination for Best Urban/Alternative performance. His first album was lumped into the neo-soul catch phrase but Van Hunt’s music was more complex than filler for an incense and headwrap cliche’. Nineteen years, four albums and five EPs later Van Hunt’s first album still dazzles most who hear it. Halle Berry, who has dated Van Hunt since 2020,  paid tribute to him at the 27th Critics Choice Awards.