Jose James: “Blackmagic”

Jose James has been called a jazz singer for the hip-hop generation, a title that does a so-so job of describing his music, but an excellent job of qualifying just how hip the guy is. And how hip is he? You tell me. On his second full-length, he enlists the indie-approved, Pitchfork-certified, Thom Yorke-collaborating producer Flying Lotus to lay down a few grooves. Elsewhere, he sings over a track by Japanese DJ Mitsu the Beats. And oh, yeah: one of these songs is a jazzed-up version of a track by dubstep master Benga.

It’s a collaboration that spans the globe, and a sound that’s at once retro and unquestionably modern, but that’s not what puts the power in James’ intoxicating Blackmagic. That’s because even when he’s letting his hipster flag fly, the man still sounds like he’s kicking it old-school. Listen to the terrific baby-making ballad “Promise in Love.” The crisp hip-hop loop gives it its kick, but the pleading Al Green vocal and trumpet give it its soul. And soul music is what James is making here, make no mistake; his musical horizons may include opening up the genre to the possibilities afforded by hip-hop, drum and bass, and dubstep, but the heart of the music lies in something far more timeless.

Read the rest at Stereo Subversion.


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