Singer-songwriter José James has always been on the quest for new musical horizons; constantly evolving and blurring the lines between genres in the process. While keeping his trademark soulful baritone at the forefront, José adeptly weaves elements of indie rock, folk, funk, blues, hip hop and R&B into an experience journeying from desire to introspection and spiritual epiphany. “As an artist, I’m going to keep evolving,” he says resolutely.
An EP of José’s first recordings ended up in the hands of influential BBC Radio disc jockey Gilles Peterson. Thoroughly impressed, Peterson enlisted José to join the roster of his label Brownswood Recordings and released his 2008 debut The Dreamer – a captivating mixture of jazz tradition and modern flair – and 2010’s forward-thinking opus Blackmagic – a bold foray beyond tradition, synthesizing his jazz sensibilities with an ardent hip-hop moxie at the hands of beatsmiths like the esteemed Flying Lotus. Blackmagic successfully broadened his reach beyond jazz, garnering high praise from respected media outlets traditionally reserved for hip-hop and soul such as Okayplayer and Wax Poetics. After extensive touring and experimentation with new ideas, James joined the Blue Note roster in 2013 when he released his breakout album No Beginning No End to wide acclaim. With its irrepressible lead single “Trouble,” the album release found José making national TV appearances on Conan, Late Show With David Letterman, and Tonight Show With Jay Leno.
Since the beginning, the Minneapolis native has always drawn from disparate musical influences. “Growing up, it seemed like there was a new groundbreaking album coming out every month. It was such an exciting time to be a fan of music. I can remember waiting for 10,000 Maniacs or Ice Cube to come out with a new album. That really stoked my creativity.” If anything can be said about José James, aside from marveling at his impressive talent and incomparable voice, it’s that he is indeed a fearless artist.