Lots of us try to be cool, but the trick has always been in the subtleties; they're what allow us to walk that thin line between cool and corny. Enter Ro James.
Ask where he's from, and James will say, "Everywhere." He spent his childhood and teenage years from Germany to New York, and from Hawaii to Indiana. Rosie Gaines of Prince's New Power Generation is his aunt, so James comes by his coolness honestly. In 2013, James independently dropped his EP, Coke, Jack And Cadillacs. His debut album, Eldorado, exemplifies that cool. It's a hazy ride that explores love, lust and other vices without the lovey-dovey clichés. The album always feels current, even as his slick wordplay and acoustic vibe could easily slide it into a '70s or '90s hit list.
James and his band recently stopped by the NPR Music offices to play two tracks that seem tailor-made for a Tiny Desk concert, as well as a deconstructed version of his club jam from Eldorado. His falsetto falls right in the pocket with the lead guitar of his breakout hit, "Permission." This new arrangement of his follow-up single, "Already Knew That," maintains the bounce of the studio version, but the restrained arrangement allows listeners to follow the playful words much better. In between songs, he asks, "Y'all hot, or is it just me?" — at which point a few in the audience immediately giggle and emphatically agree while fanning themselves. Ro James is still the coolest.
- "Already Knew That"
- "A.D.I.D.A.S. (All Day I)"
Ro James (vocals); Marlon Lewis (drums); Greg Moore (guitar); Eric Whatley (bass)
Producers: Bobby Carter, Niki Walker; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Niki Walker, Nicole Boliaux; Editor: Nicole Boliaux; Production Assistant: Anna Marketti; Photo: Raquel Zaldivar/NPR.
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