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José James: Hip-hop + Jazz = Sublime

José James 1978 Purple Vinyl Album

José James was introduced to me many years ago by my sister, and boy, was the timing right. I got hooked instantly on 'Come to My Door' from his album No Beginning No End (2012).

I love jazz and hip-hop, so James became a natural favorite. He's actually known as the "jazz singer for the hip-hop generation." And his tracks sound exactly as you'd imagine—full of soul, bop, beats, funk, and grace—all in his incredible smooth baritone voice.

He pays homage to jazz giants like John Coltrane and Billie Holiday and, more recently, Bill Withers and Erykah Badu. He does a spectacular job of infusing his music with the rhythmic energy of hip-hop, a genre that soundtracked his (and my) own generation. This fusion creates a sound that's both familiar and surprising, a delightful exploration for longtime jazz fans like myself and an authentic modern introduction for newcomers.

Last year, he released a critically acclaimed album, On & On, that paid tribute to Erykah Badu, showcasing his versatility and deep appreciation for musical innovation. Whether he's scatting with the playful spirit of bebop or belting out a soulful ballad, James' passion for his art of words and rhythm is uncompromising, and I love it.

He's about to release an album titled 1978, which, judging by the tracklist and the sneak peeks he's posted on his Instagram, is going to be a banger. You can pre-order it here.

In a world obsessed with categorization, José James defies definition. He's an inspiration to artists struggling with being boxed in by either the industry or society. He's also a testament to the enduring power of jazz – its ability to evolve and adapt, like no other genre.

So, the next time you crave a musical experience that's both sophisticated and invigorating, put on some José James. You might just discover your new favorite artist, and realize that jazz is far from a relic of the past. It's a vibrant, ever-evolving art form, and José James is its smooth-talking ambassador for this generation.




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