Funny, all it took for me to have a flying fancy for R&B again was the jazzy production of Flying Lotus.
José James debuted with The Dreamer in 2008, which stayed off my radar entirely. (Granted, in '08 if it wasn't Cali-based psych-rock or one of Ice Cube's first three records, it really didn't exist for me.) James returns with Black Magic, which elevates his baritone croon to high places, places occupied by the illustrious Flying Lotus. James earns instant style points for his collaboration with Lotus on a cover of Freestyle Fellowship's “Park Bench People.”
The twinkling keys and steady knock of “Code” leaves plenty of room for James to black out with in-the-moment hymns like, “this the drop of the needle, this the top of my people, my intention is legal, my retention is lethal.” James closes with the refrain “don't forget what my name is” and the strength of Black Magic is enough of a reminder.
James shares the story of working with Flying Lotus:
“I met Flying Lotus when he was promoting his ‘Reset’ EP“ reflects
José. “I gave him everything I’d done – 30 tracks. He liked what he
heard and said, ‘Let’s make a Soul EP for fun. ‘Visions Of Violet’ was
the first release. It came out on the flip to the 12″ of ‘Park Bench
People.’ People liked that so we started work on other tracks based on
10 – 15 tracks, some of which he’s written for me. ‘Blackmagic,' the
title track of the album, was like, ‘How do I get into the music and
really make it really lyrical… turn it into a fleshed out song. I think
works really well.”
Black Magic is out now on Brownswood Recordings.