Ro James is a perfectionist. First appearing on the R&B scene in 2013 with his trilogy EP Coke, Jack and Cadillacs, the gritty vulnerability paired with his sweet smoky voice was an electrically fulfilling experience. Our charged introduction to the maverick’s talent helped fill a yearning that had been missing from the new breed of pure R&B singers.
His debut album ELDORADO arrived three years later. Spreading raw soul, gospel and elements of rock across an R&B canvas, James honed in on his layered and invigorating sound. He constructed a breakthrough album dominated by sensual serenades about pleasurable late night, while ardently vocalizing about personal growth, failed relationships and everything between.
His self-assured honesty delivered in a skillfully emotive manner formed an organic impact, as well as a deserved Grammy nomination for his slow-burn hit “Permission.” Though James baited fans with the 2018 Smoke EP, he starved them for a proper sophomore album for almost five years.
Taking time to create, live life and possibly wade in and out of love, James presents the highly anticipated record MANTIC. During a time where physical distance is warranted, he zeros in on a topic many could use more of: love.
In all his glory, James seizes the moment on MANTIC to dabble in his midwestern roots with the country-inspired ballad “Baby Blue.” He refines his genuine flavor on cuts like the D’Mile-produced “Rain” and the Slikk Muzik-helmed “You.” What’s notably sterling about this fresh sound of material is the authentic passion displayed in his vocal presentation.
When it comes to being honest about who you love and the reasons why, the fashion in which he personifies those sincere heartfelt feelings are truly appreciated. With the ability to take the tried and true topic and transform it into melodic prose, this assembly of affection should render the coldest hearts warm.
Below are five love-induced tracks from Ro James’ sophomore album, MANTIC.
Compliments and quality time can go a long way — and James is ready to go the extra mile. James wants to do everything he can to make his lover feel appreciated, particularly treating her in the way she hasn’t before but rightfully deserves. Swooping in to change all that, James takes a page out from Usher’s track, “Can U Handle It?” and does what he can to solidify his place and move up to the number one spot.
Likening his love to a tattoo, James is here to stay. Conspiring with the Earth and Universe to manifest something is no trivial feat, so he calls in the reinforcements to bring his true love to tangible form. Aside from the physical, he makes note of the spiritual and mental connection, which are all equally important for a solid bond. Confidently flowing through the electric guitar and hip-hop breakbeat, his affection and performance continues to swell throughout the duration of the amorously funky ode. By the last minute of the song, the emphatic profession of his love alone is grounds to leave one’s heart in James’ possession.
One of MANTIC’s most captivating moments is on the soulful power ballad “Rose.” Flowers don’t live forever but a love like this is everlasting. James makes the thought of a love that lasts a lifetime sound like a union to aspire for. His direct and unadulterated emotion elevates the straightforward sentiments to a higher plane. As the lyrics colorfully paint vivid imagery, the love proudly resides in the alluringly intoxicating singing. The execution is quite flawless, transporting listeners back to a time when singing about love was done with personal satisfaction.
“Plan B” featuring Brandy
R&B fans are thoroughly aware of the impact Brandy’s background vocals can do to a track. While the feature left fans yearning for more, hearing the Vocal Bible flex her harmonic tone and “put a bunch of ghost vocals on the song” is a special treat. She follows James’ lead and vocally trails him, as if she’s staying close to something familiar. Much like the song, he plans to be right there whenever his old lover decides to return. For opting to be a second choice, his patience is compassionately firm. Yet, he intends to hold out for the one he truly wants, however long that may take.
“Look of Things (OutRO)”
Closing out the album with an a capella number, fans get an opportunity to hear James’ robustly enthralling range. Altering from his falsetto and head voice, he is prepared to do his part for a promising love. His optimistic approach is the olive branch that most lovers dream of. With a willingness to do the work on both sides, he can clearly see a favorable outcome ahead. The chorally arranged and layered harmonies on the latter portion of the hook surrounds the outro with a sense of hopefulness that the relationship will thrive.
Stream Ro James’ new album MANTIC below.