THE GERMAN BORN ARTIST HAS BEEN ON HIS GRIND FOR QUITE SOME TIME, AND HAS AMASSED A FAN BASE THAT IS ALL HIS OWN. WE CAUGHT UP WITH THE NYC BASED SINGER TO DISCUSS HIS SOON TO BE DEBUT RELEASE ELDORADO, STAYING TRUE TO HIMSELF, AND MAKING LIFELONG ART THAT HE CALLS MUSIC.
YRB: How would you define your sound?
RJ: Raw, Universal, World music, no boxes. Soul is the foundation of my sound. I’d describe it as familiar, but fresh. My sound very much has that feeling of: “Reminds you of… but not quite”
YRB: Who are your musical influences?
RJ: I have a pretty broad spectrum of influences. They range from Stevie Wonder to Donnie Hathaway to Babyface, Prince, Johnny Cash, Fred Hammond, Otis Redding, The Beatles, R. Kelly and Jodeci.
YRB: What was the inspiration behind your single “Permission”?
RJ: “Permission” is about consent. Sometimes we as men can be aggressive, so asking a woman to spend time is rare. Time is valuable especially these days, so to let a woman know you respect her and her time and just wanna get to know her is unique. Stimulating her mind, soul and body. Essentially getting that green light. We call that finesse! YRB: What would you most want people to know about you?
RJ: I dont know, I’d like to maintain my mystery. Artists are overexposing themselves for likes and I’m more chill, laidback and lowkey. That’s why it’s taken me a little longer to get here, but I like it.
YRB: How much of the “bad boy” persona you exude, really you?
RJ: Exude, I like that word! Everything you see is all me. I’m just being myself. Learning more about myself as I evolve. Trying to be better. I’m trying to establish a balance, but the rebel in me will never die. Bad Boy for life!
YRB: How do you plan on changing the music game?
RJ: Changing the game is a lot of effort and takes a team to help me do it. All I can do is be myself. My style, my voice & my vision is authentic. My goal is to stay in the lane that I’ve carved out for myself and continue to bare my soul. Coming up it was hard because people would always throw me in this Neo-Soul box because I have a soulful voice. But I’ve been influenced by Country, Rock, Hip-Hop, Gospel, R&B and my sound is bigger than just Neo-Soul. I grew up listening to old school music and hip hop. I look forward to changing the way “Soul Music” is perceived, provide a fresh outlook for young artists coming up to not run away from good music because it’s hard to sell in a world where trap and auto tune reign.
YRB: What can we expect on your debut release ELDORADO?
RJ: Some real, raw, soulful music with a fresh approach. Enjoy the ride!
YRB: How would you describe the state of R&B music today?
RJ: I think R&B is coming into a new place. Soul is definitely coming back, people wanna feel something again! I’m glad I can be a part of the re-emergence of a genre that inspired me.
YRB: Of all the places you’ve traveled and lived, why is NYC considered your city of gold?
RJ: I’ve been a lot of places, but I always loved the energy in NYC. I can remember walking around Queens or Manhattan and just watching people be themselves without apology. Beautiful women, beautiful people, artists, creatives and people hustling 24/7. I fell in love with NY and the lifestyle when I was a little boy. I feel like in NY it’s unacceptable to be a duplicate, you gotta be an original. It’s the melting pot of the world culturally. From a young age, it’s always been my mission to live in NY chasing my dreams and I knew that’s where I would find it.
YRB: You have a writing credit on Miguel’s “Use Me”, how did that pairing come about?
RJ: Miguel is the homie. He was working on a album around the same time I was creating Coke, Jack & Cadillacs and I happened to be around for that session and just added my 2 cent so to speak.
YRB: What other artists would you like to collaborate with?
RJ: Prince, Missy & Timbaland together, Lauryn Hill, Babyface, Kanye West & Pharrell, D Angelo, Lenny Kravitz, Lil Wayne, Drake, Kendrick Lamar, SZA, and PartyNextDoor, all in the right time of course.
I always wanted to work with Jay-Z in some way, so maybe we can collab on some business moves, I got ideas (lol)!
YRB: If we checked back with you one year from today, how would you like to have seen your career grown?
RJ: I already know I’ll be in a different place every-day. I’m seeing more and more people get hip to my work. A year from now, I want the world to have fallen in love with the sounds of Ro James. Traveling the world, meeting new faces, collecting new memories for inspiration and sharing these good vibes for the benefit of the world.
Photo by Alexander Black