“If Prince discovered trap music” is a good way to describe the music of Ro James.
Indeed, once you listen to one of his songs, it’s evident that the late, great Purple One heavily influenced the on-the-rise R&B’s singer’s falsetto vocals and sensual grooves.
“‘Purple Rain’ is one of my albums of all time,” says James, on the phone from Nashville. “I feel like Prince’s artistry inspired me as far as staying true to myself and my artistry and what is important to me in my life and applying, you know, all the things that I ever been through into my music, the same way he kinda did in ‘Purple Rain.’
“He’s an icon, a legend, and that’s the type of status that I aspire to have in the music industry, just someone that’s a staple and someone who made a difference just being who they are.”
Born in Stuttgart, Germany, but based in New York, James (whose first name is Ronnie, but refers to himself as Ro because he didn’t want to be confused with rocker Ronnie James Dio online) also has some personal ties to the man. James’s aunt is none other than Rosie Gaines, the singer who performed with Prince during his New Power Generation days.
James, who makes a stop at Raleigh’s Pour House on Saturday, also had the chance to meet-up with Prince himself several years ago. So, what was that one-on-one like?
“I mean, he’s Prince,” he says, laughing. “It was a great experience. I mean, it was not like we sat there and talked about life. It was a meeting, you know. But I mean, he passed away before I feel like we could’ve gotten to really talk and really, like, see what I was doing. You know, I think he would’ve appreciated it.”
Yes, Prince passed away just when James was starting to make a name for himself in the music game. After releasing the “Coke, Jack and Cadillacs” EP trilogy in 2013, he got signed to ByStorm Entertainment/RCA Records, which released his full-length debut, titled “ELDORADO,” last year. As you might have guessed, the title carries some personal significance.
“My first car was a ’92 Eldorado that my father gave me, and it represents my journey – where I’ve been, where I am now and where I’m going,” he says.
Before “ELDORADO” dropped, James’s first single, “Permission,” began making the radio rounds and managed to reach number 37 on the US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. The slinky, soulful number, where James asks for permission from his partner to spend some intimate quality time, has been hailed by some as one of the sexiest songs ever made about consent.
James is fully aware his song is something that’s sorely needed during these grab-’em-by-the-you-know-what times.
“For me, my father was a pastor and my parents are still together,” he says. “They raised me, you know, to be respectful. So, I have a rebel side to me, but I also have a side of me that, you know, knows the difference, the balance. So on this song, it’s kinda like it’s the balance of sexy and, you know, it’s a little raunchy. But at the same time, it’s very much asking in a very nice way and it’s also saying, you know, it’s even more sexy to ask a woman for the yes or the green light for that permission. And I think that that’s why it went over so well. It’s like women feel sexy – they feel appreciated, you know – to ask.”
Who: Ro James, with St. Beauty and Major Myjah
When: 9 p.m. Saturday
Where: The Pour House Music Hall, 224 S. Blount St., Raleigh
Cost: Sold out
Details: 919-821-1120 or thepourhousemusichall.com