Rising 20-year-old French-American hip hop artist James The Prophet has been blowing up in France – hip hop’s second biggest market – for bringing socially conscious and sensitive rap to the forefront. Following last year’s We Love Green festival with Young Thug, Lana Del Rey & Bad Bunny, he’ll be opening up for hip hop legend Mos Def soon. Today, James dropped a jazzy, boom bap-inflected lyrical odyssey, “Power On,” along with a live video. The latest sample from his debut LP Unimaginable Storms (out July 9 via Sony Music / Rupture), it comes on the heels of Trumpism protest song “G.O.P” (half a million views) feat. French platinum artist Kalash Criminel, “Get it Right” and “The Truth.” “This is my favorite track from the album,” said James. “The main idea is in the title, it’s about not giving up and powering through any tribulations. The first part contrasts with the second when the beat changes and the flow calms down a bit.
‘Power On’ is the track that makes me want to keep going and fight for my place, it makes me not care what people think. I feel like it’s also a good presentation of the essence of who i am (“I rarely drop like an atom bomb, I spend my days writing the saddest songs, all that for nothing, I should do something, I’m sensitive so when I act hard I’m bluffing, on stage and blushing…”)”
James’ early freestyle went viral after being shared by the country’s biggest rapper Booba. He went on to share stages with all-timers like The Pharcyde, appearing on France 24, Vanity Fair, GQ, and beyond. James’ triple UK, US & French citizenship has given him a foot in all three cultures, though he raps in English thanks to his affinity for East Coast boom-bap of idols Nas and Biggie – along with old school hip hop, jazz, soul & funk influences. Unimaginable Storms follows his Bedroom Sessions during the pandemic, benefitting the Paris Hospitals Foundation.
Amidst a backdrop of richly colored beats blending jazz, soul, funk, and old school hip hop, this new album is eclectic but unswerving in its consistency – holding 10 tracks on which James graciously slows the torrent of demons and visions. The title is a nod to the fact that beyond what may be apparent visibly, everyone is dealing with their private crises. James explains, “‘Unimaginable Storms’ represents the idea you could be six feet away from someone and have no idea what they’re going through. When I was 15 and 16, I started having really bad panic attacks and missed a lot of school, and when I explained it to my teachers, a lot of them were really surprised because I didn’t give off that impression when I was with them.”
Photo Courtesy: Benjamin Loyseau