If you take the swagger of lyrical mastery from old school hip-hop and infuse some lo-fi, jazz, soul, and funk, you get the new wave vibes of James The Prophet, an artist with US, UK, and French citizenship who masterfully blends his multi-cultural influences with inspiration from East Coast boom bap idols Nas and Biggie. In preparation for the release of his debut album, Unimaginable Storms, James shares another fresh slice of his introspective lo-fi hip-hop with “Tobago,” featuring Chester Watson (Nü Age Syndicate).
In 2018, James was like Ulysses before the Cyclops – nobody. His civil identity traces invisible lines between England, his mother’s homeland; Brooklyn, his father’s; and France. He wanted to rap and was already (sc)rapping like a monster. Equipped with a suffocating and torrential flow reminiscent of that of Carl Lewis, James revealed an impeccable technique that was awe-inspiring, despite being barely out of adolescence. When he raps, he stays true to himself, revealing his inner thoughts through explosive intimacy. He explores demons and visions through the upcoming 10-track album. Unimaginable Storms is a nod to the fact that beyond what may be visibly apparent, everyone is dealing with their own private crises. He 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.
“Tobago” demonstrates the reflective nature of James’ craft that sets him apart from other artists in a genre that can be driven so much by ego. Gliding over a chilled-out backing track, Chester demonstrates his lyrical craft with some clever rhymes and smooth rhythm. He throws in some reflective questions before a playful hook takes over. In the next verse, James picks up the wordplay that Chester sprinkled through his verse. He touches on social issues while maintaining an enjoyable tone. This collaboration is fun and light in production but if listeners dig below the surface, it’s a track that lays down some meaningful lyrics and questions, proving that old-school messages have a place in this new age of hip-hop.