Beautiful Darkness (Black Cloud Music, 2010)
James lists his musical influences as Rakim, Nas, Big Pun, Bobby Blue Bland, B.B. King, Maxwell and Jill Scott. Non-musical inspirations include his grandparents, Animal Planet, wrestling, anime cartoons and Greek mythologies. (Yes, it’s an interesting gathering.)
Local hip-hop artist Noa James tells us that he’s also known as “Intelligent,” “Elegant” and “Elephant.” Though we’re not sure on that last one—we’ve never compared indie rappers to pachyderms—we can say the rhymes James delivers are definitely smart, and they’re served in a way that’s not harsh. Hey, two out of three’s not bad.
With his mature tracks, it’s not surprising that James got an early start, discovering his skills as a preteen and launching his career at 17. “Ever since then I’ve been dropping mixtapes, EPs, LPs and albums,” he says. James connected with IE-based label Black Cloud Music in early 2008.
James says he’s seen the local hip-hop scene grow over the past couple years, with more colleges presenting events, clothing boutiques hosting hip-hop mixers and venues more willing to throw hip-hop shows. “Even artists outside of the IE are wanting to come and make the IE a touring stop because they are now hearing about the hip-hop scene out here,” he says.
And James does more than rap, as he’s also a local hip-hop promoter (hosting “The Common Ground” with Lesa J, a biweekly Sunday night at Riverside’s The Vibe) and helps run BrickToYaFace.com, a website featuring artist interviews, show videos and regional music promotions.
Local gigs for James have been solid, including a gig where “everyone went nuts,” he recalls. “The owner of the spot had to stop the performance and tried to get everyone to calm down and sit back down. I was surprised that so many people knew the song and it got the reaction it did.”
James will likely score more reaction with the release of Beautiful Darkness, which was recorded in San Bernardino and scheduled to hit this week.
“A lot of the songs on this album [are] very personal and heartfelt, some are also very dark and beautiful, I really put my heart in this album,” he says. “I would love for my music to be beautiful but there’s a lot of darkness in me. In my music I reflected both and I didn’t separate them—there’s both in all songs. I learned how to accept the darkness and that’s the beauty in me.”
Noa James at The Vibe, 1805 University Ave., Riverside, (951) 788-0310; www.myspace.com/thevibebarandgrill. Sun, 9PM.