This article was originally published in The Source issue #271. Words: Angela Wilson


The secret is out. Ro James, preacher’s son turned bad boy, has mastered retro soul with ease, packed with a suave charm and bodacious confidence. Insert audio magic; a concoction of musicianship, a fervid pen game and masterful flair.

The German born, U.S. bred songwriter catapulted into radio airwaves with breakout hit “Permission,” a sexy plea for unforgettable intimacy. The self-made rebel is an eclectic hybrid of an R&B trifecta: Prince meets D’Angelo meets Marvin Gaye. But Ro, born Ronnie James Tucker, is no knockoff.

His debut album, El Dorado, is currently the recipient of rave reviews. “The challenge has been good because it’s also pushed my artistry, songwriting, concepts and melodies, being introduced to new producers and new sounds,” he says. “I experimented a lot this time around so I think when people hear this album, they’re going to hear bigger sounds, more experimentation with music, my voice.”

Oozing narratives of love, sensuality and bedroom adventures, James, who co-wrote Miguel’s “Use Me,” shines with seductive yearnings and an enviable falsetto. A soundtrack dripping in passion and raging with lust, James provides the antidote. “Sometimes you have to simplify it so people understand you. You can’t give ‘em all you got with the first take. You gotta pull them in.”

Simply put, the RCA signee encompasses all the ingredients of a sweet recipe for electro-soul revival: a cup of individuality, a couple teaspoons of uncharted talent and a pinch of spice. The military brat, who has resided on opposite corners of the globe from Hawaii to New York, paints verbal melodies smoldering with sensuality, yet soulful and compact. A breath of fresh air in an industry built on one-hit wonders and packaged material, James is in his own lane, where there’s never any traffic. 

With grown folks music down to a science, James is just getting started. Flooding airwaves like a vicious storm, he’s doing things his way, without anyone’s permission. Right on.