Review Summary: At this point, it seems like there’s nothing he CAN’T do flawlessly.
José James is the type of artist that can’t be defined by even several traditional genres, because out of the dozens of genres he becomes infatuated with, he’s anything but traditional when working with them as a part of his music. James has broken his fair share of boundaries on past efforts, but his fourth album No Beginning No End
may already prove to be his magnum opus in how it makes him virtually impossible to pigeonhole into one set scene. To deftly blend hip hop, funk, post-disco, R&B, jazz, neo-soul, and spoken word all into a cohesive sound is one thing, but to push each of the genres he incorporates into his music forward into new left-field directions is a feat on an entirely different level in itself. Traces of Prince are abound in James' tender touch on erotic epics such as “Do You Feel”, which conveys an unadulterated sensualism through light keyboards that recall Luthar Vandross’s most touching hits. James also proves to be an R&B artist that isn’t entirely dependent on electronics, and a jazz artist that isn’t entirely reliant on a horns section. Allowing none of the characteristics in his sound to be prominent over one another, James has achieved a sound where sly 80s’ throwback synthesizers can get along with jazz sections that pay tribute to the golden age in the same song.
But despite taking after Marvin Gaye records overall on the production end, James doesn’t spend the entire record showing his soft side. He’s not afraid to boogie down with beats that bop, grooves that swing, and raw funk that all takes listeners back to a time when the dancefloor was lit up with multicolored lights while a disco ball shined down from above. Though it revives its share of sounds from days gone by, that never masks No Beginning No End
's experimental edge. The complex and obscure drum pattern of “Vanguard” gives the album another side that shows James' love for J Dilla and alternative hip hop beats in general. Similar to what Robert Glasper is acclaimed for doing, James has created an album that offers listeners a fond look back on the past, and a glance into the future at the same time. No Beginning No End
doesn’t just stop at seamlessly blending genres together, it effortlessly blends cultures together; proving José James to be an exemplary figure among his contemporaries.