James Blake

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About James Blake

The UK’s underground bass-music scene has produced few superstars bigger or more unexpected than James Blake: In just a few short years, the London-born producer snuck out of the city's dankest basement clubs and refashioned himself as one of pop music’s most radiant singer-songwriters. Blake got his start in the late 2000s digging through dubstep’s dusty corners, crafting stuttering beats and fizzling synth lines out of what felt like pure shadow. His music could be strikingly minimalist: The title of his debut single, “Air & Lack Thereof,” could have doubled as the list of ingredients used to concoct it. But as he traded sampled a cappellas for his own voice, something shifted. Held aloft by his airy, agile falsetto, his eponymous 2011 debut album soared. The Feist cover “Limit to Your Love” revealed the opposition at the heart of his music, his trembling high notes mirrored by an almost inaudibly deep bass throb. With subsequent albums Overgrown (2013) and The Colour in Anything (2016), Blake not only developed into one of pop's most introspective souls; he became one of its most in-demand collaborators, writing and singing for an endless scroll of the rap and R&B elite, including Beyoncé, JAY-Z, Frank Ocean, and Kendrick Lamar. It’s easy to see why so many would turn to him: Between his wide-open baritone register, nuanced vocal textures, and probing lyrics of ecstasy and doubt, he can make even the smallest song feel like a world unto itself. His own universe grew again when he moved to Los Angeles and released 2019’s Assume Form, where Travis Scott, Rosalía, André 3000, and others joined him in making the most unexpectedly joyous album of his career—a tribute to his girlfriend, the actress Jameela Jamil, and, more importantly, a declaration of peace with his own demons. Speaking to Apple Music about the track “Don’t Miss It,” Blake said: “I have lost years and years and years to anxiety. There are big chunks of my life I can’t remember—moments I didn’t enjoy when I should have. Loves I wasn’t a part of. Heroes I met that I can’t really remember the feeling of meeting. Because I was so wrapped up in myself. And I think that’s what this is—the inner monologue of an egomaniac.”

Enfield, London, England
September 26, 1988
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