BALLADS 1 marks a turning point for the singer, producer, and former viral video star. On his full-length debut, 88rising’s resident soul man opens the studio door to collaboration with artists like Shlohmo, Thundercat, RL Grime, Clams Casino, Jam City, and rapper Trippie Redd. “The growth has definitely been crazy,” Joji told Beats 1. “I had to stop being so stubborn and work with other people to explore new sounds. I don’t ever want to be boxed in.”
Mission accomplished. On his debut, the Osaka-born, New York-based artist blows up traditional R&B and reconstructs it in his own image, splicing in electronic, trip-hop, and post-punk accents. He tackles balladry from multiple angles: depression (“YEAH RIGHT,” “TEST DRIVE”), giddiness (“CAN’T GET OVER YOU”), rage (“WANTED U”). Joji’s late-night confessionals shift from soothing falsetto to dusted moan; it’s sometimes downcast, sometimes grimy, but always honest and pure.