On Thin Line, Pittsburgh-based singer/rapper J.James makes a bid for mainstream R&B attention, mixing slick beats, rap and smooth ballads into 21 tracks that owe as much to Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and Timberlake as to Lovesexy-era Prince.
The first half of the disc emphasizes J.James' high-speed rhymes, like on the safe-sex cautionary tale "Getcha (Leave That Girl Alone)" and the updated heartbreak classic, "Ain't No Sunshine." Most appealing is "Don't Want You," where Ambition's supporting vocals lend it a mood reminiscent of Prince's angry, pouting love songs. "Don't want to hear about your feelings / Don't want to hear about your life / Don't give a damn about your man / I'm not making you my wife ... all I know is you're riding with me tonight."
The second half of Thin Line has a more open feel, with the atmospheric "Talk 2 U," the playful waltz "Bring It Home," and a couple of reverberating piano ballads. Like the disc's packaging, the music is slick and well conceived throughout, if a bit synthetic. J.James handles some of the production duties, with the lion's share of the skittering beats going to Mindbender. Sprinkled throughout are some of the usual skits, of which "BlahBlahBlah" is actually quite amusing: a local material girl yapping in yinzer as J.James suavely zones out.
Personally, I get a little fatigued by songs about girls and how hard it is to blow up in Pittsburgh, but J.James seems to have his eye locked on pop stardom, so it's hard to fault him on that. What's he supposed to sing about -- global politics and contemporary philosophy? It's a solid effort, and shows a lot of promise -- keep an eye out for the "Don't Want You" music video, coming soon to a MySpace profile near you.