Producer/singer/songwriter James Blake became known for a unique style that wrapped aching, gently sung R&B vocals around the deep bass and minimal rhythmic elements of dubstep. He arrived in 2009 with a series of 12” singles and achieved both critical acclaim and worldwide fame following his self-titled 2011 album. His renown continued to rise over the next several years, and he collaborated with pop icons like Beyoncé, Kendrick Lamar, and Bon Iver, in addition to consistently working on solo material.
Born James Blake Litherland in London, England in 1988, Blake was raised in a musical family. He was classically trained in piano from a very young age and would focus on musical studies throughout his education. While still very young, he and his friends became fixated on electronic music, in particular the emerging dubstep sound that was beginning in London in the mid-2000s. He took inspiration from early U.K. dubstep artists like Burial, Distance, and Skream and merged it with influences from textural R&B innovators like D'Angelo while developing his first original tracks. Blake's R&B-sampling strain of dubstep first arrived in the form of his Air & Lack Thereof 12" on the Hemlock label in 2009. Blake received quite the endorsement when the heralded Soul Jazz label picked the track up for their Steppas' Delight 2 compilation that same year. Blake raised his profile every few months during 2010 -- something of a breakout year for him -- with a succession of warmly received 12" releases: The Bells Sketch (Hessle Audio, March), CMYK (R&S, June), Klavierwerke (R&S, October), and the single-sided Limit to Your Love (Atlas, November). The last of the series -- a cover of a song by Feist in which Blake's heartfelt vocal was placed front and center -- served as a precursor to his first full-length, issued the following February. Titled James Blake, it left a major impression, and was eventually nominated for a Mercury Prize but lost to PJ Harvey's Let England Shake.