Introducing’s “New and Next” column, where we spotlight the brightest new talents we think you should know. We’re kicking things off with 2012 ESSENCE Music Festival performer Luke James, who’s being hailed as the new prince of R&B.

Who is Luke James? The New Orleans-bred singer-songwriter has the looks and vocal chops needed to become the next big thing in R&B, having already penned hits for the likes of Chris Brown, Britney Spears and Justin Bieber, and releasing his debut EP #Luke in December 2011. Prior to going solo, James sang backup vocals for Tyrese and Tank (whom he refers to as his older brother), and was one-half of the now defunct R&B group, Luke & Q. James is currently on tour with Estelle for the BET Music Matters tour. In 2011 he appeared in Beyonce’s “Run the World (Girls)” video.

Who he’ll remind you of: James’ organic soul sound: Maxwell meets Donny Hathaway (one of his greatest influences) and Marvin Gaye.

Where you’ll see him next: James is slated to perform at the 2012 ESSENCE Music Festival on July 4 weekend. “I’m hoping to bring out some more energy and a whole lot of love to that stage,” he tells

Watch Luke James debut video, “I Want You,” and let us know what you think of him.