Jimmy Brown — although needing no introduction — has become something of a household name in the Korean R&B scene. Garnering attention from the likes of K-pop idols such as BTS’ Jimin, Red Velvet’s Wendy, and GOT7’s BamBam, many have fallen head over heels for the singer’s marvelously romantic love songs. In 2021, Jimmy officially teamed up with rapper, singer/songwriter, and close friend Rovv, releasing several singles leading up to their first album.
Since then, the pair have been unstoppable, blending elements of R&B, hip-hop, trap, and even Afrobeats into an endless pool of music ecstasy. Now Jimmy and Rovv are touring with their third album, Like the First Time, across 13 North American cities. Finally seeing how much their music has touched the souls of their global audience, the “Hip Drive” duo touched down in Chicago on November 7. Before the concert, they sat down with EnVi to dish on their latest album, tour life, and give a little behind-the-scenes insight into how they prepare for a show.
Every concert experience has its own story — ones filled with moments that are meticulously etched and stored away in the brain for years to come. For some, those moments could include the journey leading up to the concert, like attending the show in a city they’ve never been to before. For most others, it’s the show itself: the adrenaline kicking in when the lights go out and the music starts, unveiling the artist they waited “X” amount of time to see. But for me, those unforgettable moments happened backstage before the show, where I reconnected with Jimmy and Rovv in person since our last interview via Zoom.
Tucked away in the cozy backstage lounge of the Chop Shop was Jimmy, Rovv, their guitarist who goes by ampoff, and DJ/producer Jin.K. Almost immediately after I entered the room, Jimmy, who sported two red rollers in his hair, went straight for the hug, with Rovv following suit. Both wore smiles that I’m sure were equally as big as mine. Behind them was a table covered with delicious foods and drinks, ranging from Chicago’s famous deep-dish pizza to chocolate chip cookies and Jameson whiskey — all of which they had no problem sharing later on.
The duo’s photographer, Andy Sama, later confirmed one of them may have shed a tear after tasting the pizza, though Andy playfully wouldn’t confirm nor deny which artist it was. “It was on my wish list to try,” Rovv admitted, and as expected, Chicago did not disappoint.
As we began our interview, music from the venue blared through the walls while fans gathered inside. Specifically, it was South African singer Tyla’s viral hit, “Water,” soaring from the speakers. Jimmy, who was waiting for Rovv to join him on the couch, sang along with that familiar enchantment to his voice responsible for his loyal following. When I asked if he was a Tyla fan, despite already figuring out the answer, he looked down and chuckled before answering, “Yes.”
We started by talking about Jimmy and Rovv’s latest album, which boasts seven tracks total, including previously released singles “Hip Drive,” “Over and Over,” and “Typing…” As with most of their music, Like The First Time thrives on themes of sensuality, love, and flirtatiousness — adding to their catalog of music you’d likely play while dancing in the kitchen or staring up at the ceiling before fading off to sleep. But aside from the sensual nature of the album, Like The First Time is also a reference to their creative partnership and artistry. “It’s that excitement of a fresh, new start; he actually came up with the name,” Jimmy said, pointing over at Rovv. “[The album] was made with passion and shows we’re still learning about each other and ourselves,” Rovv explained. “That’s why we liked the name.”
While the album teeters between slow, romantic numbers to more buoyant, upbeat tracks, both artists have clear favorites and aren’t shy about choosing one above the rest. “I’m going to go with “Typing…” as my favorite,” Jimmy said. “It’s just simple and something everybody can easily sing along to.” Rovv, on the other hand, sticks with the track that has been his favorite since day one and reminds him of his favorite activity outside of making music. “Hip Drive,” he smiled. “I like working out and doing the hip drive exercises, so that’s why it’s my favorite.”
Touring All Over and Over The Place
With Jimmy and Rovv steadily building up a global fanbase, an international tour has long been a dream for the two artists. The duo first got their feet wet with two European shows last fall — one in London and another in Paris. Both served as a taste of what to expect when expanding this adventure. The following spring, Jimmy and Rovv officially announced their North American tour on May 20, with shows scheduled for Toronto, New York, Chicago, and many more across the States.
This was everything they had hoped for. As Rovv put it, it was time for them to level up. “For Paris and London, it took us about two weeks to prepare, but for this, it’s been months in the making,” Jimmy stated. “I’m just here to communicate with our US fans and get to know them face-to-face.”
While preparing for any tour is tedious in itself, almost nothing is as strenuous or crucial as finalizing a setlist that satisfies both the artists and the fans. Between Jimmy and Rovv, the two have over 100 songs combined to choose from, from fan favorites to deep cuts to hidden gems. The task should seem like a headache, but for Jimmy and Rovv, it was nothing more than a walk in the park. “We just go with the vibe and whatever feels right,” Jimmy said nonchalantly. “There’s nothing we regret with choosing the setlist.” By this point, the singer had removed the rollers from his hair, presenting two perfect curls that matched the rest of his hair.
There’s something about Jimmy and Rovv’s calm and collected demeanor that’s very appealing. No matter what happens, they’re always sure of themselves and grounded in their decisions — or at least that’s how it comes off on the outside looking in. But that doesn’t mean they don’t get nervous or second-guess themselves. After all, creatives are known to be their own harshest critics; never fully satisfied with what they’ve made, but knowing when it’s finished. “I get nervous all the time,” Jimmy said, laughing at his own confession. “I’m nervous for tonight; I wish I could drink, but I can’t sing when I’m drunk.” Rovv is no different. “The first time I ever performed was at a university festival, and I was really nervous,” the rapper said. “I have no memory of being onstage; I just got out there and did it.”
After wrapping up the North American leg of the tour, the duo will head off to Australia in December and Europe in January. But don’t think for a second that once this tour is over so is their Like The First Time era. “We’re planning a deluxe album soon,” Rovv revealed. “We’ve already made two or three more songs to add.” Jimmy chimed in, “And maybe a physical album — we’ll see.”
VIP For the Night
Usually what happens during a backstage interview is simple: you get in; spend the allotted time given asking the artists questions about their life, music, and any other exciting events; and then you’re promptly escorted out so the artists can finish prepping for the show. This interview, however, was thankfully not your ordinary interview. Instead of feeling like a stranger in someone else’s world, I was treated as a guest — welcomed and seen as an equal rather than anything lesser.
As the formal interview came to a close, I was invited to stick around until showtime and observe all the behind-the-scenes work that comes with touring. Rovv left the room to grab his mic-pack, while Jimmy began his vocal warmups, singing, “Mommy made me mash my M&Ms” and going up the scale. Earlier, the singer revealed it’s a warmup he downloaded from YouTube, and according to their photographer Andy, it’s his go-to. “Every single day,” Andy laughed with a headshake. For around 30 minutes or so, Jimmy went from singing the tongue twister to singing the songs he had planned for the show. And yes, he sounded exactly like his recordings (like a dream). Rovv, however, admitted he doesn’t have any particular warmups other than shouting a few times — which he generously demonstrated as he was fixing his mic-pack.
Once the remaining hour was up, it was finally showtime. Jimmy, Rovv, and the rest of the crew huddled around the food-filled table before motioning for me to join them. After explaining the instructions of their pre-show team chant, each person placed their hand in the middle of the circle, one by one, and announced their respective hometowns before shouting, “Like! Like! Like! Whoo!!” It wasn’t until then that the show could truly begin.
Rovv rushed on stage from behind the curtains, and Jimmy followed soon after. I watched as the crowd absorbed the guys’ energy and tossed it right back to them tenfold. The fans in the front row, in particular, caught my eye as they held up signs that read, “Your voice and music soothe my soul” and “Hot girls listen to Jimmy Brown and Rovv.” Fandoms, in general, are amazing, but the passion and love of music fans is something you just can’t get anywhere else. Chicago’s attendees also had the honor of being the recipients of Jimmy’s first water toss, as he accidentally spills some of it onstage before flinging the rest of the bottle over the insatiably hyped crowd.
During the hour-long set, Jimmy and Rovv alternated between their solo tracks and their recorded songs. Some of these songs included Rovv’s “Chance” and “23,” Jimmy’s “heaven” and “kiss my lips” and duo songs like “On My D,” and “Like The First Time.” The set felt surprisingly short, especially for two artists with such a rich discography. But, the night couldn’t end without the song that first put Jimmy on the map: “Irene.”
A Night of Ecstasy
Much to everyone’s delight, the events that transpired after the show were nothing but wholesome interactions. The two artists stood outside the venue to chat, take pictures, and sign autographs with everyone who stayed behind to wait for them. When Jimmy and Rovv said they were here to communicate with their North American fans, they weren’t kidding. Everywhere you turned, there was a smile, and I couldn’t help but feel lucky to witness it all unfold in front of me. Make no mistake: this may have been Jimmy and Rovv’s first time performing in the States, but from the way they handled the night, you would have thought they’ve been here a lifetime.