Rock On

British pop music gets a (much-needed?) kick in the pants from James Rock Nti. That's Rocky Nti to you.

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While many pop stars adopt a persona and a new name and gradually grow into both, others seem born to it. Rocky Nti (pronounced en-ty), firmly in the latter camp, is an exclamation point made flesh, a 24-year-old pop-star-in-waiting from London who sports a Will Smith haircut circa 1988 and a natural effervescence that, if bottled, would fizz. It helps, perhaps, that he was christened with the perfect pop-star moniker: Rocky Nti is his real name.

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"It is," he insists. "Well, almost. I'm James Rock Nti, so I go by my middle name. My parents liked interesting middle names. My twin brother's is Aman. Helps us stand out, I suppose."

Half Ghanaian and half Dutch, Nti was raised just outside London and was a fan of musical theater from the age of 5: "I loved singing, jazz, modern dance, acting—showing off, essentially," he says, grinning.

Now Nti is concentrating solely on music, and his new EP Ride On is knockabout indie rock at its most charming—reminiscent of early Blur, with its deliberately ordinary tales of confused and conflicted modern youth. A debut album is due next year.

"I've always loved artists like Damien Rice, Bon Iver, Elliott Smith," he says. "The kind of music you can't hide behind. I'm very drawn to vulnerability."

The four songs on Ride On—the title track, along with "Long Road Ahead," "Hell Is Empty," and "Move Forward"—may document the angst typical of someone negotiating a mild quarterlife crisis, but, he says, "there is enough negativity in the world and, besides, mine are strictly first-world problems. I'd love to be cool and mysterious, but I can't pretend to be what I'm not. I just want to make people laugh and smile. It's my musical theater background. I want to entertain."

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