Monday, August 24, 2009
The Commission recently interviewed one of the up and coming rappers in the game today... Mr James Wade. Dude brings a refreshing approach to hip hop and he gave me the pleasure of seeing Hip Hop through his eyes. He touches on everything from where he started to being to in college and his thought process for making songs. Pure Fiyah I tell ya!
If you want to know more about James, peep our album review, which is coming in a few days. For now, enjoy the interview! [Ed. note - The album review is live]
How did you get into Hip Hop? Who or What inspired you to be an emcee?
Bone Thugs N Harmony. I remember being a little kid and hearing them for the first time. My mom was big into R&B music but one day I was watching TV, and saw 1st of the month. It was something I never heard before, something different but all I know I was soon after I was trying to mimic everything they did. Even though I couldn’t sing a lick, I eventually started writing music.
What area do you represent?
Actually complex. I was born in Midwest, but I’ve been all over. I’ve spent time in the South because my family is from South. Technically I’ve lived in Georgia as long as I’ve been in Illinois and Ohio which is kinda crazy. I represent everywhere I guess
How does it influence your music?
Honestly I try to embody everything. I’ve always been one to soak in everything that an area gives, the people, the vibe, I tried to soak it up. I try to embrace the music I’m around, even if it’s different from what I normally am around. I like a variety of different artist, so I get exposed to so much, just a fan of everything. My music purposely reflects that.
What are the main themes/topics for your songs?
I try to build my music around a theme. I’m big into projects that have a theme. For example, I have always been a fan of Illmatic, Chronic albums like that where it was a central theme that ran whole album. No matter what song you picked, you knew it was part of a theme. Right now Hip Hop has lost that. I want to give fans what made me love hip hop. I want to take people through a whole experience. I put pieces into the project that will help strengthen the overall theme. I want fans to know I understand what they need as a Hip Hop artist and what I need to get across as a hip hop artist myself. Each song has a touch o f you getting me and you getting what you want: good song structure and good lyrics.
What do you hope to expound on going further?
My overall goal is to reach as many people as possible. I definitely feel that I have the type of music that can appeal to even wider audiences. I try to make music that reflects my life. I hang out with friends from various places, overseas, rich, poor, black, white, everyone I knew in college. It was hard to party without crossing cultural boundaries. Those people have influenced my life, so my music can reach everybody. I want everyone to get a chance to like songs, this is important. Music can bring so many different types of people together.
Could you briefly describe your music making process?
I will sit down over a period of 2 months, talk with different producers, and send them stuff I’ve done. I make songs that are completely different than original versions. I give them an overall view of what I’m looking for, then they send me certain projects. I give them creative freedom, then they can send me what they think works for me. They send me beats, I’ll listen, think to myself, and then usually the chorus pops in my head first. I’ll write it down, and then think of an artist that would make the hook or collabo work. I’ll listen to the beat over and over again, start having random thoughts, and think on the overall direction I’m trying to go.
For example Hit Record, first thing I thought about was strictly a track to let artists know my range as an artist. Talking specifically to females, I wanted to do it in a poetic way, and I kept up with a theme all surrounded around 1961. Everything in verse is centered around that. I first thought of Raisin in the Sun, it was written in 1961. Michael J Fox was born in 1961, so I used the Back to future catch line. So all those lines are 1961 references, and I know folks may or many not catch that. Within songs, I pick different themes to keep songs fresh
What has been your biggest challenge as an artist?
The business. Learning how to reach a wider audience. Getting people to pay attention to you. I remember being younger and saying I’m a rapper or musician. But there are too many critics but not enough fans, not enough folks giving them a chance. People get on MySpace, post songs out there but a lot of it is trash. Trying to get that initial listen is difficult in today’s market.
How do you get your music out then?
It’s been a different process for me. I started making records because no one was making music I wanted to hear anymore. I also started making records for fun to see if I could do it. My DJ helped me put it in more of a business perspective, got me saying you gotta do this, this, and this to get your music out. The brand has to be so distinctive and professional off the top so people will pay attention. The presentation is the most important thing now. If I have a great presentation and draws people to the music, the music will do the rest. It’s being in magazines and promoting you. It’s the branding to get you to where you want to be.
You seem like a confident guy. Hit Record, The Greatest, I can make you famous, I got something to say, nothing gonna stop me, don't scream I'm nervous and scared :-). What's your motivation?
I’m a fan of the craft in general. My motivation is to keep making music, #1, feel like music is cyclical. I kinda take a sociology perspective: take the game for what it is, don’t get mad at whose popular now. I look at the bigger picture. When I made my first record, if you told me I was going to be interviewed, I would not have believed you. I got into it for the craft. Music goes in cycle, people that got into it for fame and money, when they realize sales are going down, and then those people start to drop off due to lack of fame and money. Only people left are those that enjoy the craft.
I am Hip Hop, if 100 people buy the record, I’m still representing hip hop. We’re not all in it for the same thing. Some want a hit record. Some want to get heard on the radio. Me, I want to reach as many people as I can and hope they enjoy the music. I enjoy the fact the people enjoy it more than I enjoy it. And I want to enjoy it more than they enjoy it. I’m a fan of myself. You cannot be a great artist without being a fan of what you do. I was not a fan of myself until I started making records now. It was continuation process to get to that point. Motivation is I can get better.
Is it true you do your own production? Why is that?
I definitely don’t do it on my own. I doesn’t think it limits me. It allows me to be as versatile. So when I get a beat, I put my own spin on it. That producer may think of something I may never have thought of. I have people that don’t listen to rap primarily come into studio with me and have them hopefully say “I like that”. That means those folks represent a wider audience and help me make better records. I don’t compromise my music. I’m a fan of the music. For example, I listen to Soulja Boy and try to understand his process for making records b/c obviously he’s been successful at what he’s done
Did you really sample Perfect Strangers and Journey LOL? You are truly an 80s babies
I went to University of Dayton. I would go into bars and they would always play the Journey song. Like I said, I’m observant, being a sponge, was sent the beat, and said I will base my song around the original version but I put my spin on it so it doesn’t come off corny. I saw the opportunity to do something unique and said let me see what I can do with it.
Autotune - Hate it or Love it?
Neutral. One I don’t agree with everyone doing it. I’ve worked with a lot of independent artists, including one that used Autotune and sung the whole record. I enjoy it to a degree but it may be a crutch to some artists. I’m a fan of the craft itself, more observer than critic. It happens and it’s happening for a reason, all it is meant is to setup something else. Think of how in different time periods, hip hop is criticized. Not necessarily like what it’s doing to the game but also know for some artists, it’s a place for that. Oversaturation of anything can be harmful. For example, Clipse talking about nothing but pushing drugs.
Any Last Words?
One I appreciate the opportunity to take time out. This is great for me. It is definitely a pleasure. To my fans, I appreciate your support and standing by me. I promise to continue to strive and do whatever to get my music out there. It means more than anything to me. They are my motivation to me, will be a reason why I do music. My projects are self funded but this is my passion and I do it for them.