The aesthetics of rapper Trinidad James are worthy of obsession: gold Chanel chains, velvet Versace slipppers, bikes spray-painted gold with flat tires... and puppies. Filmed in the cul-de-sacs and rundown apartments of James' hometown of Atlanta, Georgia, his newest video, "All Gold Everything" [below], offers a proper introduction to a rapper who is rising rapidly toward fame and success. Visually, James presents a mix of high and low—hustle subverts privilege. He appropriates the goods that might typically adorn the Madison Avenue elite, but leaves the lifestyle and pretensions behind. Sonically, he is Southern hip-hop following in the grand tradition of OutKast or Goodie Mob, set to bouncing, club-ready beats: simple, yet effective.
During the CMJ music festival in October, Trinidad James made his New York debut at a showcase for one of his crucial supporters, Baller's Eve—the East Village Radio show focused on Dirty South hip-hop. The show sold out. More impressive, is that James has cultivated his stellar live chops in the few months since releasing his first mix-tape, Don't Be S.A.F.E. (We know you're wondering: it means Sensitive As Fuck Everyday.) Now, James finds himself in the company of rappers like Death Grips and A$AP Rocky, who have managed to crossover from an exclusively rap audience, in part due to their strong online presence. We caught up with James before his show at Santos Party House this evening to talk about his growing success—and how you, too, can avoid being Sensitive As Fuck Everyday.
RYANN DONNELLY: How is your reception in Atlanta right now?
TRINIDAD JAMES: Pretty good. The city's really rockin' with me. It's a blessing.
DONNELLY: How long have you been playing live in Atlanta?
JAMES: Probably two and a half or three months.
DONNELLY: And how was your first show in New York?
JAMES: My first show in New York was this year during CMJ. It was pretty amazing. New York showed me love, they really did.
DONNELLY: Is your audience in New York better than your audience in Atlanta?
JAMES: Oh, no, no, no. Atlanta's always the top staple.
DONNELLY: Since you're still new to music, can you tell us why you started rapping? Were you inspired by any artists in particular?
JAMES: I take music really seriously. I haven't been doing this for too long, but I've been loving music for a long time. It wasn't really about other artists. I just wanted to do something more for me. I wanted to make a better life for my mom. I didn't have any way to take care of her, and I wanted to make a better way. Music was an outlet, so I went with it, and there you go.
DONNELLY: Has there been a particular turning point, where you've realized you were gaining success?
JAMES: I don't think anything really hits me like that. I just work. I'm doing shows, and I get love everywhere I go, so I would say I'm doing something right. I don't really sit here and dwell on it. I just do what I gotta do, and keep moving.
DONNELLY: Have you heard the term "Swag Rap" applied to you, or other rappers that are really into fashion, like A$AP Rocky? Is that something you identify with?
JAMES: I don't even know what that is. If that's someone's opinion, then I can't really say that it's wrong. If it's how you feel, then that's how you feel. I can't speak for [A$AP], he's his own artist, but there are things in life that I enjoyed before music, so I'm just taking advantage of those things now that I can.
DONNELY: Your Twitter profile says "fashion is my heart." Who is your favorite designer?
DONNELLY: Can you tell us about the title of your mixtape? Who is "Sensitive As Fuck Everyday"?
JAMES: People in general are, you know? A lot of people walk around with this demeanor—they're depressed and they let the smallest of things get on their nerves.
DONNELLY: So nothing bothers you?
JAMES: I'm imperfect. There are things in time that will bother me, but I don't dwell on them. It's another thing to dwell on it your whole day and let it bother you.
DONNELLY: And, who else should we be keeping an eye on from Atlanta?
JAMES: I really don't like calling artists' names, to be honest with you. If somebody needs to keep an eye on 'em, you'll hear about 'em. If you call one person's name, and forget to call the other, that's how people get sensitive as fuck everyday.
DONNELLY: Do you have anyone you're hoping to collaborate with?
JAMES: Adele. I do want to work with Adele. I would like to do a song, or a whole project if possible.
TRINIDAD JAMES' DON'T BE S.A.F.E. IS AVAILABLE NOW AT THE ARTIST'S WEBSITE. HE PLAYS SANTOS PARTY HOUSE TONIGHT, DECEMBER 4.