Interview - Dave James
It is time for another interview, ladies & gentlemen! I thoroughly enjoy doing these, especially when the interviewee gives me the time of day to properly talk to them. This was what I originally wanted for my young site here. To talk to people I would have never talked to if I didn't create this site. It has been only Eight months and I have talked to some great people.
Which brings me to my next guest here on "The 5th Element". Another person that randomly followed me on Instagram. I did my due diligence, listened to his work and enjoyed it. I also saw that he was followed by one of my favourite voices at the moment, Ari Lennox, so I had to see what was good, and here we are. Louisiana born, DC raised. Mr Dave James.
C: Start of the interview, start of the person. Where are you from and how long have you been in music?
DJ: So, I was born in the country, Baton Rouge, Louisiana. My family is from there and we moved up to the East Coast, Washington DC area. We've been here for the past 15 years. I have two brothers, two sisters, wife & kids. I been doing music for a long time but this year will have my first project as a solo artist. I got kicked out of College because of music, I'll save that story for later.
C: Okay, so what did you start out with? Singing? Any particular instrument?
DJ: I started on guitar.
C: What age was that?
DJ: I was 22. I had just started playing guitar and that's when all my music really started. Believe it or not, way before that I rapped, people can't imagine that now.
C: So why did that stop?
DJ: It simply wasn't working. I actually had a band called "Indelible". We put out an album and a mixtape. People kind of fried us on the mixtape but the album, people liked the album. I was the writer and lead in the band, we broke up in 2011 and that led me into music production. Ari Lennox really pushed me into it. We met and became friends when I was still in the band. Back then, she was just a kid, like, 19. I took her to my shows, she opened for us a few times but she was the one who pushed me into producing and really take it seriously. I bought my first MPC to work on her record. So from there, that led to me working with other artists and doing other things.
The song "La La La La" that is on her latest EP "Pho", that was on her first project "Ariography" which we worked on so she pushed me to do music production, that's why we still work together and it's helped me work with other artists. That's what I've been doing for the past few years.
Actually, story about "La La La La". It originally wasn't going to be on "Pho". At that time she was still performing the song at showcases and in the audience for one of her shows was J.Cole. It was in New York. He never heard it before and he liked it so he had everybody backstage saying that he wanted the song on the EP. Now, they had already sent the EP to Interscope, so they had to pull it back so they can put the song in. At this time, I'm in Philly, working with another artist. They hit me up saying "We need the files for this song". So I sent it to them, they mixed it down and that's how the song made it. It was very last minute.
C: So when you were producing, was it strictly for Ari?
DJ: It started with her but it led to me dipping into other genres. I always wanted to do it but didn't take it seriously before Ari. I went on to work with Christian rappers, R&B artists. I just went heavy on production and working with other people. It's only recently where I have focused on going solo.
C: So when did the solo work start?
DJ: I started working on it last year. Some of the my instrumentals were some that other artists were sitting on and I grew to like them, so I used them for myself. As a matter of fact, the two singles I have now "Familiar Life" & "Alone", were beats that I initially offered to other artists. You can tell when an artist is gonna sit on it so if I really like it I just use it and see what I can do to it.
C: That's real cool. So you have these beats, owned by you, and you can choose whether to use the fire or not.
DJ: Exactly! If its something I think is good then I might keep it for myself. I have actually been trying to work on a solo project since 2010, ridiculous.
I was in a team in Atlanta one time and, you know De La Soul. I was working with Supa Dave West who has produced a lot for them. He was kind of a mentor to me. I was actually going to be on their album but it didn't come together. So, I've had opportunity to really go solo, I knew my band was going down but you get distracted, you work for other people and its only been until last year when I made a decision to buckle down, focus on going solo.
C: I wanna go back to the Hip-Hop bit right quick because I wanna know, what was the inspiration for that?
DJ: So, my father is a pastor and when I was 12 I knew I wanted to do something with words. So that's when I tried to write. There were times in Middle/High School where my thirst for it regressed but I've been trying to write music since I was a little kid. When I was 18/19, I really started trying but like I said, it didn't pop that much. When I rapped, I went for the spiritual/conscious space so I went deep into sub-genre and as I got older I couldn't do it. But I've always loved Hip-Hop, it's one of the most influential things in culture, period.
C: You've mentioned religion a few times, when you're writing, d'you think about that in your creative process?
DJ: Definitely. When you listen to my new EP and really listen to it, there are some of that below the surface.
C: There has been a recent flux of artists plugging into faith and religion and it's been prevalent for decades but people are really wrapping their heads round it. Kanye, Kendrick, to name a couple.
DJ: Yea it really is fascinating. A lot of artists are spiritual and I think that's because music can be spiritual so they explore it. The best ones explore deep and religion can be a big part in people's lives.
C: So, EP coming out, when is that dropping?
DJ: August, sometime in August.
C: Tell me the College story.
DJ: Oh yea! So, I was in College for three years and I switched majors from Business Marketing to Fine Arts & Sciences to study music as a concentration. First Semester, everything was great. But then I met with the Dean and he refused to sign my schedule. He said I was too old to be a musician. Without his signature I had to either switch Majors again or leave. So, I left, focused on music and that was over a decade ago.
C: You said you have a Wife & kids. Are you one of those artists where you make music specifically for them?
DJ: Funny enough, I do, but I don't release it. I have done it, but I like to keep my music self and personal self separate, I don't like putting them on display like that.
C: If somebody listens to your music for the first time, what are the messages or themes you want them to gather?
DJ: Love, dreams, heartbreak, inspiration. My EP is called "Where The Sidewalk Ends" which is the same name as a series of short stories & poems for children back in the 70's and they have similar themes so that's what I like to give. Making people feel good.
C: As an R&B/Soul artist. Do you listen to more Hip-Hop, stuff that you don't make as a solo artist, or the music that is similar to yours?
DJ: I'd say I listen to more Hip-Hop. Elzhi's project from last year, 2 Chainz. I buy a lot of music. I buy like five or six albums a week so I go through a lot of music. H.E.R, SZA, PJ Morton, the new Jay joint is crazy. I didn't realise that No I.D was producing it all, that was a big reason for me wanting to listen to it. No I.D is one of the best producers of All-Time so when I knew that, I had to listen.
C: Five to Six albums a week!? I'll be lucky to listen to Five/Six in a month!
Okay, final question. Standard procedure. What's your Top 5? Now, I'm flexible so you can go as broad or as specific as you like.
DJ: Okay, I'll go rappers. Keep it easy for myself.
Everybody is gonna say Nas so Nas.
I'll throw Kendrick in... Actually, I dunno if Kendrick deserves it yet!
C: Well it's just your opinion innit! Don't have to stick with the status quo.
DJ: Yea yea okay, a lot of people say Jay but I'll say 2Pac. Can't have a legend list without Pac.
And I'll say Elzhi! I bet nobody has ever said Elzhi.
C: I've never heard that but that's good! It's your list, I like a curve ball. That was a lot of deliberation.
DJ: It's hard doing a Top 5 because I can throw Royce Da 5"9, Kendrick, Andre 3000. I can easily do 10 but 5 is hard.
C: That's why I ask for five, squeeze them. Making the tough decisions. Alright. Dave James, once again, thank you for participating. I really appreciate the time.
DJ: No Problem man, thank you.
He mentioned his two singles "Alone" & "Familiar Life", you can peep those at the end of this article. Be sure to follow "The 5th Element" on Facebook, I'll be sure to let you guys know when Mr James drops the EP. It will be on all places to get music. Once again, thanks to Dave James, hope you enjoyed reading as much as I had writing it.