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Trinidad James Not Sweating Def Jam Debate: “Everything Is Not For Everybody”

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(Photo Credit: Chris Velona)

(Photo Credit: Chris Velona)

Trinidad James‘ catchy, if elementary, “All Gold Everything,” continues to polarize the hip-hop world. With the recent announcement of his Def Jam signing, the rapper and his camp have plans to spin the love-hate histrionics into rap gold.

The Atlanta based rapper has been causing a stir since he released his video for “All Gold Everything” to the internet in October. The Motion Family-directed clip shows images of James holding a palm-sized puppy in one scene and riding an all-gold bike in another. It is both grimy and lush. 

The combination captivated viewers who pushed the Youtube clip to nearly 3 million views and fueled sharp reactions to his flamboyant style of dress (think: Rick James as a gold-plated rapper) and crude, catchy lyrics.

But the video graduated from the internet to MTV Jams, which helped to catapult the rapper into the realm of boardroom deals.  

“We sat down with everybody,” Trinidad James’ manager, Fly, told CBS Local. “We went with Def Jam because it’s credible. They breed hip-hop culture. And at the end of the day, the deal terms were right.” 

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While the particulars of the deal have not been released, it is rumored to include up to $2 million.  

“We’re excited to welcome a young talent like Trinidad James to the Def Jam family,” Def Jam president Joie Manda told Billboard. “Def Jam prides itself as both a cornerstone of hip-hop’s rich tradition, and as a vital, forward-thinking label dedicated to breaking and nurturing emerging artists. Trinidad James represents the cutting-edge of what’s happening in the culture today. We are thrilled to have him at the label, and look forward to growing his already massive buzz.”

But everyone wasn’t so pleased with the new union. Def Jam, a brand synonymous with hip-hop itself, nurtured such legendary acts as LL Cool J, the Beastie Boys, EPMD, Public Enemy and Jay-Z. The label lorded over all other hip-hop outfits for the greater part of rap’s shelf-life, helping to shape hip-hop’s street sound, which was lyrically complex and overwhelmingly New York-based. 

Upon hearing the news of the signing, El-P, of Company Flow fame, remarked on James’ lyrical stylings.

“This dude Trinidad James managed to make the word ‘asian’ have 3 syllables,” El-P tweeted. “Respect.”

A Tribe Called Quest’s Q-Tip, who was signed to Def Jam as a solo artist, cautioned the label to consider the brand implications of such a signing. 

“Yo @DefJamRecords brass! remember your BRAND!,” he tweeted “And what@UncleRUSH n co put out. Please! Don’t be short sighted.”

“The thing about it is, you have to be able to change,” Fly said, regarding Def Jam’s interest in James. “If you can’t change, you’re not going to grow. That’s what separates the winners and losers.”

Rap Radar’s Elliott Wilson said Trinidad does deserve the attention he’s getting but there are some outstanding questions. 

“James has been rapping for less than a year so obviously he lacks the experience of most rappers out now,” Wilson said in his Truth editorial. “At this point, Trinidad James’ imagery overshadows his artistry. The question is, is he going to put in the work to become a better artist? His hooks are strong but his bars are still very average at best.”

Fly sees the chatter as evidence that James’ music is making its mark. 

“Trinidad started rapping last year and then began taking it seriously,” he told CBS Local. “People are entitled to their own opinion, everything is not for everybody. Trinidad has his own lane. There are other artists who have their own lanes. There are people who love and hate it. That means they are payng atention. In a situation so new it’s a great thing. Just to know that people are paying attention lets us know we are doing something right.”

Check out Trinidad Jame’s video for “All Gold Everything” here. –Erik Parker, CBS Local

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