INTERVIEW: Latrell James

Photo by Lee Delulio of Downlow Productions

Latrell James ‘Breaks Rules’ while valuing community.

With a constantly shifting, confusing and often times detrimental [for the artist] music industry, there has been a major rise in the number of artists willing to go the independent route. We are seeing artist clench onto their autonomy much more frequently, especially in the Hip Hop scene, as exemplified by artists like Tyler the Creator, Chance the Rapper. It’s exciting and empowering to see musicians holding strong to their independence and not signing with major labels, but what’s even more exciting to see is artists from our city making a significant imprint in the independent Hip-Hop world.

Latrell James is a Dorchester born rapper who has been making a significantly large imprint on Boston’s Hip Hop scene for some time now. Latrell has been making a lot of noise recently with features on the recent projects of Cousin Stizz, KharyAce Hashimoto & Max Wonders. One of his most recent singles, “Break the Rules” is a perfect introduction to who Latrell James is as an artist, although there is much more to him then just rebellion and nonconformity. Latrell’s latest cut “Prayer Emoji” comes in the form of a video in collaboration with Live From Nowhere. LFN is a video series that features videos of MA-based artists playing live in abandoned locations throughout the state.

Latrell touches on some of the roots of his rebellious nature and his general defiance in pursuit of his own satisfaction in our conversation. That video can be seen at the Rockwell this Thursday for their premier show this Thursday. The show will also feature performances from Bent Knee, American Echoes and more. We recently got a chance to sit with Latrell to talk about life post-Twelve [His latest full length project], negative experiences with college, and what rule breaking within societal standards means to him.

Allston Pudding: What does ‘breaking the rules’ mean to you? Plan on breaking any more in the future?

Latrell James: Breaking rules means to not conform and doing things your own way. I’m not relying on anyone else to do what I need to do. If I need to mix this record down, or I need to get this beat, or I need to record these vocals, I’m willing to do it on my own and still be able to get it out at the same quality as someone who is really shelling out cash as opposed to being their own resource. That’s me breaking rules, is me being my own resource. Recently I’ve been creating music with people that I want to create music with, creating the music with that I want to create without feeling uncomfortable. One of my biggest fears honestly is making any major commitments to a record label and losing the control that I have over what I do now and what I sound like.


AP: Rumor has it you deleted yourself from the internet before Twelve? Why’d you do that?

LJ: Not a rumor at all. I definitely removed my prior work from the internet. The main reason behind is because the music quality was so poor. I recorded and engineered everything myself with little knowledge of the field. I just wanted whatever body of work I have out to be professional. I feel Twelve represents that well. My first project was called Lemonade Stand. Definitely ties into it all. I hate ‘traditional’ ways of doing things, so I made the project disappear.

AP: So is there any chance fans will ever have no access to Twelve again?

LJ: I think Twelve is here to stay. I think it represents the beginning well. If you want to know who Latrell James is and why, that project is a great introduction.

AP: So the ‘theory’ is that you [as an artist] need to be spending a certain amount of money, and collaborating with ‘A’ list producers/artists in order to put out high quality music.

LJ: Exactly. You don’t need it. There’s no rules to creating and I want to push the boundaries on how we consume and promote music. Planning on taking my live show the next step. I have a few ideas I’ll be bringing to fruition over the next few months.

AP: Seems like you’ve helping out with a lot of music other than your own as of recently, what’s more important to you, remaining independent, or building great collaborations?

LJ: I believe that the community is the most important. I want to be as successful as the next person, but I also know that I would be equally content if I ended up inspiring the next person to be even more successful. I’m a musician. I create music for others to put their thoughts on as much as I do myself. I feel contributing to other creatives work is just as important as building your own. As far as remaining independent, I just want to have supporters. I feel like that can be done on both sides of the spectrum.

AP: In the hook of “Prayer Emoji”, there seems to be a similar theme of breaking the rules. “Is this the end? Jump in my casket and do it again / all on my lonely, I don’t need no new friends / say what I feel, ain’t no need to pretend, fuck all the student loans, fuck all the rent, gimmie one more chance and I’ll sin again”… on paper, it seems bleak, but the song is generally upbeat. Any reason for the juxtaposition?

The reason for the bleak lyrics on such an uptempo track is that it’s a representation of life. There’s beauty in everything, even death. The production brings a feeling of happiness and the lyrics bring brute honesty. It’s a contrast I think people will unknowingly gravitate to. Plus, I want people to dance while I’m telling them the truth. I’m still technically breaking the rules and finding the need for prayer. My parents know that they can tell what’s right from wrong all they want, but they also know I’m not going to listen to them until I experience it myself. All they can do is pray I don’t do anything that will significantly change my life in a negative way.