Trinidad James and the Art of Rising Below Vulgarity.
(ThyBlackMan.com) The first music video ever played on MTV predicted the next 30 years of American popular music. If you don’t have hot a music video in rotation now, you can’t exist as a mainstream artist in hip-hop or any other popular genre. This you already know. And it will be a required belief to ride with me, even in part, on what most hip-hop purists will certainly regard as blasphemy. I’m bracing myself for the impact.
I like, maybe even love, the work of this new rap artist Trinidad James. Mind you I’ve only seen one video and listened to one other track. My affection isn’t due to a card carrying membership among the masses of radio listeners who are inexplicably attracted to MCs with wordplay that solely runs counter to the “positive” or “pure lyricist” tag. As I’m sure you must know, to be labeled a purist any “serious” hip hop aficionado must swear to uphold a La Cosa Nostra level blood oath. That being an irreversible claim of undying love to Immortal Technique, Nas, or Rakim. I’m a certified backpacker/rap nerd/elitist that has more Planet Asia in rotation than anything by Shawn Carter. I fought the attraction to Mr. James’s persona vigorously but it wasn’t helped by the fact that I gave up the notion of “positive” and “negative” artistry when I started digging the cinematic work of Martin Scorsese, David Cronenberg, and Sam Peckinpah in junior high school. Blame permissive parenting.
I am feeling this brother because there is almost no one quite like him on the scene right now. Let me go further in an attempt to clarify that last statement. It’s tied to the visuals. There’s scores of rappers that sound like him. Random, monosyllabic rhymes with no patterns embedded within the flow come a dime a dozen. In fact the less formally educated you sound, the higher will be your record sales on the American charts. The country is, and has been for a very long time, an actively anti-intellectual space. It ain’t just black folks! My next claim is in no way scientific, but I doubt if there will be many challengers to my data starved assertion. Forget platinum. Supported by the above claim, Trinidad James music is ignorant enough to be certified diamond!
The recent success of a solid mainstream hip hop talent such as Kendrick Lamar may in fact be an anomaly. It makes no sense to get too excited too fast. Besides is the track “Swimming Pools” positive? Of course not, but it paints a perfect picture of a favorite past time for many a young man in his late teens and early 20’s. Go to any club, house party or college campus and you will witness the inspiration for Lamar’s ode to alcoholism. Now back to a less critically acclaimed artist.
Trinidad James may be the most prominent, or only, metrosexual, thugcentric, southern MC. If Andre 3000 had not gone sideways from Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, hadn’t hired a stylist or a publicist his look and aura in subsequent releases may have allowed the public to witness this earlier. Or maybe not, Andre 3000 is easily one of the illest mainstream rappers still breathing, but on appearance alone…maybe. Let’s now focus on Trinidad James’s music video for “All Gold Everything.”
The brother is draped in gold to a level unseen since the 80s heyday of B.A. Baracus. The shine doesn’t stop there. Mr. James’s dental situation is in critical condition and should have prohibited any professional licensed in the field of orthodontics or dentistry from applying gold to even one of his teeth. This leads me to believe that maybe he himself is a graduate of an ADA approved dental school and applied these shiny minerals to his own mouth—cutting out the middle man. Take that–haters. That’s possible positivity for you right there! Keeping with the retro clothing and accessories theme, Trinidad’s shirt, or rather blouse, might have worked for Pam Grier in the 70s. I can fully respect a brother who is man enough to expose his softer side.
From the You Tube comments it seems that most viewers believe him to be channeling Jerome from the Martin sitcom. Most music video manufactured killers and thugs are gripping thick silver chains with killer dogs on the business end of the leash. Trinidad James is holding and caressing a pit bull puppy throughout the clip. And riding a bicycle. All the while his comrades are engaged in more appropriately masculine pursuits such as mean mugging, twisting silencers onto automatic weapons, shooting dice, and being in charge of barbeque grills filled with red meat and pork.
Midway through the track Trinidad James shouts out a vibrant and energetic “woo” perhaps in homage to NWA legend Ric Flair. I’m reaching longer than my short arms permit with that, but I am so enjoying the sideways madness unleashed in this video that I’m finding new things to marvel at upon every viewing. Maybe Trinidad James is even doing a modern era impression of Ric Flair like Will Ferrell does with his Ashley Schaeffer character from East Bound & Down. Or maybe he’s too young to know Flair and he’s mimicking Schaeffer. Who knows?
For reasons also unknown there’s a parody track getting some notice as of late. This is completely unnecessary. There’s no way that Trinidad James could possibly take himself 100% seriously. He is through this video parodying the absurdity of gang life by showing how easily an obvious outsider can stroll through what any casual viewer of Gangland or America’s Hardest Prisons would recognize as a secret society with a time honored no squares or weirdoes allowed regulation that is strictly enforced. Those televisions programs have to be the gospel truth…right?
In the official video, Mr. James is nothing if not an oddball. Not only is he mingling with the hardest of the hard, at some point he appears to be leading them. At times he is doing so with a panda bear ski mask on. I love it!
Is Trinidad James on some visual performance art tip akin to Cape Town, South Africa’s Die Antwoord? Um…maybe. Since the interpretation of art is subjective, I’ll say yes. The last video to make me scratch my head this much in confusion, delight, amazement, and at first glance abject horror was Rick Ross’s Hold Me Back Nigeria. Now if a music video can stir a strong emotion in me at all after viewing so many repetitive images that one expects from the form these days, Trinidad James is doing something right. At a later stage, Mr. James might want to consider enrolling at Elzhi’s MC school, but for now I’m open to joining Trinidad James on another trip as long as the images surrounding him continue to surprise me.
Staff Writer; Christopher Keith JohnsonShare