There can be so much done to try and make yourself stand out from the crowd, but sometimes the key lies in staying true to who you are.
With three songs, Giovanni James has shown himself to be a very versatile artist, with no fear of genre lines. I got the opportunity to share some words with the new Warner Bros. signee, and was interested with his determination to remain unique in a copy-cat industry.
The questions are in bold.
I listened through “Whatchu Want,” “Shame on You,” and “Sheri.” They’re all radically different sounds. Do you think that as an artist you want to be branching out into these different styles or is more of testing the waters to find a sound to make one your own?
Well I think Bruce Lee, I study all the old greats, said it best that you should have the style of no style. So for me, you do what you feel because when marketing and all that stuff comes in, that’s when I think people start to determine all those kinds of things. When you’re writing a song, and it’s real to you, you just do it. For me, it’s best to set the table in the way that you expect anything. I think that when people try and box me in that’s when I want to go the exact opposite. So it’s not about having one sound, it’s about being honest with whatever the moment is, and if it makes it to a place where a lot of people are hearing it, you just let the people judge it.
Have you always felt like you’ve taken that approach to music?
Well I started out as a dancer; a breakdancer and as a B Boy you learn to not bite other people’s styles and you have this kind of integrity. For me, I don’t know if there’s something I’m looking for, I just never try to copy other people and other sounds. I feel like that’s a mistake. As an artist I feel like I’m here to report emotions, human conditions, or just something trivial. Whatever it is, I think I ought to be expressing the moment. That to me, is as truthful as I can be. If you think about life, I don’t know how today is for you, whether it’s a good day or a sh***y day. But as an artist you report on that exact thing. I don’t believe in telegraphing, I think it’s kind of lame. People don’t realize that the concept of making a record…what is a record? It’s a moment in time that’s been captured. So it’s about moments and with moments you don’t want to keep repeating the same thing over and over until you get successful.
Do you feel like there are any records you’ve heard in the past that really hit that target of being a truthful moment in time.
I think for me, I’m somewhat of a history buff. I like to know what happened before because it can inform you further in the the now. I like stuff from before my time so I think all the Bob Marley stuff, all the Jimi Hendrix stuff…I like all of that earlier stuff because people were being real with how they felt during those times. It felt like commerce and money wasn’t really a part of the process. Now it only became a part of it because people were doing stuff that they loved or that they felt and once the audience came the money came. I think Kendrick is making a record that is truthful for him and I think that’s great for this time. Talking about current artists, I think him and J-Cole are achieving that.
So what are you planning next, is there an album in the works, what’s coming up down the line?
I mean I have so much music dude, I’m constantly recording music. I have probably five albums worth of material and it’s an ever growing thing because I really think these things are in the air and when you hear them you take it in as dictation. So when I start hearing stuff, and music to me is like colors, it’s like painting. You take your colors and go and paint what you hear. I’m totally looking forward to an album, the way everything is done now they obviously make you come with the EP first but I actually wanted to drop the album first.
It sounds like you don’t want to stick to that traditional path. You just want to make art as you go and as you feel it fit…
Well, in America, you can’t escape certain programs. So I like to trust my collective consciousness about commercial things and not telegraph, but trust that when i make music it seems to happen, in the way I’m programmed, so that it’s truthful. I try not to think about it, but it sort of comes out naturally in the ingredients. I’m signed to Warner and its not about money. They wanted to do an EP first and then an album. I wanted to do the album. So I don’t think of things the way they think of things. They do business, I’m in the business of creating. You just gotta paint what you can and hope the people who sell your music will be able to do it.
art by your homie, Arthur Banach
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