Artist: Trinidad James
Album: 10 Pc Mild
Genre: Hip Hop
In the year since he debuted on the scene, Atlanta native Trinidad James has skyrocketed to the forefront of urban music. His sound defies categorization, but more often than not could qualify for our Ignorant Anthems releases. He loves music and it’s power to connect with people of walks of life, and it’s the fact he’s conscious of this that has propelled him into the spotlight. People connect with Trinidad James, even though everything about him from fashion to lyricism is unique, and now the twenty-something rapper is back with ten new tracks in hopes of once again taking his fame to another level.
Taking its name from James’ favorite chicken wing eatery in Atlanta, 10 Pc Mild arrived online yesterday, August 13. The release is the first from Trinidad since his October 2012 release Don’t Be S.A.F.E, and much like that debut 10 Pc plays the album game on its own terms. There is no single, no video, and until the download became available no one knew whether or not there was a single guest appearance. James makes music for people to experience, and his hope with keeping everything close to the chest on this release is that people will enjoy the album from beginning to end. We’re not here to discuss whether or not that is smart marketing idea, but for what it’s worth I think it’s rather admirable.
Clocking in at just under forty minutes, 10 Pc Mild welcomes listeners back to the world of Trinidad James with open arms and heavy bass. “WutEL$e” opens the album with a brief montage of old material before transitioning to an essentially spoken word introduction from Trinidad James himself. After he speak a few words the beat kicks in for a few quick bars about just how real he and his team are. It’s nothing new, but it hits hard and opens things on a positive note.
The real music kicks in with “Material Thing$ hard To Deal With,” which features a killer guest appearance from buzzworthy rapper Cyhi The Prynce. The hook is little more than variations on the phrase “Hoes, clothes, and this money,” but the production from J. Padron and Villo pulls you in without a second of hesitation. James’ lyricism has definitely improved from Don’t Be S.A.F.E., but this track does not showcase that fact nearly as well as other material on the release. “$hut Up,” for instance, pairs James and Travi$ Scott against a Young Chop beat that I guarantee will appear on Ignorant Anthems 3. The hook is dedicated to going wild, much like the verses, but it’s in the thought-provoking delivery of James that the real gold is found.
As 10 Pc Mild rolls on, it becomes clear that this album is far more a reminder of what James has to offer than an attempt to continue pushing the envelope. While “All Gold Everything” was not exactly a fresh idea, the way Don’t Be S.A.F.E. unfolded did feel original. That authenticity is missing from at least a handful of tracks on 10 Pc, and that makes up a good portion of the album when you’re only working with 10 tracks. “Hip$ter $trip Club,” for instance, offers an intoxicating beat and something akin to singing, but there is no real message or takeaway from the experience. One could make the argument James’ insight into the loneliness felt by the girl in his story is depth, but on repeat plays the song feels more like an interlude stretched too far than anything else.
Holding down the middle of 10 Pc Mild with the best bars and beat of the record, “Quez” features an all-star lineup of hip hop’s next generation. James is not necessarily the star (that accolade goes to Danny Brown in my mind), but since the track arrives on his mixture there is credit due. He fairs much better on the follow-up, “HomeGirl$,” which features exquisite lo-fi production from Padron and Villo with absolutely no features. James goes in about the women in his life, some of which have men at home, and even finds time to reference the “All Gold Everything” flow once or twice. It’s nothing more than ego rap, but if you’re looking for something to vibe to late at night you could do a lot worse than this track.
The Achilles’ heel of 10 Pc Mild sits eighth on the tracklist, nestled between the exciting “Jumping Off Texa$” and rather mediocre “Ro$enberg.” It’s called “Bino$ Vs. Bree$,” but in reality is just a skit about a couple in a rough patch. This would be fine if it lasted minute or two, but instead James offers a four-minute buzzkill that includes references to domestic abuse. The message may be worth sharing to an extent, but the way it’s presented and its position in the tracklist does nothing for listeners except derail the energy and momentum built-in the preceding seven tracks. The first time it played I listened closely hoping for something to happen, but five or six spins in I began skipping it entirely.
Fortunately, Trinidad James makes it a point to close 10 Pc Mild with a bang and delivers tenfold with the star-studded “Ea$tside.” He’s still not the best emcee on the track, but what do you expect when he’s swapping bars with the likes of Childish Gambino and Alley Boy?
In the ten-ish months since he break through to the mainstream, Trinidad James has made mostly intelligent decisions when it comes to his career trajectory. 10 Pc Mild is a continuation of those good choices, but the impact left on the listener is significantly less than that found on his debut. The Trinidad we’ve grown to know is insightful and aware of the world beyond urban music, but much of 10 Pc plays like it could have been recorded by anyone willing to buy the beat. It’s nice to see him pairing with bigger names, both in the booth and behind the boards, but it seems all too often those headline-grabbing collaborations are coming at a cost to his originality. Still, I’m sure 10 Pc Mild will go a long way towards keeping fans hype until the real debut album arrives, even if it’s not as good as it could have been.
Review written by: James Shotwell (Follow him on Twitter)