Trinidad James lost his job last weekend. On Saturday, the Atlanta rapper revealed on Twitter that his employer Def Jam Records, had relieved him of his contractual obligations. Bummer. When former label president Joie Manda signed him in December 2012, he told MTV, “Trinidad James represents the cutting-edge of what’s happening in the culture today.”
Depending on who you ask, that’s part of the problem. But, more on that later.
In September 2012, James’ “All Gold Everything” from his Don’t Be S.A.F.E. mixtape turned him into an overnight star. Shortly after the music video went viral, major labels wanted in. Eventually, he signed a reported $2 million deal with the house that Russell and Rick built.
In the past, a pay day like this was reserved for more prolific upstarts. A decade prior, 50 Cent pocketed $1 million dollars from Shady/Aftermath Records. But for James, his resume was paper thin. In interviews he even admitted to rapping for only 10 months. For some, his appearance was more jarring than his brevity in the game. His cheesy garb and crooked smile drew comparisons to “Jerome” from the hit 90s sitcom, Martin. Who could take this guy seriously?
By December, “All Gold Everything” was remixed and within five months, the original scored a gold plaque. Could he do it again? Def Jam doubled down and sanctioned “Female$ Welcomed” from Don’t Be S.A.F.E. to decent, but, minimal fan fare.
To silence the one hit wonder chatter, James dropped his 10 Piece Mild mixtape in August 2013, but his efforts would be short lived. On November 12, TJ critiqued New York hip-hop during a performance in Brooklyn of all places. “I remember when New York rap was the shit and us ‘bamas,’ us from the South was like, ‘What the fuck? And we just did our own thing, but now we run y’all musically,” he boasted. “That’s crazy. Now, every nigga that’s really poppin’ out of New York, he might as well tell you he from Atlanta.”
In some ways TJ, is a victim of his own success. After all, it’s not his fault “All Gold Everything” became a hit. What’s really happening in the culture today is that hype is superseding artist development. In James’ case, a million or so YouTube views was presumably enough to warrant a signing.
Conversely, it’s an independent’s market and Trinidad did win over 500,000 iTunes subscribers. So perhaps he can do it again without the support of a label. From here on out, it’s up to him to prove that he’s more than a flash in the pan. —B.Dot