368 Music Group • August 26th, 2016
*Out of 5
Hip Hop is a genre that is in constant motion; the nomad of music, Hip Hop is constantly seeking solace in new places. Currently, its newest generation comes from the internet and Innanet James’ name says it all. A rapper who was inspired by Lil Wayne’s internet mixtape Da Drought 3 and whose debut single “Black” spread like wildfire across music blogs, James comes from a generation of emcees and producers that live and rap on the internet. In his new EP Quebec Place, James may rap about his upbringing and life in Maryland, but his style mimics a plethora of unique rap cultures. In its description of the EP, Apple Music labels his sound as “cross-regional” and this couldn’t be more true. His production samples names from London (Ben Jamin), Amsterdam (Chef Red) and DC (Reggie Volume). The project sounds like the love child of Chicago’s Vic Mensa (whose second mixtape is interestingly called Innanetape), DC’s Goldlink (who James has worked with in the past), and Long Beach’s Vince Staples.
The project opens with “622,” produced by Ben Jamin, which brings to mind the beat off of Vic Mensa’s “Suitcase.” Horns blaring and bass blasting, James jumps in with the same gusto as Vince Staples in tracks like “Loco,” off his most recent EP Prima Donna. “My momma told me don’t have drugs in her house, so I moved out/Now I’m like Smokey might smoke an ounce,” James raps about his life in this newfound internet fame. He mentions relationships with his family and talks about success. His voice is in a high octave, strong and smooth; his flow is jumpy, full of dangerous breaks that quickly recover the tempo. Words and ideas come in chunks, sometimes being introduced during off beats. In the second track “Black,” we’re given a new vision; “Oh I’m black and I’m proud/I’m black, they can’t keep me down,” he raps. Alongside this lyrical shift, his production by MZA becomes jazzier. As the album progresses, the listener can tell that James is giving us a taste of every flavor in his mind. He raps what he feels and what he wants, and his production is hand selected off of a global menu. In “Summer” he goes from rapping about his self-image, to love, and finally back to the recurring theme of his recent success in what feels like one slow and choppy breath. Compare his flow in this song to Goldlink’s in tracks like “Dark Skin Women,” off of And After That, We Didn’t Talk, and the resemblance is uncanny.
Despite all the mimicry, James’ style becomes more and more apparent as the EP continues. Influence does not serve as a template, but more as a space for James to find his place in the rap world. His struggle to individualize his music and simultaneously maintain his influences is apparent, and it makes for an interesting project. Comparing “Frequency” to “Paint,” which closes off the EP, in “Frequency,” his flow keeps a set rhythm and follows the beat, while in “Paint,” James ebbs in and out of the track, keeping his flow outside of a set path. In “Paint,” he raps about his prospects for the future and what he’s learned in the past, the quintessential track every budding emcee has written.
The best thing about Quebec Place is its energy. On “Jams,” James and Chaz French clearly feed off each other’s’ bars, and the result is one of the most fun hip hop tracks I’ve heard in a while. Ultimately, it is clear that Innanet James is still finding his place, and that’s ok. In this new generation of artists that have been bred and curated on the internet, it is remarkable to even find an artist with cohesion. While this may not give way to a superior EP, it does prove to demonstrate James’ creative abilities, his true passion for the genre, as well as his tremendous potential. I’m excited to hear what he’ll have for us in the future. 3/5.
Listen to Quebec Place here: