The art of emceeing was passed down to him from the forefathers who are partially responsible for his charismatic delivery, powerful punch lines and vivid subject matter. The battlegrounds of New Jerusalem helped him hone his lyrical talents and sharpen his business-like mind. C.Dot James is about to embark on a journey to take Hip-Hop by storm, and he’s taken Amped Sounds along for the ride. Listen closely and take notes as Skye P sits down with this lyrical giant.
What’s Good C.Dot? Tell us all where you from and what you’re reppin.
C: Well first and foremost, I would like to thank Amped Sounds Magazine for even doing this interview with me. I was born in Kingston, Jamaica and lived there till the age of 3. From Jamaica my family and I came to the United States for what everyone says is a better life. To fast forward my life, I’m from Middlesex New Jersey (The Garden State). I spent many years in New Brunswick, NJ before moving to South Brunswick, NJ where I finished out my high school years. At this current time I reside in the state of Georgia. To make a long story short I rep Jersey all day.
Heads might not know this, but you’ve been around for some time now. Exactly how long have you been rocking mics?
C: I’ve been rocking for about 16 years now.
How’d you get your name?
C: I went thru many names as any artist does. My first initial name was “Digital”, which was given to me by a high school friend in the year 1992. I decided to change it when RZA changed his name to Bobby Digital. So I just settled with “C. James”, and then threw the “Dot” in the middle of the name. I figured this stood for my real name and plus I sign all my checks like that (Laughing). It just felt like if I kept this name, the listener would feel a little closer to me as well as my music.
Who were some of your influences?
C: I can’t really put my finger on any one person or thing that influenced me. The art of making music and the energy behind the music influenced me. There’s a lot of power in words. Writing music freed up my mind, so my thoughts would flow better. It’s almost like being a super human being. An artist’s thought pattern is a thousand times different than that of an average person.
When did you first realize that becoming a Hip-Hop artist was something that you were destined to do? What was that moment like?
C: I was always in love with music since a young kid. I think the moment was after I spit my first rhyme my freshmen year in high school and to see the reaction of the people. That was like my grand introduction into high school life. After that it was all uphill from there. I didn’t just catch on to the writing aspect of the way a song is built, but also the technical studio aspect of how a track is supposed to sonically sound.
Beside yourself, who’s your favorite emcee? Producer?
C: I know a lot of people might not say this, but my favorite emcee of all times is “Kool G Rap”. My favorite producers would have to be Just Blaze, DJ Premier, Timbaland, Dr. Dre, Scott Storch, The Hitmen (Bad Boy Producers), DJ Toomp and a couple others.
If you could work with any other artist, who would it be and why?
C: I would definitely work with “G. Rap” because that dude is amazing with his rhyme patterns. This cat been in the game for a long time and still better than these new clowns coming out.
Fans and fellow artists have the tendency to compare new artists to established artist. They tend to compare flows, lyrical content and other facets of emceeing. Which artist(s) do your peers most compare you to?
C: To tell you the truth, my peers really don’t compare me to anyone. If I did have to compare myself to someone in the industry, I would say I was like an up north T.I. When I make that statement, I mean that he’s a well-rounded artist that can really rap about anything that’s on his mind.
Tell me about your latest musical effort, your current mixtape, Sign Language. How’d you come up with that particular title? What was the concept behind it? And so forth…
C: I came up with the title because I felt like I was rapping to a bunch of people that wasn’t hearing what I was trying to say. It’s like I’m rapping for a flock of deaf people. When a person’s deaf, you have to speak sign language for that individual to understand. My main goal with the album was to deliver powerful strong records that make sense. One thing I hate about the industry right now is that there’s a bunch of wannabe artist that talk about absolutely nothing over a half ass beat.
What producers did you work with to complete this project?
C: A bulk of the music is produced by “Sinima Beats”. He produced tracks such as “Eerie Thoughts”, “Little Black Clouds”, “Murda Rap” and “Just Listen” to name a few. His style of production is just as vivid as the way I rhyme. The “Track bangas” produced “Getting’ Doe” and “A lovely Rainy Day”. “Vybe Beats” produced “Who I Am” which was the lead on the CD.
What artists are featured on Sign Language?
C: The only other artist featured on S.L. is my homeboy “Pause Flights”. He’s another emcee I think you should look out for. People that are not familiar with Pause Flights should get at him at myspace.com/pauseflights. I got to show love to my brother. Anyway, we did a song together also produced by Sinima Beats called “Ride or Die”. We displayed our lyrical skills over an almost marching band type of track. That’s one of my favorite songs on the CD. “What up!” to my peoples Pause Flights. He one of the best lyricist I know.
Sign Language is undoubtedly one of the hottest new underground mixtapes of the year. A track that really stands out is “Eerie Thoughts”. The first time I heard that track I was like “DAMN!” The illustrative words and airtight production allow the listener to visualize everything that you state. The song is packed with prominent lyrics and a plethora of visual aids. Can you tell us about the situations that sparked the creation of this track?
C: Well it’s kind of a long story but I’ll try to scale it down a bit. I was living in New Jersey back in 2005-2006 before my family and I decided to relocate to Georgia. The cost of living out in Jersey was getting sky high. We (my family) packed up our stuff and made the move. I had to [get a] job when I moved to my new location, so once again money is getting low. I had tons of previous bills that are being transferred to debt collectors and it’s nothing I can do about it. I was highly depressed with my back against the wall. Really I just spilled my mind out on to the paper of what I was feeling about myself and everyday life situations. Not in a preachy type of way, but in a way that people could kind of travel through my optical to see it the way I see. This beat was once again produced by Sinima Beats. When I heard the beat it felt like one of those all boom bap records. The pianos to me were very eerie to listen to and then I just sampled the woman’s voice using my MPC and laid it into Pro tools. Sometimes making a song like this can go either way with people. Now a days, the younger generation aren’t trying to listen to that music that feeds your mind knowledge.
The visuals continue on “Just Listen”, in which you have some interesting opinions and an abstract perspective on life itself. What were some of the obstacles that you were facing when this song was created?
C: Again like “Eerie Thoughts” this song might have been recorded in the same week as “Eerie Thoughts”. When you are down and out sometimes your mind starts to spiral out of control. By this happening it forced me to question everything around me. Second-guessing the people I was surrounding myself with amongst a long list of other things. This track was produced by “Shadowville Productions and Co-Produced by Sinima Beats”
Here’s another chance to toot your own horn (laughs). What’s your favorite song from Sign Language?
C: My favorite song on the album is… let me think… My favorite song on the album would have to be “Little Black Clouds” produced by Sinima Beats. I chose this song for the simple fact, when I wrote I was coming up out of my emotional slump in my personal life. I had to let certain things go and just move on and be strong for my family. Plus it’s inspirational to whoever listens to the song.
I’d have to say that mine is the I Am Hip-Hop outro. The drums, the hook, and the lyrics… they’re all on point. The crowd chanting “Hip-Hop” adds that extra “oomph” to an already dope cut. It definitely has an old school feel to it. If I could change/add anything, I’d say the only thing that it’s missing is maybe some scratching. It just feels like one of those songs from back in the day that would have some scratching layered over it. But it’s dope nonetheless. Who were some of the people who contributed to this track?
C: Produced by this cat that calls himself “Arkreatek Electronica”, the beat was just like you said. It felt like an old school type track. This was the last song written for the album. Before I wrote the song, I had just come from a meeting with a program director at a radio station in Atlanta, GA. I’m not going to say any names to protect the innocent (Laughing). I was trying to get some of my music played and it felt like he was frontin’ on me. There’s a lot of garbage played on them stations and he had the nerve to front on me. When I left the station, the song “I Am Hip-Hop” was crafted with a lot of venom in it.
Every artist has his or her own opinion of the state Hip-Hop. What’s yours?
C: I think Hip-Hop is strong right now. The exposure of the art form is worldwide. It’s just the people running it and the people listening to it dumb down to all this silly shit going on. That’s one thing with me, before I approach a song I like to make sure it makes sense. These so called rappers that think they are artist just say anything and think its dope. These cats always talking about swag this and swag that but can’t rap not one bit. I used to love Hip-Hop shows like “Video Music Box”, “Yo MTV Raps” and “Rap City” before BET started acting like Hip-Hop didn’t matter. I still have love for you people over at BET though. Just remember Hip-Hop is the driving force behind almost every aspect of culture now a day’s…Real talk…
Back when we were first learning to put the ink on the paper, rhymes mattered. Your success as an emcee was measured by your intellect and skill to manipulate the English language. The beat was complementary, but the rhyme is what carried the song. Nowadays, artists tend to depend on a hot beat and their swag to win over their audience. What do you think is more important, an emcee’s ability to fulfill the audience’s intellect or the other corresponding aforementioned elements?
C: It all matters if you look at the full picture. Too many cats have excuses for their music. I feel like there’s a lot of so-called artist in the industry that thinks it’s cool to be stupid. You turn their music off and listen to an interview and they can barely speak English. Then you put on their songs and there’s no creativity at all throughout their whole album, but they still sell. That’s a message in itself, which tells me that we need to think more as a people. Don’t get it twisted! I have my dose of material that some people are not supposed to listen to. I just saying let’s be more creative with the music. That’s what an artist does when it comes to penning an image that people can see.
When can your fans get the C.Dot Dollar Sign experience live on stage?
C: Well right now I’m in the process of writing and recording my next CD. I try to do shows here and there when I can. I’m a family man doing the everyday hustle of work and taking care of my fam. Time is of the essence when it comes to me making moves. One thing is for sure though; I have tremendous love for Hip-Hop music. I’ll continue to make that music that makes people reach down in their minds and think.
What’s the deal with your label U.N. 7 Street Records? What’s your company’s mission? Who’s on the roster? Release dates?
C: The Company is something my brother and I put together because we were just tired of dealing with a lot of outside drama. I had to take control of the vision for my music. The more people you cut out, the less your music becomes watered down. I am the sole artist on this label. I am the foundation of UN7 STREET RECORDS.
What’s next for you and U.N. 7 Street?
C: My next CD called “Everybody Sleeps”. I don’t have a timeline on it yet, but it’s coming.
How can your fans, artists looking to collab, or artists interested in U.N. 7 Street Records get at you?
C: They can E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or look me up on MySpace at www.myspace.com/cdotjames.
What advice do you have for those aspiring artists who are trying to make a career out of music?
C: Study your craft and make sure you make sense when you open your mouth.
If you could sum your music up in one word, what would it be?