Detroit-based rapper Stefan James deciphers the profound lyrics and poetic flow found throughout his debut Basalt EP.
Stefan James may be just 18, but the young hip-hop artist is already beginning to make a name for himself among fans everywhere for his sharp lyricism and signature vibe-hop style. His debut EP, Basalt, released earlier this year, epitomizes the humble maturity and cool poise of the Detroit native. In the age of braggadocious acts that are often more spectacle than substance, the unfiltered emotions and thoughts of Stefan James are a refreshing breath of fresh air.
With “Lost” James begins the project with talk about the relatable struggles of life and identity in front of most 18-year olds. Whereas tracks like “Come Thru” and “Used” both detail past experiences with girls in contrasting manners. Whatever it is, James leaves it all out in the open with his poetic flow and profound lyric scheme.
Regardless of what’s on his mind, Stefan James feels well beyond his years, with his thoughts and feelings showing a cognizant and introspective young man with a story to share. Like many conscious rapper who depend on lyricism, Stefan James’ Basalt is one that features layers of depth that may require more than one listen and often reading between the lines to really soak in and decipher.
1. “Lost” (prod. 1000arc)
The vibe of the song “Lost” comes from the heart, honestly. Speaking about real things going on in my life, this song is what makes Stefan James who he is today and he wants to grow as a person. Tired of feeling lost because, at the end of the day, I am still lost in what I want to do. I am lost in where I want to go with my life, I am lost with the people I talk to. I feel like I don’t even know myself at times, but this song is what sums up Stefan James currently.
“How you finna’ seem them clouds boy, if you never seen the mouthafuckin’ dirt”
This is a lyric that can touch pretty much anyone who’s always wanted to achieve something in their life, but you have to start from somewhere and a lot of people literally started from the dirt. Seen the gutter, seen the bad things in their lives to want to achieve what they exactly want. Everyone has their own bottom and they all want to make something from it.
“Dad was laid off, never had money to get anything paid off”
This is another line that represents a certain time in my life where things were very hard. Only had cheap foods to heat up such as frozen pizzas, but thank God things have gotten better. Times can be very hard for people but you have to have grace in God and yourself to make better of it.
“Facing reality, while i’m chasing salary”
This line also hits home because it’s what many people are going through and can easily relate too. You are facing what life brings you but the end goal is to make money and to be able to live, but life throws multiple things at you that can be an object in the way of the money.
2. “Come Thru”
“Come Thru” is a song about a female of course. Well more than one female experience that I have had combined into one song. It’s tough for me to be committed to one at a young age and that sounds bad, but that’s just the truth at the moment. This song is my favorite off of the EP because the vibe of it is very smooth. Speaking about how I am living at times, and having a girl worry about me and fucking with her mind. Everyone has had that one person in their life who they would anything for and this girl was that person for some time. But as time went on, things changed and things got worse. I’m talking about my faults in the relationship and how I as a person messed up because everyone has made terrible mistakes.
“Putting my girl through the struggle”
I’ve had her going crazy almost, not thinking about what I was doing at the time. Just acting and doing as I pleased, but she cared about me so it hurt her very much.
“Wake up everyday, feels like another fight”
It’s hard sometimes when you are living a life when you are lost. No direction in where you want to go or what you want to do. Sometimes you think what if, I didn’t have to wake up another day. What if I could just sleep forever, it’s the sad truth at times.
“See life ain’t no game, it’s reality. Live it how you wanna live Still gone’ be seen as a minority”
Life is life, it’s as real as it gets and you should want to live it how you want because you only have one shot at enjoying life. But at the end of the day, I am an African American and I am gonna be treated differently because of who I am and what I look like. It doesn’t matter if we are in the 60’s or 2050, it’s just how life is gonna be for me.
3. “Used” (Interlude)
Used, is a song about one specific girl. A girl who basically told me she loved me, had me in love with her. She changed my whole mentality about girls, basically was talking to one of my close friends at the same time and telling me things I always wanted to hear from a girl. It’s tough going through this at a young age and then you have trust issues for the rest of your life. Currently, I can’t have any real emotions towards girls because of this girl, because of how she damaged it. It’s just the honest truth and I don’t give a fuck about how it sounds. It sucks, but it’s hard to repair it.
“My mind is lost in lust, my heart may turn to dust”
When you are so caught up in lusting over a female. It’s hard to get out of it. It’s a certain feeling you get but when you are in too deep, it takes control of your heart. Takes control of what you really want to feel and can just tear your heart out of your chest. It’s the sad truth, but it’s also very real.
“Never call a woman a bitch, but that’s the only way I can describe her, she worse than a robber, she stole my heart I can’t even fucking call her”
I never like to call a woman out of their name because of how I grew up seeing that all the time. It’s hurtful, but sometimes when a woman acts like that it’s tough to not want to say it or address her as that. Not all women are bitches, because there’s a big difference between the two. She stole my heart and tore it into two. It’s hard to even want to continue on with wanting to even talk to another girl after something like this happens to you.
Blow is just me talking about what’s on my mind at times. Talking about my life and things that I have experienced and my city Detroit. Sometimes you need tracks like this to just get thoughts off of your mind and go off on it. Using different flows and different rhyme schemes just to talk that shit. I wanna blow, that’s the basis of it. I wanna blow to the best of all-time at this and this song is the general culmination of that. It’s a relatable song as well because who doesn’t want to blow or be the best they can be at what they want to do? Sometimes you don’t know what it may exactly be but you always know you want to blow up to the best.
“Product of my neighbourhood, where no one wanna stay for good.
Detroit, it’s a city where once you make it, people leave instantly because it has a history of rappers who stayed in the city and ended up dead. It’s very sad, but no one ever wants to see you win because they are always jealous of someone doing better than them.
“DFG, that’s the family”
If you been in Detroit, and know the history. You know what DFG is.
“Treating insanity I was born into nigga”
This music is the only way I can really express myself. I’m not too good at doing it with just talking, so I use this as a way for me to let out all of the bottled up emotions I may have at the time. Writing and just talking about what’s on my mind really opens up a lot for me and helps me to achieve what I want.
4. “Things Change”
This song is very very close to my heart because I am speaking about my parents and how I am currently living in my life. Sometimes most artists aren’t transparent and just talk about lies and only talk about certain things. We all want to envision those things but sometimes we have to be real and talk about the bad things in our lives. Being in a household where there’s no love shown from your parents to each other can be very tough for a kid and it makes them think that no one ever shows love in any household. Then you have different aspects of that life intertwining and money being hard to come by. Living in a house that’s not even yours. It’s tough man.
“Live fast, die young that motto being overdone”
This is a motto a lot of people live by and have lived by. Doing what they want out of life but going way too soon. I believe that we should strive to live as long as we can because life is only given to us once. That doesn’t mean live life without any risks but you should be smart about what you want to do in your life.
“Momma lost money and got no job, Dad paying for everything gotta hear him sob”
When both of your parents are struggling to make ends meet. It’s tough. You out here trying to figure out how to help, how to get money for yourself. Should I just sell drugs? Should I get a job? I mean it’s hard. All these questions in your head and you still don’t know what to do or how to react.
“Speak it into existence, always being persistent, never being distant, my rap career going up fuck being pessimistic, always being positive, God made me optimistic, my nigga never get it twisted.”
These bars right here sum up what I feel like. Speak it into existence is a motto I certainly live by and you should always be persistent with what you want. Although at times I don’t work as hard as I should, I am not distant from my dream. I know my career as an artist will go up and I won’t be pessimistic about it. Always keeping a positive mindset, and with God anything can happen. So don’t get it fucking twisted.
Simply just a banger to me. This a song you play, windows down and blasting it. The beat really makes this song, I loved it so much. One of my favourite songs I made. This song is the perfect mix of vibe-hop, being relatable but also having a great time with it. I’m talking my shit on this track, and I do it in a good way. Talking some real stuff on it as well, but keeping it my way.
“Who you are in the valley, is who you are”
When you are in the valley, in the darkest and deepest part of your life. That’s how you really are, that’s when the real you prevail. When you are thrown into the wolves, you really show your true colours.
“Fucking with me is a no-no, unless you want that smoke tho”
“All I want is a hunnid million fucking dollars”
It’s a dream, it’s what I achieve to get in one day and continuously making it for the rest of my life.
“I’m just waiting, debating cus’ I’m gon’ be the greatest to do it”
That’s what I strive for with music, I want to be the greatest. I want to be in that conversation and I won’t stop working until I get to that point.
Words by Braeden Alexander – Listen to BASALT on SoundCloud now.