Hailing out of Detroit, Stefan James has proven himself to be a multidimensional storyteller whose relatable thoughts span an entire generation of listeners.
Many of hip-hop’s most famous and beloved figures were, by their very nature, introspective people. When contrasted to the current landscape, Stefan James is a breath of fresh air. He’s not overly flashy or braggadocious. In fact, he actually describes himself as a rather quiet individual who is focused on himself as an artist. “I never tried to conform to anything that many other people are doing nowadays,” James tells LYFSTYL. “I truly make the music that I love personally and if others love it, then I want to continue making it because it makes me the happiest person on the world knowing that other people fuck with what I made.”
From “Blow” to “For You,” it’s easy to see why the Detroit-based artist has carved out such a loyal following at the young age of 18. Through documenting his experiences and struggles of growing up in America, James paints a vivid picture with his exceptional storytelling abilities that show his maturity is well beyond his age, with plenty of room to grow. With music that is derived from the soul and brimming with raw emotions, listeners are offered the persona of a genuine and passionate young artist.
Who is Stefan James and why should we care?
Stefan James is a person who’s trying to make a change with his music. Trying to make music that can relate to the masses and appeal to many different people no matter where you come from. I am a person who wants to tell stories of what I personally went through and I haven’t even scratched the surface of what is to come and what I can show people with my music as well. I believe people should care about me because I have something to prove to the world and to others that music can make you feel certain things.
Music can change your life, and aspire you to do and enjoy it for what it is. That’s what I plan to do and hope to do with the music I create. I hope people will love and cherish my music as much as I do making it for people to listen to it. The only satisfaction I truly need from music is someone telling me my music helped them or it’s very good, that’s why you should care about Stefan James. I am here to pleasure you with a genre I like to call vibe-hop.
Tell us a bit about your background. Did you grow up in a musical household?
My background is interesting, my father hails from Nigeria and my mother is from America. So I am the true definition of an African-American you could say. I am the youngest of three kids, I have an older brother and sister and our age-gaps are very far apart you could say but we all are close in many ways. Growing up in a household with two different cultures is interesting but never really seeing your parents show each other true love is very hard as well. Constantly arguing and fighting, so it makes you not ever have any emotions towards others in ways but that’s what made me who I am today.
My family really isn’t musical at all, the music came from a joke with friends at school I just tried it out for fun. These guys are my close friends now but when I first met them I barely knew them and went over there house to record the worst song I ever heard possibly but I just continued doing it. My cousin really is the one who helped me because he helped me buy a microphone, that I still use to this day and that made me want to get better. I didn’t want his want his money to go to waste, so if it wasn’t for my cousin I honestly wouldn’t even be making music at all.
How does your family feel about your musical pursuits. Do they wish that you would follow a traditional career path?
My mom is all for it, she loves my music and tells me to work hard at it which I should more. She believes in me and has a feeling that my music will be loved by the masses. My father on the other hand, he knows I do it but he really doesn’t pay any attention to it. He just thinks it’s a hobby and wants me to do the college and the four-years, etc. It’s hard doing something that you don’t have a passion for and that’s school. He wants me to finish out because all of his family did school, and they believe that’s the true American dream. Coming over from a different country, you look at the world different and life different so you want to do the safe moves and capture what you should instead of taking risks. I believe my Dad thinks music is a risk that won’t work out but I want to prove him wrong and I will prove him wrong.
“Music is the only thing I have truly been good at and I have even said that in a song in the past because it’s true.”
Tell us about your music.
My music is something that I use to convey my thoughts and emotions out. If you know me in person, I am a quiet person unless I know you and get comfortable to you. Many people don’t expect my music to be good because I am not vocal about it as much as I should be. My music I termed it the term vibe-hop, because it’s something you can relate to easily if you listen to my lyrics truly. Something you can vibe along too, because I don’t want to be coined or dubbed as a person who makes only one specific type of sound. I want to experiment and do as much stuff as I can without being corny. Music is the only thing I have truly been good at and I have even said that in a song in the past because it’s true. I’ve never loved something as much as music and that’s the truth. It’s the only thing I have a true passion for and the way I make it shows it.
How did you develop your sound?
I developed my sound by just continuing to practice and pick beats that I like and not what’s popular to other people. I pick things that I love, and base it off of that. I never tried to conform to anything that many other people are doing nowadays. I truly make the music that I love personally and if others love it then I want to continue making it because it makes me the happiest person on the world knowing that other people fuck with what I made.
What do you think makes you and your type of music unique from other artists?
My music is different and unique from other artists because one reason is my voice, no other rapper sounds like me and I don’t try to sound like any other rapper. I am truly Stefan James, and I try to be myself as much as possible. I want to be transparent so the average person can relate to what I talk about and love to listen to it. I don’t want to make microwave music, I plan on having my music last for decades and I want that true longevity., that’s why I look at rappers like Jay-Z and Kanye West and Drake as huge inspirations because they stood the test of time and made music that will last for decades. My music is unique because I show true passion in each word I speak and speak about what’s on my mind and what I feel in my heart. You can listen to it late at night, or blast it throughout the day. I try to hit all points with my music and I will continue expanding to what I make. I’m only 18, and I have a lot more time to grow as an artist and I will.
What was it like growing up in Detroit?
Growing up in Detroit can be tough, I’ve moved all around Michigan and lived in many parts of it. So I truly never stayed in one area of Michigan for a while, but Detroit was a place that makes you strong and makes you want to toughen up in many ways. You see things the average person shouldn’t see and you may do things the average person shouldn’t either. It’s just about how you choose to move in certain areas of the city and if you make the wrong move that could be your life.
With artist like Eminem, Big Sean and Danny Brown hailing from Detroit, the city has always played a major role in Hip-hop music. How do you feel about Detroit’s growing music scene?
Detroit’s growing music scene is pretty dope. We’ve had Tee Grizzley who recently blew up and he is the essence of that true Detroit hip-hop sound. It’s dope to have someone like that show the world that Detroit got real talent. Eminem of course is one of the greatest rappers of all time and he’s showed everybody that the midwest and more specifically Detroit got something to say. The music is scene is growing big and there’s a lot of artists who are good in their own right and then you have the true Detroit rap-sound which I don’t make personally but it’s still there and big in the city. Doughboyz Cashout are legends to me in this city and they continue making great music.
Detroit has faced countless hardships over the years, its citizens are some of America’s most resilient. How has the city shaped you as a musician, but also as a young black man growing up in America?
Detroit has gone through a lot and I believed the city shaped me to never give up on anything. Not to sound corny or stereotypical but I don’t believe any other city has gone through what we had to endure financially and just with our own mayor situations in a while. Also the crime doesn’t help either. Whenever you tell someone you’re from Detroit they get a misconception about how you truly are and always give you that look out the corner of their eye. They just put you into a box and hope you stay in it. But they can’t box me or my music because I am going to break out of it and show people that the people from Detroit are all talented in our own right and good people at the end of the day.
Growing up a young black man in America is a nightmare in itself because you never know what might happen. Not to get into detail, but if you know you know. But I am proud to be an african-american because I get to show my true self and not be afraid of anything and look up to the men who came before me and showed people that being black doesn’t change anything. If they are afraid of what I look like then they need to get help to understand that we are all humans at the end of the day. We are all made from one Man and that is God or whoever you may believe in.
Tell us about your EP Basalt. Why the name and what can listeners expect to learn about Stefan James on the project?
My project is music that I have made from the heart and songs that I tried to start talking more personal with. Before I was just talking about whatever with my music but with these 6 songs, I speak about my life, growing up, and just what’s on my mind honestly. I’m only 18, and these are just the start of what is to come for me. This was very fun to make and put together and it’s taken months for this EP to come about because I always was procrastinating but I am happy that it’s finally out.
“Being an African American man, people just see black instead of what is truly there.”
I chose the name Basalt, because Basalt is known as a black rock made from the ground, I believe. Being an African American man, people just see black instead of what is truly there. I don’t want to say my soul is black, but it represents it because I haven’t felt true happiness in a very long time. I’ve been sad and lost, and Basalt and the color black can represent me honestly. But the color black is also ominous and mysterious because you never truly know what it can mean and how it truly co-sides with what is out there in the world. Listeners can expect a variety of music that will enter my mind and try to depict it in their head as well. Relatable with what I say and enjoyable with what you hear. I hope this project will be the step in the direction I want to go in and I know and believe that it will be.
Stream Basalt below and download the project here.