“I was at a show in New Orleans, standing outside, sipping my Jack and Coke. A tipsy guy comes up to me and said ‘Aren’t you Jamesville?’ I said yes, because I wasn’t sure how long it might take to explain how my name is pronounced to the inebriated mind.”
That’s the story behind the title of hip-hop artist James Seville’s forthcoming E.P., Jamesville. Set for an August release, it features production from Pell and a guest spot from Los Angeles indie rap duo TiRon & Ayomari. It will serve as the formal introduction to the New Orleans native’s music, which he describes as “an alternative version of rap.” With a focus on live instrumentation, the 23-year-old’s sound is elastic enough to be played with a full band but still retains touches of Southern bounce. Together, these elements represent key qualities of contemporary New Orleans hip-hop.
After his house in Gentilly was destroyed, James spent time growing up in Uptown, Mid-City and Algiers. Enrolling at UNO to study journalism, he dropped out after a year to pursue music. That decision coincided with the death of his father, a blues guitarist whom he credits with spurring his ambition. “He would be in the living room writing a song and I would be in my room writing a song with a completely different vibe, but he understood what I was into. I always cherished that connection,” he says.
“I am really inspired by a lot of older New Orleans musicians. My mom always took me out of school and brought me to Jazz Fest ever since I can remember. I met Allen Toussaint when I was nine-years-old because his grandson and I were in the same Taekwondo program and that was a huge moment for me. Some other New Orleans artists that really inspire me are Lil Wayne and Pell. He pushes me from a friend/mentor perspective, showing me that I can actually make this whole thing happen.”
Jamesville will document the last five years of his life. As he explains, “I open up a lot and talk about things that have helped me grow throughout the years…losing my dad, dropping out of school, falling in love, falling out of love, drinking, drugs…” But before releasing the soul-baring material, James Seville is premiering the Dominic Scott-directed video for “Theme Song,” which does not appear on Jamesville. “The idea of this track is just to be a theme song for all the music I am releasing this year,” he says. “I like to make music that is genuinely good, and that people of all ages can enjoy. Rap music that you and your mom can bump together.”
Produced by Mitch Geist, “Theme Song” is a prelude to James’s forthcoming work. “I call it an introduction because it’s a similar vibe and kind of gets you ready for what is to come from Jamesville not only as a song, but the video displays the aesthetic I have displayed within the last few months: lots of colors and matching sounds. I am really into matching sounds with visuals. The video is a feeling that will continue on Jamesville. Expect lots of colors and visually enticing content. I really want to continue to use colors to help display how I’m feeling.”