Mary James [Prolific Profile]
Vancouver, B.C. – It’s always refreshing to see a new face and hear a new voice come up in the scene. Mary James is doing her thing on the West Coast and is drawing some attention – not only for her sultry looks and silky voice but for being an independent thinker who isn’t afraid to express those thoughts. We think she’s pretty great in all regards, so Mary James is the latest Prolific Profile from Vancouver.
HipHopCanada: How do you define hip-hop, and where do you feel you fit into that definition?
Mary James: Hip-hop is defined as a culture that is supported by MCs, DJs, beatboxers, breakers/dancers, producers and graffiti artists. Together all these elements constitute a lifestyle. During my youth I remember hanging around the neighborhood, going to house parties and just kicking it with friends where all the elements of hip-hop were present. We never really would label and define ourselves that way though. We just did what we did. Or, maybe that was just me not paying attention to the label. Later on as I got older I formed a connection with hip-hop. I went to live abroad in Europe and when I returned to Canada I moved to Toronto to study music at Trebas Institute for the Recorded and Film Arts. When I was there, the nickname given to me by teachers and fellow students became Hip-Hop. Everybody just called me Hip-Hop. I’m not even sure why but I guess that is why Hip-Hop is more than just a genre of music. Hip-hop to me is MC Lyte, Monie Love, The Jungle Brothers, JDilla, The Pharcyde, A Tribe Called Quest, Del La Soul, Outkast and videos on Rap City, graffiti in the streets of Paris. I fit into the definition because this is my life. I am an MC who raps and sings over production by very talented producers.
HipHopCanada: What drives you to stay in a business that is rarely profitable and highly competitive?
Mary James: Well, I come from a very artistic and creative family. Everybody sings, everybody acts in my family – my father grew up in the Caribbean and he is a well-known Calypso singer there, he has pretty much retired but when he still performs he goes by the name of Evvo. My younger sister Monice Peter is a professional actress/radio host – she has been featured in various stage productions and made for TV movies. I just saw her in a film over Christmas and it blew me away. So performance and creativity comes naturally and is really is like a currency in my family. I’m driven by my passion and love for music and the business. I can’t really imagine a life where music is not a large part of it. When I was studying music business in college I tried to acquire the skills & knowledge that is important when balancing creativity with commerce. I always try to brush up my business skills constantly. The business is always changing. Most recently I’ve studied Entertainment Law at UBC. I try to be smart about things business side of things. The making music part comes from my heart and soul. It comes from a very honest place.
HipHopCanada: Where are you based specifically?
Mary James: I am based in East Vancouver but so far during my career I have lived in Toronto, Calgary, London (England) and Manchester (England).
HipHopCanada: How has living there influenced your sound?
Mary James: I think my new record Honey Dew for the most part has a very laid-back, mellow and chill sound. You know that easy riding West Coast sound? Yeah, I hear that in my record. Living in Vancouver is why it sounds that way for sure. It’s not like the grit and grimy sound that use to come out of me when I lived in Manchester or even Toronto. Not at all. I went to school in Toronto’s Regent Park, that neighborhood is fairly rough, when I was spending time there a lot the music I was creating had a pretty hard edge. I like the way Vancouver has given my sound a soulful introspective tint. Also, I live very close to Moka Only and he has produced the majority of songs on my record.
HipHopCanada: Who is your primary fan base?
Mary James: My primary fan base generally have an eclectic taste in music, they enjoy pure and alternative forms of hip-hop. They are worldwide. My fans are the best and I love and respect them all. I get a lot of love from Africa and places in Europe, social networking has made this possible. Also California, New York and Delaware. And of course my Canadian fans are like no other. So much love from my peers, family and friends in Canada.
HipHopCanada: What tips would you give young artists coming up, or what do you wish someone would have told you when you first started out in the hip-hop industry?
Mary James: That’s a tough one for me. I was very lucky to have meet Moka Only who is a pioneer in Canadian hip-hop and is one of the most prolific artists ever. When I first started out in hip-hop I worked as his manager and we toured Canada together for about a year. This was about five years ago. While on the road he shared a lot with me about the business and essentially he taught me how to rap – to be frank. I feel very blessed to have had an opportunity to ask him for advice and support. With that said, I feel like an emerging artist, I seriously wish that someone with wisdom could draw me a map directing me to the top. Everybody has their own journey though. I think the most important thing I would say to artists coming up is, stay true to yourself and your art. Create music and art that is honest and from the heart… just this one simple thing will take you far.
HipHopCanada: In which ways do you interact with your community?
Mary James: I interact with my community through social networking and on the street. I love meeting people face to face. I know people these days are into text messaging and BBM-ing which I am too – I am a social networking junkie. I believe this has made the world smaller and has brought us all closer together but nothing beats an old fashioned phone call or exchanging a fist pound on the street with your homies.
HipHopCanada: Which artists have you worked with that left an impression on you, and why?
Mary James: Oh No The Disrupt, he is amazingly talented, he left an impression on me because he makes dope beats but also because I feel like I relate to him as a person. Oh No produced a track for me called All My Ladies. The video features Luckyiam of the Living Legends and can be found on You Tube. Moka Only has also left a memorable impression on me. I truly feel that Moka gets slept on. He is so talented as an artist, his balance of beats and rhymes is spectacular. We all know him from the Swollen Members but I am telling you – check out this solo catalogue, it’s crazy. He also mentors so many artist around the world. Moka’s work is always on point and he performs and creates art with the highest of integrity and class. I dig that.
HipHopCanada: Which Canadian artist would you most like to collaborate with?
Mary James: Saukrates and the Big Black Lincoln Crew! I have been a fan of Saukrates for ages. But really I would love to work with a bunch of Canadian artists, we have so much great talent here. I mean, Brassmunk they were so dope. I think Def3 would be great to work with, MC Marvel, Classified, Swollen Members, Concise & Checkmate and of course Ron Contour. There are so many.
HipHopCanada: Tell us about past and present successes, as well as future projects?
Mary James: As I said before I started out working as Moka Only’s manager. In 2007 I released a demo EP produced by Oh No The Disrupt called The School of James. Shortly after that I released a DVD called Lover, Lover Down which features a series of self directed music videos. Coming up in 2011 I am releasing my debut album called Honey Dew. The first video single from the project is called “Better Than Diamonds & Pearls.” .Please take some time to check out my audio single release featuring Jeff Spec, the track is called “What Cha Gonna Do.” I really dig it.
HipHopCanada: Any last words for the HipHopCanada online community?
Mary James: Peace, thanks for all your support! Visit me online.