written by Laik C
Now that the loosely defined "DMV" label is phasing out, artists from Maryland that may or may not live in Baltimore or D.C. are simply representing Maryland as a whole. With Chocolate City not looking quite so chocolate — thanks to the chilling levels of gentrification in D.C — and race and class tensions spilling over into full fledged riots in Baltimore, the anger levels and need for unity seem to be equal in both regions. It's almost as if a silent truce has been called for between the two mid-Atlantic cities, and every area in between and surrounding has taken the hint. The result has been a lingering feeling of excitement and experimentation in the air. It was a great year for the state music-wise, especially considering the swift rise of acts such as Chris McClenney, abhi//dijon, and Dirty Chocolate.
But the region is also “crowded” accorded to Innanet James, who is another of these emerging artists representing Maryland. “Crowded--it's cool but it's crowded. It's just so much music.” This is how Innanet looks at the area's music scene. “I love the underground scene but it's like people just throw anything out there. They don't care if it's mixed or mastered,” James says. “There are artists from Maryland that I love, but then there's artists from here where you can tell, ‘Yeah, you don’t really want to do this.’”
Innanet James is another rising artist from the DMV area. In the midst of popularity contests in hip hop's cosign age it's a risk to listen someone new. People will even like something but won't vouch for it until it gets stamped by someone they consider bigger and more hip. Innanet has given us a quality track that can bypass these loops, a song with message that won't put listeners to sleep, or fall into the abyss of local hype. We recently linked with him outside D.C. to hear out how he got wise enough at 20 to filter the unnecessary and jump right into reaching a more national audience.
Recorded in April but not completed until months later, James’ single “Black" came about spontaneously with one verse, and ended up as an ode to black pop culture. Preferring to be slow and methodical, it’s typical for it to take James about two to three months to finish a song. Right now he’s patiently waiting for “Black” to catch on organically on the blogs. The song may sound politically driven but the concept was triggered by simple yet absurd interactions James noticed on social media.
“On Twitter you could see black men saying ‘Fuck black women!' Like yo, you’re black! That’s wild, that’s wild. That’s what the whole first verse was for, it was a verse for women. And then I just made it a whole song after what happened with the police incidents.”
Innanet had other atypical answers for us when we recently linked with him on D.C’s U Street. Like how he developed his voice, for example. "Man I be talking, I be talking like shit," he laughed. And he talks a lot, apparently depending on whether or not he's feeling a good vibe from the person he's speaking to. After living in Maryland, Virginia, and D.C. at one point, Innanet drew in experiences from all three areas to give himself a mature edge for a 20-year-old.
“(I’ve) been recording since 16. I didn't get good at that shit until I was like 18, 19. Passed up on talent shows. I was always like 'fuck a talent show, I'ma get out here and I'ma do it.’ I don’t know how I thought I was gonna get on 930 Club just like off buck. But I never did a talent show, I was just rapping at friend's houses, recording here and there. We got into a real studio, that situation got shitty. We got up outta there, got into a new studio. Now I take that shit seriously, and now we're off."
With such clear direction, and realistic ideals about work ethic and fame, it should be interesting to see what happens next for James. “I just don’t wanna be here and not here, I don’t wanna be a one hit one wonder and then put out a bunch of bs after.”