Trinidad James definitely wasn’t high on ecstasy while talking with the Straight from his home in Atlanta, Georgia. The 26-year-old rapper who uttered the oh-so-repeatable line “Popped a molly, I’m sweating, woo” in his smash hit “All Gold Everything” answers questions in a pleasant, concise manner. It’s a far cry from someone ripped to the tits on amphetamines, who’d likely blather on for hours about everything from how they lost their virginity to the PIN on their bank card. It would be nice to know James’s PIN, though. On the strength of “All Gold Everything” and its accompanying viral video—where he peacocks through the streets of the ATL sporting Versace slippers, hella gold jewellery, and an adorable pit-bull puppy—he was swiftly signed to a seven-figure deal with Def Jam.
“Just in general things move fast, but it’s a process. I can’t even exactly remember when each thing happened because I wasn’t focused on just success,” the man born Nicolas Williams recalls. “I’m still, and was figuring it out even more then, working on skills as an artist.”
He appears to have it all pretty dialled in, considering he’d only been rapping for nine months when “All Gold Everything” dropped. Since then, he’s launched his own imprint, Gold Gang Records, and guested on tracks by the likes of ASAP Ferg, August Alsina, and Gucci Mane, and he’s currently completing “10 songs of greatness” for his major-label debut.
“I don’t beg for anything, and I definitely didn’t beg for fame. Definitely. I just know that my music is something I felt people needed to hear,” he asserts. “I didn’t put a gun to anybody’s head and make them listen to music and buy it.”
James won’t put a gun to your head, but he might do something far more sinister: critique your shoes. Before becoming a famous rapper he managed a streetwear boutique, and late last year he launched a video blog where he passionately shares stylish footwear from his collection. It’s a stark contrast to his music videos, where he’s hurling racial epithets while surrounded by thugs and strippers.
“I was just thinking of different ways to allow my fans to be able to relate to me and understand me some more. And, just in general, I never really knew of an artist who actually knew about shoes the way I did and could talk about it,” he says.
The gem of his collection is the wet dream of anyone who grew up in the ’80s: the 2011 Nike Mag. “They’re a retro remake of the tennis shoe Michael J. Fox wore in Back to the Future with the hoverboard,” the sneakerhead giddily explains.
These fabled, limited-edition shoes were auctioned off to raise money for Parkinson’s disease research, and some hit prices upwards of 10 grand—not exactly the kind of thing someone slogging it out in retail can afford. Rappers signed to major labels, however, can.
“It’s crazy—one day you’re looking at a shoe [and thinking] ‘maybe one day I can afford it,’ ” the rap game’s Imelda Marcos recalls. “Then I got the shoes and I’d worked hard to get them and it was really dope.”
James has been tipped off about the best sneaker stores in Vancouver and will be here shortly. So if you’re a size 11 and needing a new pair, you’d best act quickly. Might as well rock those kicks at the show, too. That’ll get him sweating more than a big bag of molly ever would.
Trinidad James plays Venue next Wednesday (April 16).