5 Reasons Self-Proclaimed Hip Hop Purists Hate Trinidad James

The Internet exploded when Trinidad James tweeted about being dropped from Def Jam. Does the vitriol say more about his talent or the preconceived notions of some Hip Hop fans?

Rapping ability is a difficult thing to quantifiably measure. You can break down a rapper’s technical merits, as Paul Edwards has done in his How To Rap series. On a less granular level, you can even discuss an individual artists delivery, as we recently did. But at some point, the concession is made that a rapper’s ability (or lack thereof) is subject to individual tastes. That said, by most accounts, Hip Hop’s intelligentsia, the purchasing public and even a significant amount of media outlets have come to the conclusion that Trinidad James is not a good rapper. He shared some accomplishments with emcees who have been deemed good rappers—mainstream media coverage, a hit single, and a deal with Def Jam for his own label. But the spoils of a Rap career and even the popularity that sometimes accompany such spoils do not equate to skill.

Trinidad James is neither the first nor the last artist who achieved commercial success and/or popularity despite a perceived lack of rapping ability. So why was the announcement he was dropped from Def Jam met with such vitriol?

“Great, now he can sit his broke, untalented ass the fuck down,” wrote Malik Affortu via HipHopDX’s Facebook page when the news broke. He wasn’t alone.

Odell Robinson added, “This need to happen to alot [sic] more rappers soulja boy asap rocky. Young thug lil wayne all them garbage artist only real people kno [sic] what im [sic] talkin bout”

They were joined by the likes of Ian Sotoloff who wrote the following:

“HAHAHAHA, thank god they finally realized Trinidad James is a joke and an insult to hip hop”

And Dontae Donnell chimed in as well, writing, “Great move for hiphop and an iconic label.”

As with all polarizing arguments, the truth probably lies in some kind of grey area. But in terms of simplifying things, here are some of the most obvious reasons Trinidad James is stirring up so much commentary among his fans and detractors.

He’d Been Rapping Less Than A Year Before “All Gold Everything”

Trinidad James’ formal Rap career started in 2011. That means James’ gold-selling hit single “All Gold Everything” was released within less than one year into his Rap career.

“I started playing around in November of last year [2011], and I just stopped messing with it,” James told Hot 97’s Ebro Darden in a December 2012 interview. “Then two months after February [of 2012] I decided to do the tape.”

Given that he’s a mainstream neophyte, his style—from dress to emceeing—didn’t fit the established Rap mold. As well, the single “All Gold Everything” is a lampooning of the zeitgeist, from Rap blipsters-turned-EDM-intrigued turn ups blithely using MDMA for the first time, to yes, Rap’s perpetual obsession with the traditional ideal of golden opulence. Two “wrongs” don’t make a right in the game of life, but in 60 years of Pop music history, it’s the “golden” rule.

He Said Atlanta Runs New York

For the guy who many considered a lampooning of Hip Hop itself, with a single that became a hit because of his making fun of Hip Hop by doing Hip Hop while making fun of himself, to say that “Atlanta runs New York,” while at the time true, was disturbing. He had already made it clear that this record proved he had outsmarted just about everyone. The garish bling, open shirt, and hypebeast sensibilities created a caricature of an image. Of course, considering his identity as a rapper was still in flux, and he happened to strike, ahem, gold, as he was trying on faces, he chose to experiment with a sound he wasn’t sure of to begin with. To this day when you watch that grainy video of him on that SOB’s stage it feels like he was some sort of run-of-the-mill Internet commenter that hit a soft vein with a rogue comment. Unfortunately for him it would be the beginning of the end.

People Have An Unrealistic Perception Of Def Jam

The name Def Jam is historically associated with some of the most iconic emcees ever. I don’t think that statement is mere hyperbole. From LL Cool J to Public Enemy, Jay Z, Slick Rick and the Beastie Boys, some of Hip Hop’s finest have inhabited the house that Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin built. But no label is immune to a brick, and the good folks at Def Jam are also responsible for Bo$$, Flatlinerz, Tru Life and some other trash if you care to do the research.

“Def Jam prides itself as both a cornerstone of Hip Hop’s rich tradition, and as a vital, forward-thinking label dedicated to breaking and nurturing emerging artists,” noted Def Jam President Joie Manda in a December 2012 statement to MTV news confirming Trinidad James signing. “Trinidad James represents the cutting-edge of what’s happening in the culture today. We are thrilled to have him at the label, and look forward to growing his already massive buzz.”

If you view Def Jam only through the eyes of being a “cornerstone of Hip Hop’s rich tradition,” then yes, reportedly giving Trinidad James a $2 million deal seems like a sin against Hip Hop. But record labels are businesses, and their ultimate goal is to make money not preserve the sanctity of Hip Hop. The Trinidad James signing and subsequent release happened for the same reason: the almighty dollar.

He Had “Rapper” Accolades Without The Perceived Skills

A person who rhymes Spelman with Freshman isn’t exactly the best rapper of all time. And that’s what made the song so hypnotizing. Here was something anyone could have done and didn’t; it’s simplicity was intoxicating. So was it’s just reckless use of the word “nigga,” which seemed like a parody of Rap that people outside of the genre make fun of Rap for. That kind of blatant pandering to a demographic, whether intentional or not, proved really, really useful to him in the virality section of the web, but when it came time to prove his mettle as someone who wasn’t just stereotyping, he fell apart. None of his other songs resonated with the same type of reckless abandon that “All Gold Everything,” did. And considering the fact that none of his other songs appealed to college kids whose only sense of depth is false-irony, you can see why he didn’t stick around as long as we thought he might.

The Cognitive Dissonance Of “All Gold Everything”

Hit songs become hit songs for a reason. They’re catchy, and in turn their popularity grows. According to Nielsen SoundScan, “All Gold Everything” sold 97,000 copies within its first 30 days of release. Within that same time span it reached #23 on Billboard magazine’s “Hot 100” chart and amassed over 3 million YouTube views. There’s a common mistake of using “popular” and “good” interchangeably. You can quantitatively measure how popular a song is using sales and radio play among other metrics. But can you similarly measure the quality or how “good” a song is? Probably not. And in this confusion, people have conflicting views. It’s okay to dance to a hit song or even admit it’s catchy. That’s literally why it was manufactured. And these two concepts don’t have to exist in binary opposition. But if you can’t make that distinction, imagine how torturous it is to catch yourself nodding to “All Gold Everything.”


Additional contribution by Marcus Dowling.


RELATED: Trinidad James Calls Himself A "Connoisseur Of Music" & Reacts To Viral Success [Interview]



  • Anonymous

    Trinidad on work remix

  • frenchi

    Def Jam who is that forgot about them until TrinidadvJames signed with them. Only one poppin on that label now is Iggy.

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  • D-Train

    Def Jam hasn't been a hip hop label since the 80's. It's a pop label like all the other ones...There are no major labels that are hip hop period ! The South runs commercial Pop rap and that is why its so simple and terrible... Nothing complex just a stupid beat with chants... I'll keep the real hip hop and leave the pop garbage to the sheep, just stop calling everything rap related hip hop because it's not the same. As for Trinidad Jame he is terrible and that is how the pop world goes, champ to chump. There is a new Trinidad James waiting to make his million it's just a cycle of non talented fast food rap...

  • Anonymous

    trinidad james changed my life

  • Wake Up

    BO$$ was trash? She had to #1 singles and I believe her album was close to going gold. Whoever came up with that one is illiterate, for those who know what happened knows that Russell dropped the ball on her project. In comparison to today's female MC's, BO$$ would easily out-rap the vast majority of them and these pseudo-trap rappers she would bury them lyrically and I would love to debate her skills on the mic and as a song-writer who wrote all her own lyrics. I would debate anyone in comparison to her, now the others like Flatlinerz and Tru Life, I would agree.

    • D-Train

      Boss was a group at first & her name was Dee, she was dope but people got on her because she wasn't from the streets of Detroit like she claimed.... I saw them in Concert with Brand Nubian and Onyx and it was dope...

  • Anonymous

    Oh look, a hip hop journalist trying to talk about hip hop like it's one homogenous mass. People wanna talk about how big and diverse hip hop is but every site is full of shit articles like this.

  • kithloyd

    Part of the problem is this idea that rapping is some natural "gift" and so you don't have to practice or work at it or learn any skills or techniques. Imagine if guitar players did that, "I was just born with it, I never played it before, but I know I got a gift for it, so I'll just pick it up and be good right from the get-go." We'd have awful guitar players who couldn't even strum one chord because they thought they just "had it".

    • Anonymous

      Realtalk and kithloyd is the same person lol!!! "Look at the way they both type same." And look how they both leave big spaces after their sentence.. Lol who you fooling???

    • realtalk

      @Anonymous Kithloyd is correct, it's exactly the same, b. Thinking that it's somehow different is the problem. People think rapping is some mystical power and that's why we have all these wack mystical-power rappers today instead of people with proper skills. The other big problem is the "I don't write it down on paper" rappers. That's why their stuff is so wack, because they don't write it down or work on it at all.

    • Anonymous

      not quite the same, b.

  • Anonymous

    tru enough, but all these reasons are fundamentally bullshit. hip hops history kinda negates a lot of ppls perception of what they feel pure hip hop is. but as a form hip hops beginnings are closer to trinidad james than ppl want to admit.

  • Anonymous

    real hp hop fans kiled trinidad james career

  • Tranny Dad James

    Looks like the last we will hear from the creator of "Downsyndrome rap"

  • mgruppe.com

    this is sad, he was the only one representing true horseshit

  • Tishauna

    Except boss wasn't garbage and could rap circles around Trinidad.

  • Bigchance

    Anonymous: There are plenty of worse rappers out there than this guy right now. I hope he puts out a dope ass album and dissapoints all you haters!

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  • Hypestyle the Living Tribunal

    If Def Jam really wanted to be taken seriously, they would create a "Def Jam Classics" imprint and sign golden age acts like Whodini, Big Daddy Kane, Melle Mel, MC Lyte, Slick Rick, Doug E Fresh, Public Enemy, and let them create the albums they want with no corporate interference. Bring real rappers back.

  • Anonymous

    There are plenty of worse rappers out there than this guy right now. I hope he puts out a dope ass album and dissapoints all you haters

    • Anonymous

      there have been generic rappers since the beginning, i don't think that makes any of them bad...just not anything special.

    • Anonymous

      Not really. hes about as bad as it gets when i describe a shitty rapper, his music fits the definition. and the way he dress's acts and talks. its funny if anything.

  • Harlem's Reckoning

    If you want to write an article that hits home, do an article about WHY Def Jam signed his jive ass in the first place. Do an article on why his shit got so many spins on radio. Research why this walking minstrel show, and there are many others, are paraded so boldly as representatives of our culture. And then allow yourself to come full circle and truthfully discuss why he's no longer being fucked with. And Atlanta NEVER ran NY. Atlanta flooded the market and we all got fucking soaked. Physics. Period.

    • Philly

      So true Dame. So true. But all these hip hop blogs and publications lack that Edward R. Murrow or Edward Bradley in depth analysis skill. Naw no a days "journalist" want to know stuff like..What would happen if Wiz smoked a dutch instead of raw papers...Compounding the sheeple nap.

  • tigerking79

    He is just wack, it has nothing to do with being a hip hop purist. HHDX step your game up and quit supporting ignorant rap promoted by corporate white amerikkka.

  • e

    I liked women are welcome.i think he has something to offer. hiphop nowadays seems to be about everyone sounding the same.

  • Anonymous

    wtf is cognitive dissonance tho??????????? take that shit to pitchfork *WORLDSTAR!!!*

  • BW$MG

    Dddaaaammmnnn why dey hatin so much ??? Trinidad James couldnt be THAT good , but hes real at all . I fucks wit Trinidad James n Ill always to . There are lots of fake rappers in the game n yall sayin nothing . Dey hatin on James cuz his mouth is whorty than their lives . Fuck niggas I hate that jealous . Trinidad James is betta than dis trap niggas , big sean n young money muthafucks dey THIS A REAL TALK

  • Anonymous

    "But no label is immune to a brick, and the good folks at Def Jam are also responsible for Bo$$, Flatlinerz, Tru Life and some other trash if you care to do the research." Well, those trash acts were way better than Trinidad Lames, though.

    • Mo the Specialist

      The Flatlinerz were not trash...and Trinidad James was bad but wasn't as bad as most people make him out to be.

  • Anonymous

    I dug the article. Was never a fan of this song. Not a fan at all and hearing was nerve wrecking. He actually had another track that wasnt all that bad but totally different from All Gold. I just kept picturing Jerome from Martin when I saw him.

  • Anonymous

    Prime example of when ur hot ur hot BUT...sorry Trinny!!!!!

  • Finessed Analyzer

    Bobby Shmurda, you got next. FACT!!!