Exclusive Premiere and Interview: Connor james – Been Up Freestyle

Chicago’s Connor james turned heads last year with The Champagne Tape, which mixed calculated trap beats with his creative lyrical approach and flow. The 4 track EP was a highlight of last year, and showed that james was a leader, not a follower.

Motel Music, his new collaborative project with fellow Chicago native drmbeat, goes in a completely different direction than the aforementioned EP. The production is atmospheric, experimental, and all-encompassing. james contributes slick bars throughout that cut through tracks such as ‘Room Key’, ‘The Otherside’ and ‘Warnings.’ Motel Music is a contrast in sound and style, which surprisingly works beautifully. If anything, the LP shows that Connor has depth, a strong sense of creativity, and the ability to perform beautifully over any beat.

You’ll learn in our conversation below that his high energy was due to stress and unhappiness. james is now more laid-back, happy, and in the zone with his music. That doesn’t mean he’s lost his rapping abilities. His wordplay and flow are still present in FFD’s newest premiere, Been Up freestyle, but james sounds much more relaxed. We chopped it up about all that went into Motel Music, the stark change in his sound, and why he’s ready for even more collaborations.

Hey Connor. Thanks for talking with me. How’s it going?

It’s good. I’ve been real busy and just releasing this project kinda makes me feel like I can take a lil weight off my shoulders so I’m chillin. How are you?

Things are great. I’ve been listening to that project for awhile now and get more out of it each time I go through it. Tell me more about the album.

It’s Motel Music. It’s a collab project with drmboat. Been one of my guys for many years and before the music. We’ve been getting in the studio for 3 or 4 years now, so the songs started stacking. Probably 2 years ago we started having ideas for this project, though some of these songs are actually a couple years old. Some are as recent as 2-3 months ago. We started renting out this motel near where we stay just because it was a place to post up, record, and smoke and jus work. Was also less expensive than getting in a studio every day, and that’s where a lot of the tape originated from. Once it was a for sure thing we took it to Classick Studios where we have been recording here and there since 2015. My buddy Cole goes crazy.

Damn near all of our sessions are like late night to early hours of the morning, so the whole sound and feeling of the tape kinda corresponds with that late night, no sleep, still workin but also enjoying ourselves type of shit. I think we had about 18 tracks we were working on to choose from, and then narrowed it down to 8, then recorded two more and they made the cut. So boom 10 tracks of what we thought were the most cohesive ones and what we felt described the whole 2 year process of everything.

It makes so much sense – learning about the process of the album. The production and overall vibe sounded very atmospheric, experimental, but also had your bursts of lyrics to bring a hip hop flavor. Was it a challenge to rap over these beats?

I wouldn’t say a challenge but just different. Drmboat picked all of them besides track 10 I’m pretty sure. I’m just use to obviously using beats that I’d pick. Then the beats he was showing me made sense. He has a different style but that’s the whole thing with a collaboration. So I guess the only challenge was trying to mesh our styles the best way we could and make it sound good. Cole had a lot to do with that as well. The beats gave me the chance to try new shit

I ask because it was a big departure from last years EP in instrumental choice and energy.

Yeah thats more my “inner hiphop fan” side you could say –  the rapity rap if you will. Energy wise I’d say I was way more hyped up and stressed out than I was with Motel Music.

How has the reception been for the project?

People who have been listening to our shit for awhile and even people who just started listening liked it a lot, and have been saying every song sounds like a single. We’re just trying to get it out to as many people as possible.

I’d agree with them on that. Have you enjoyed music since an early age?

Yeah, all types. My family was big on country music, believe it or not. I can’t stand that shit now. Then, at a young age,  I started hearing rap more and more, and it drew me in.

Did you artistic endeavors begin as an outlet? Or was it something more than that?

I think it became an outlet over time, I just started rapping over popular beats. I liked fucking with flows and trying to make things sound cool. I’ve always been a fan of wordplay.

Did you do the writing in the studio for motel music? Or did you take more time?

More than half of those verses were written in the studio. The rest took longer.

I know this project was quite a labor of love. Are you coolin it with music for awhile or are you plottin anything else?

I’m on the way to the studio right now with a buddy (laughs).  I’ve got lot more work to do I usually take a lil break from recording after a project, but this one was different. It feels good to drop it and get those tracks off and focus on just promoting. But yeah, I’m still working and plotting for sure. New EP, collabs with producers, and then singles and more visuals is what’s next.

That’s great to hear. Any last thoughts?

Yeah. A big thank you to everyone still listening and the new listeners too. This is my favorite project of mine.

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