UPDATE — The artist has released the project on his SC, according to plan (April 9). He also changed the name to FREE Refills.
— Emmitt James didn’t come up as a rapper. It was the poet that made it to a national stage by 2010. Emmitt James and Genesis Renji teamed up back then and have now come together once again under the House of Renji banner (April 5, 2016). The Lost Boy made an impression in Wisconsin, one that shot him straight out to LA – where he now lives the life of a Hip Hop artist, fashion student and barista. The artist speaks to an innovative Hip Hop lifestyle on #FREERefills, in a time when The Internet has spawned an abundance of fantastical characters.
“I’m a poet,” he told Basement Made a couple days ago. “Everything starts with a concept, everything starts with a story.” The latest 3-track EP, or “3P” as he calls it, is all about coffee. “Im a barista at two coffee shops, I’m always around coffee,” he says. The emcee finds himself asking, “Room for cream? Large or small?” a lot throughout his daily routine, so he named one of the tracks “Room for Cream”. There will also be a record called “Almond Chai Latte”. This “MILKelson N Cookies” record comes with a music video by Dominic Charles Ferris (April 4). “It’s me and the girl in the video enjoying each others company,” he says. The girl also happens to be Emmitt’s real life girlfriend. Dark|Horse on the beat.
Emmitt’s mother has been a big part of his story. She’s a pastor but has struggled with vices along the way. “We have a different trust,” he says. “Her fighting to be sober and championing that stuff”. The pair have an unbreakable bond. “Shes super personable, super genuine, those same traits carry over to me,” he says. “My family doesn’t really know each other, through foster care, my mom has always been there.” He remembers looking up at her as a child, thinking “I know you gon get it together.” Check out the emcee’s recent dedication to “Presalean”.
Emmitt really started to compete in his teen years. “I met Gen my junior year in high school,” he says. “We ran cross country.” Then the two found out about Still Waters Collective’s “Voltage” slam competition in Centennial Hall. There, they would compete and make the top 6, and then head to Madison for the next round. “Gen and I made the same team in 2010,” he says. Chicago Hip Hop pioneer Common was the host of the final 4 that year. Emmitt also made the team in 2011.
He didn’t get serious with the musical side of things until his college years, though. The poet joined forces with the Lost Boys Collective – a Minnesota / Northern Wisconsin based group – while going to school at University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point. That’s also where he met CamB. “Every time I do a show at Stevens Point, 150-200 people show up,” he says. UWSP granted the emcee many opportunities. “I used school as a foot to get to LA,” he says. Emmitt James had to finish his last 12 credits external from the university, so he used the requirement to move out to Cali. The fashion student later received a BA in Arts Management from UWSP. “After doing this fashion internship, I wanna do things from scratch. I wanna do more directing too.”
Emmitt James has known and worked with Gen for many years but didn’t officially join House of Renji until “a few months before HUNGER PAINS.” Emmitt toured off the project in Studio City, California, at the Lyrical Sanctuary at UWM and Jazz Gallery Center for the Arts in Milwaukee, The Garage in Minnesota, The Encore at UWSP, and Chicago.
The multi-faceted artist also dropped a 3-track And Then S H E Was Gone: The Same Love Story, Different Characters in December of 2015 on the HOR Soundcloud. He had I-Nine (JTB Recording) in Los Angeles record, mix and master #FREERefills, and his last project. CHAD and Monte Booker did the beats. He’s calling his latest projects “3Ps” – an idea inspired by a fellow Angelino named Miguel. Emmitt remembers hearing the artist describing how we live in a digital world, and that we need to cater to it but not give in too much as artists. By concentrating on a short and conceptual 3P, Emmitt James believes he can put out enough content, while maintaining his artistry.