JAMES AN: Interview & discovery of the mixtape “EDUCATION”

This post is also available in: Français (French)

Today April 14th, JAMES AN has the pleasure to introduce to you “EDUCATION“, a collaborative mixage that he have been working on since February. The project is out today on his Youtube channel, so it is time now to discover it !

Artwork by SIU @xiu.siu.soko
JAMES AN photo by MICHAEL KIM @reciprocalbeing

JAMES AN took a time for us to reply to some of our questions about his brand new mixtape “EDUCATION“.

Can you describe this mixtape with your own words ?

  • The title of the mixtape is “EDUCATION” and it’s a reflection of my thoughts on education through hip hop. It’s a manifestation of my thoughts through introspection about themes such as freedom, racism, privileges, and emotion, as well as through collaboration with other artists.

Why making a « collaborative » mixtape was important project for you ?

  • Doing many collaborations through this mixtape was very important for me because I wanted to really try and connect the invaluable messages and expressions that other artists have with those of my own. I wanted to see how our lyrics and sounds can come together, and I also wanted to have a lot of fun together throughout this process.

What’s the meaning behind the titleEDUCATION” ?

  • Education is an important aspect in my life in which I dedicate a lot of time and energy into and think a lot about. Thinking about education is an important way of understanding myself in the context of the broader society, and is critical for navigating the world. I believe education is closely intertwined to freedom and liberation, as well as our ability to directly dismantle systemic oppression. On a personal note, I studied education in grad school, and am interested in how hip hop and the arts play an important role in education, especially in dismantling racism.

How did you meet and choose the artists who feature on the mixtape ?

  • I thought a lot about artists around me that I’ve personally met with, as well as artists whose music I’ve thoroughly enjoyed listening to. I had met them all in very different ways. For example, I met some at a music video shoot for DBO, some while playing basketball, some through friends’ introductions, and some at Show Me The Money 6. Every time I meet artists, I always take the time to listen to or learn more about their art. I wanted to work with artists that really care about the art, the ones that really work hard in their own ways. I really respect and support all artists, and I’m really grateful to be able to work with them. Of course, there are other artists not on this project that I’m hoping to and excited to work with in the future!

9 tracks, featuring 9 different artists, can you give a short sentence to describe each track and their mood ?

  • Details are still not finalized, but at the moment it seems like there will be 9 tracks total, with 8 tracks featuring 7 different artists (i.e. two tracks will feature the same artist).
  • “AIN’T NOBODY FREE TILL EVERYBODY IS”: This is the only solo track in the mixtape, and it’s a starting point for the overall theme of the project where I think about my own (mis)education and privileges in a self-centered way. It feels very heavy with a lot of rap.
  • “MODEL MINORITY MYTH” (ft.mechilling): The title of this song is an important concept and tool in critical race theory, and this song aims to fight stereotypes against Asians through self-empowering voice, lyrics, and delivery. I think this one has a lot of ‘swag’ that people can sort of bounce to.
  • “REAL FACTS” (ft.YNL): This song consists of tight rap over trap sounds, and tries to point out the lack of critical thinking of certain people, while at the same time converting my education and privileges into ‘swag.’ The energy of this song is definitely more upbeat compared to other tracks.
  • “POWERLESS STATE OF MIND” (ft.ABSINT): This song expresses the emotional downs we experience and depicts our feelings of powerlessness in relation to others around us.
  • “DISTURBANCE” (ft.COMET): This song is also quite upbeat, and we enjoyed a lot of freedom with regards to what we want to say, and had a lot of fun overall.
  • “BIG CLOUDS” (ft.BRIEL): This song is almost “opposite” to “POWERLESS STATE OF MIND” in that it’s a very bright mood with a positive mindset that everything’s alright, or is going to be alright.
  • “OFFICIAL” (ft.mechilling): The two verses in this song are quite contrasting to each other in terms of the overall vibe, but I’m excited to see how they connect for the listeners.
  • “SANCTIMONY” (ft.NOCHUK): This song is about the aspects of society or environment that we wanted to point out. One question I’d like to raise is, who is, and how are we becoming sanctimonious in the process?
  • “TRUTH” (ft.BIG $LAM): The last song serves as a reminder about what we perceive as truth, real, and fake.

Are you planning to release some side projects according to the mixtape ? (Music video, Events…)

  • I’m currently in the process of working with music video directors to make a music video for one of the songs. I don’t have any other events in mind at the moment.

When did you start working on EDUCATION” ?

  • I think I started working on it sometime in February. It was a very fun and intensive, focused process.

How was the working process to archive this project ?

  • Because this is a non-profit mixtape that I’ll be uploading on my own YouTube channel, I went online and found and used many beats that are free for non-profit use. Two of the tracks were produced by our sound engineer, HAZ. Regarding the overall collaborative process with other artists, I thought a lot about the music they have created prior to this project, as well as the important messages and sounds they share through their music. In addition, I thought a lot about who the artists are as individuals; for example, I thought about what kind of values they find important, and even what they post and share on their SNS. I spent a lot of time thinking about what kind of different messages and sounds we can create and deliver together, and kept this in mind through the process. Because I had already listened to many of their existing works, I would send them a few beats that I felt we could get on together. Then we’d talk about what kind of topics or messages we’d like to focus on. Sometimes I purposely sent them beats and ideas that seemed totally new to them, which was fun and exciting since we got to try something new together! Overall, it was a lot of going back and forth, but I believe that the most crucial parts of the process was trust and respect. I thoroughly enjoyed their music before the project started, and genuinely respect all the featuring artists, and I like to believe that the featuring artists felt that, and we trusted each other.

Did you work online with other artists or met in person for some studio sessions

  • With some artists, I had them come to our studio and we’d record and our sound engineer, HAZ, would take the recording and do the mixing. With some artists, I visited their studio, and we wrote from scratch and recorded together, which was a lot of fun. With some artists, I received their recordings online and communicated back and forth.

Finally, is there any message you would like to tell to artists you have worked with or to your audience ? ?

  • First of all, I’d like to thank all the featuring artists that trusted the project and kindly worked together with me, as well as our sound engineer (who also produced two tracks in the project), who played a very important role in making this project possible. I’d also like to thank SIU, who made the artwork, as well as MICHAEL KIM who shot and edited amazing photos! To the viewers and listeners, I want to say that I’m really grateful that you took the time to check this article out, and perhaps my music as well.

KSTATION TV have introduced you JAMES AN for the first time on SPILL THE BEAT and also when his single album “MEDITATION” has been released. You can find more information about this artist and all of his talents on our media !

SPILL THE BEAT : Dive into JAMES AN’s vibe

Do not forget to follow and support him on social medias :

JAMES AN official website

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Journalist: Waterice
Translator: Waterice
Source: JAMES AN’s interview by KSTATION TV

This post is also available in: Français (French)

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