Most people scoff when they hear about local SoundCloud rappers, assuming anyone with a mixtape on the famed music site is pursuing a pipe dream.
For James Prince, a 20-year-old Glassboro native, this sort of condescension fuels him. The young rapper first started making music while in high school. After buying a green screen, he made a mixtape cover and told his peers that he’d be dropping his project in several weeks. He then pirated the music-making software Logic onto his computer.
This raw, bedroom-style recording has come to define a new generation of musicians, especially rappers. It’s not without skeptics.
“People laughed at it, like it was a joke,” Prince said.
Despite this, he made about $100 from the preorders for the mixtape. He used this positive feedback, coupled with the initial skepticism, to morph from a self-described “nerdy, computer science, antisocial kid” into his polished rap persona, OnlyJahmez.
Following high school, Prince began down the more traditional route. He attended Kutztown University for computer science, putting music on the back burner.
After the death of his mother, questions about the direction of his life continually recurred.
“That’s when I had to reset life,” Prince said. “Everything kind of changed. I started seeing the world from a different perspective. I was still in school at the time, but I [thought] this is not normal.”
Normal, in Prince’s eyes, is to be avoided. Putting school and the traditional 9 to 5 route on hold seemed like the obvious decision.
Upon leaving Kutztown University, Prince returned to South Jersey and got a job with Gourmet Dining at Rowan.
Still, the music lifestyle loomed large, and Prince continued making music. One of his singles, “Tarzan,” piqued the interest of Water Music Publishing, to which Prince is now signed.
Deja Simmons, who works with Water Music Publishing as Prince’s publicist, commented on her time working with the artist.
“OnlyJahmez is definitely really passionate about what he’s doing,” Simmons said. “A lot of people don’t see the vision, but this guy has the mindset and is very smart.”
“They have distribution with Universal,” Prince said. “It’s a beautiful opportunity because I really got to connect with the staff and bring my people with me.”
One such person is his DJ, Brian Henry, who goes by Sober the DJ. The two have built an ongoing artistic relationship and often perform live shows together.
“He does a little bit, I do a little less, because I don’t ever want to control anything he has going on,” Henry said. “It’s a partnership and a vibe.”
At a recent live show, Henry suggested that Prince eat a bowl of cereal during the introduction as a way of being strange and different. Halfway through the set, Prince noticed the bag of cereal was still there, so he ripped it open and threw it all into the audience.
“There was cereal everywhere, and everyone loved it,” Prince said. “Then we cleaned it up afterwards. My live shows are really random and high energy. I’m going to have a couple at Rowan soon.”
Aside from college tours, Prince also aims to provide local high school students with an opportunity to experience live music in a party atmosphere without the presence of alcohol or drugs. In the immediate area, Prince hopes to work with Delsea, Clayton and Glassboro high schools.
“I’m trying to make sure the kids can live in a fantasy world until they get into the real world,” he said.
While many musicians are looking for attention via avenues like SoundCloud, James “OnlyJahmez” Prince has set himself apart by signing with an established publishing company and focusing on a unique aesthetic. If his success continues, hopefully he will be able to bring some recognition to South Jersey.
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