Last month, I raved here on the Independent Spotlight about Eric James’ music. He’s a hip hop artist that beautifully combines a passionate life story and immense drive into some of the most well-produced, sharply written indie hip hop I’ve ever heard. I even remarked that his record was my favorite indie rap album thus far this year. Now, though, we’re going to back up to his first record, ‘Music’s My Life.’
This review comes from an intriguing place because I already reviewed ‘Never Give Up,’ the album that followed it. With that said, I think that gives me a rather unique perspective on James’ debut effort. ‘Music’s My Life’ is a very polished collection, though it does lack the glimmery nature of ‘Never Give Up.’ That’s actually a good thing; it makes his second album feel like a triumphant over evil. This album is slightly more grittier and less inspirational, something that serves it well.
Take ‘Brand New,’ a song that may be the strongest of the effort. This remarkably soulful R&B number is contrasted elegantly with painful lyrics. “The pain is really getting to me, although my mom is gone, I know she still listens to me... I was cursed before I left the hospital.” One could argue that the lyricism on this EP is dramatically more intimate and personal. Even though James touches extensively on his personal life in both, his first record doesn’t have the resounding anthem nature of ‘Never Give Up.’
A more intimate look into James is very rewarding. As I expected, his production is nothing short of exceptional. ‘Crashing Down’ is heartbreakingly honest. “I contemplated suicide but the Lord won’t let me.” I felt James’ struggle more poignantly here. It hit on a lot of personal notes for me and I think it’s an EP that’ll click with anyone who has been dealt the short straw in life.
The beautiful title track of the EP gives you a hint of what James returned to when recording ‘Never Give Up.’ In particular, I love the R&B elements of this album. They’re more prominent and the guest vocalists and support are magnificent on each track. ‘Wish On A Star’ is very similar in this regard.
After listening to ‘Music’s My Life,’ I returned back to ‘Never Give Up.’ James’ first effort gives so much context to his sophomore work. It’s darker, more meaningful, and more emotional. All of that culminates into a revolution of inspiration on ‘Never Give Up,’ one that is enhanced so powerfully by his this album. James’ ability to turn tragedy into positivity is admirable, and it makes me so happy he’s in the educational system as well. I would haved loved to have a teacher or principal like him growing up. He’s one of the brightest shining lights in indie music; I adore his work and if you also got a kick out of ‘Never Give Up,’ rewind to ‘Music’s My Life.’ It’s one hell of a ride.