Eric James - 'Peace of Mind'

Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.

In the last few months, hip hop artist Eric James has taken the Independent Spotlight by storm. I highly acclaimed his last two records, remarking they were some of the strongest indie efforts in the genre that I had seen in years. Now, James is completing that trilogy of work with his newest album, ‘Peace of Mind.’ How do the six brand new songs stack up to their previous counterparts? Let’s check it out.

As I expected, the production of ‘Peace of Mind’ is really top notch. The title track in particular is quite exceptional, once again connecting the line between hip hop and R&B - something that James has gotten very good at doing. ‘Bullshhhh’ is a fantastic track about the tough environment James grew up in, touching on all of the difficult realities of street life and the hood.

‘Blast Off,’ the halfway point on ‘Peace of Mind,’ is another compelling tune. James’ writing continues to be introspective in nature, exploring his relationships in life and the impact of his actions. Often, he seems remorseful, but is quickly uplifted by motivation and the promise of having a second shot at life. That actually brings me to the crux of this review...

In James’ work leading up to this record, his lyricism seemed heavily focused on the terrible places he’s come from and the trials he’s overcome. Now, I was a bit worried moving into this third record that the content would feel repetitive. His story is amazing and inspirational, but there are only so many ways he can spell it out in a song. On ‘Peace of Mind,’ some of his continued notions do feel overused. At this point, we already know a lot of the stuff James’ is rhyming. With that said, ‘Peace of Mind’ also triumphs in its ability to feel elevated from the rest of his work. The entire effort looks toward the future and rests on his ability to change it. So with that in mind, this third album is the most inspirational of the three, and certainly the most upbeat.

Moving back into the record, ‘Rider’ is the highlight of the latter half. James should credit these guest vocalists, because they accent his hip hop so beautifully - I’d love to know who they are. ‘Believe In Me’ closes out ‘Peace of Mind’ with some of James’ most poignant lyrics. He talks about meeting his father in prison and being forced to grow up faster than he should have had to. Most importantly, he learns to forgive. He doesn’t forget, but he forgives. That’s a powerful notion we can all learn from.

I think James’ previous two albums had more of an impact on me, likely because I was being introduced to his past and struggles. As aforementioned, some of those themes are starting to feel worn out. I couldn’t have more respect for the hurdles he’s overcome, but James’ music will need to eventually move past them into different ideas and themes if he wants to remain relevant and continually inspirational. ‘Peace of Mind’ is still a killer record, and James remains one of, if not the, best indie hip hop artists we’ve discussed here on the Spotlight. It just feels like he needs to take a jump into territory at this point.

Listen to the new record!