James The Mormon, Round Two

I’m eating hot dogs and chips, and across the table from me is James Curran, a serial entrepreneur and app developer, who “as a hobby” has had a #1 track on iTunes for hip hop/rap under the name James the Mormon. We’re talking about artistic integrity, “clean” rap, the future of Mormon culture, the LDS Deseret Book culture machine, and what representation looks like.

Again and again, James comes back to the success he had with his first album.

“I feel like I had a lot of success here in Utah and that I got a lot of recognition out of the novelty of my name,” he says. “A lot of people here who never listened to rap in their lives listened to my album because of LDS Living or whatever.” James has a chip on his shoulder, to prove that he’s actually _good_, not just some wannabe who got a lot of Utah play because the novelty of a Mormon rapper got the attention of the Deseret Book crowd. Is he any good?

His new album, We Came To Play, is really pretty good. The songs flow, there are some great hooks, and James shows both a talent for his own verses as well as bringing in some quality local artists to collaborate. Even then, it’s about showing his place as a legitimate artist — yes, a Mormon artist — but in a larger artistic world. “Nobody on this track is Mormon,” he says proudly of his track, “Buck Wild” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qeokeb276dM). It’s a legitimately good song, and the album has several of them.

“BRB”, an earlier track, has great lyrical flow and a beat that is infectious. Again, the video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6XJOrHrZzDA) tells the story of a regular guy — a rapper — who is Mormon, living in the real world, showing he belongs, that he deserves to be taken on his own merits instead because of a label or a preconception or some sense of religious affinity. And yet James is religious. He doesn’t swear in his music, doesn’t glorify violence or immorality, in other words he’s Mormon. In some respects he’s less religious than other religious artists like Chance the Rapper, who can wear his religion on his sleeve. A rapper named James the Mormon can’t act that way. One track about Alma the Younger or whatever would sink his credibility. It’s a bit ironic.

Give the album a listen, says the Mormon blog about James the Mormon. Where does the album go? James has no illusions. This is his hobby. But it’s great to see artists in the community showing that they have what it takes to make art that transcends boundaries without leaving their souls behind.

Comments

  1. Thanks for the recommendation. I’ll be honest, I wrote him off because of his name, but I’ll check it out.

    I’m still curious why he chose that moniker if he wants to be taken seriously. Why put yourself in a box that’s so at odds with hip hop culture?

  2. christiankimball says:

    It makes intuitive sense that James the Mormon would damage his credibility by rapping about Alma the Younger. Coming from a different direction, would he be credible or accepted (anywhere) using a gospel choir, a la Chance?

  3. Great article. Jordan James singer

  4. Thanks. Steve Evans blogger

  5. “…doesn’t glorify violence or immorality…”

    Steve, I can’t tell, do you mean sexual immorality, or immorality in general?

  6. Sorry for the trolling.

  7. Paul Ritchey says:

    Maybe we should start using the defined term “Immorality,” capitalized, to narrow to sexual immorality. This comes with the added Mormon slang bonus of being able to refer to “The Big ‘I’,” which would also work as a lyric.

    Sorry for trolling back.

  8. The “Big I” is a common term for the relatively complex interchange of I-25 and I-40 in Albuquerque. Why not add it to the Mormon-speak lexicon with a completely different meaning?

    Wishing I were sorry for “trolling” back.