Airplane James isn’t your typical Los Angeles rapper, and he’s perfectly okay with that. Coming out of the east side of South Central Los Angeles, the rising star has been grinding and putting in the work, with his eyes set on becoming one of the greats. Whether he’s dropping bars or doing the slow jams, James prides himself in his authenticity, going from “East LA s### to deep, thought-provoking s### in the middle of all that too.”
In describing himself, James simply states, “I’m just a regular dude that just so happened to be into rap forreal. It’s not too many extras on me.”
Earlier this year, James landed a high score on A Day In La’s The New LA Rap Report Card with a B-, causing a stir amongst his West Coast peers. He then unleashed his Who TF Is Airplane James? 2 project, stemming off the success of Power 106 radio personality Justin Credible playing his song “100 Bandz” on the radio.
Fast forward to today, James is as excited as ever to be unleashing his highly-anticipated new project titled Lowkey Hurt, spearheaded by lead single “BEFORE.”
AllHipHop: What is East LA like, as opposed to the rest of LA?
Airplane James: East LA is somewhere else. [laughs] I’m from the East side of LA, East side of South Central. I’d say Broadway, Manchester area. Now you’re going over to Slauson, Crenshaw area, that’s the West side. People are not familiar with the East side like that, but s### we got some artists from there. G Perico, Bluebucks Clan, AzChike, it’s a lot of people from the East side. We’re on top now baby!
AllHipHop: What was your upbringing like in LA?
Airplane James: It was a lot going on but I don’t have one of them crazy ass — I mean, my story is kind of crazy. But as far as something dangerous, I don’t have that type of story. My upbringing was pretty regular. Granny didn’t let me come off the front porch until I was like 12, because we lived in the middle of some s###. It was about 3 gangs down in my neighborhood, so she was very afraid for us. We had to play in the backyard, couldn’t come outside until I was 12. Once she did that, I ran the streets. I went wild.
AllHipHop: When did you fall in love with music?
Airplane James: The moment I seen Lil Wayne with that orange bandana on, “Tha Block Is Hot.” Whenever that was, I was in elementary. I seen that and wanted to be him. I had been wanting to put words together ever since.
AllHipHop: How did you and Problem meet initially? How does it feel to be part of Diamond Lane Records?
Airplane James: That’s big bro. I always was around him. People don’t know, I was the lil homie that was around. I was doing music, but n*ggas wasn’t really taking my music serious. I wasn’t taking my music serious at the time either. Once I took that leap, I got in the studio with them. My big homie from the neighborhood come in contact with them. We linked in the studio and from that point on, it was just magic. We just meshed well. He’s a teacher and I’m a person who likes to listen and pick up game, we meshed from that point on.
AllHipHop: It was a big moment when Problem put you on his project, bring us back to “Top Off.”
Airplane James: 9th Wonder produced it and that s### went crazy. I was already taking it serious, but I’m at the video shoot like damn I’m really on a song with Problem and 9th Wonder! I’m like aw yeah, if they approve it, then somebody out there will take me serious. Period, they take it serious. So that’s how I looked at it.
AllHipHop: How’d it feel to be named one of the highest on A Day In LA’s Report Card?
Airplane James: It was dope. My head’s down so much where I just try to keep my shovel in the dirt and keep digging: keep working, keep working. I don’t really like to look up at accolades. The grade was cool though. Who wouldn’t want to be ranked high? It was dope, but I have more work to do. I don’t like to sit there and dwell on the W’s I guess.
AllHipHop: You just released “BEFORE,” who or what inspired this record?
Airplane James: I had released Eastside Special 2. All the music I’ve released prior to before was an ode to my section, the city where I come from type s###. This new s###, I wanted to dig a little deeper on who I am. When I leave the homies, who am I during that car ride home? What do I go through? “BEFORE” is from that: relationships and being vulnerable. Basically telling a woman you really had me f##### up.
AllHipHop: Does the woman know it’s about her?
Airplane James: I’m sure, if she hears it. The first few words she’ll know fasho. She’s blocked on everything though, I don’t know if she’ll listen. [laughs]
AllHipHop: What was the highlight from shooting the video?
Airplane James: Getting my acting on. I always wanted to do some f###### acting and I think I nailed It. I could get a little better, but that was the highlight. I finally got to do some acting s###, and step behind the camera and help direct the s###.
AllHipHop: What can we expect from your new album, Lowkey Hurt?
Airplane James: You could just expect more vulnerability, more personal stories. It’s just a vibe. I took this time period I was in my life with women, discovering self and made it into a project. That’s what you would hear. It won’t be a bunch of turn up, it’s more personal stories on there.
AllHipHop: What’s the significance in the title?
Airplane James: It’s really n##### don’t ever wanna admit they’re hurt. [laughs] I’m still outside though, f### it. That s### lowkey hurt. It’s like I’m opening up and letting you in, but I still have to be a n*gga in these streets.
AllHipHop: What are you most excited for with the release of the project?
Airplane James: Just the reception. To see how people take to it after coming off of “100 Bandz,” “Impress me,” these upbeat turnt up records that are doing well, I want to see how people react and receive this new music.
AllHipHop: 3 things you need in the studio?
Airplane James: Water, good producers, and that’s pretty much it. I don’t need a whole lot of s###. Maybe liquor or maybe some gummy bears. There’s these gummy bears I get from the gas station, they’re called Gourmet. They have sherbert ice cream flavor. My birthday just passed so if you want to get me a late gift, run me those.
AllHipHop: How was it hearing “100 Bandz” on the radio?
Airplane James: That feeling never gets old, ever. I could hear my s### tomorrow and feel the same way. I’m like a kid. You grew up in the city, listening to that radio station then finally hearing your s###, it’s a pinch yourself moment. Damn, that’s really me on there!
AllHipHop: Top 5 artists of all-time?
Airplane James: My s### be rotating. My s### a few weeks ago was horrendous, I don’t even want to tell people. Aw s###. Kanye, Drake, see it’s tricky. [laughs] I’m a go with Lil Wayne for sure, Andre 3000, and Snoop Dogg. Snoop Dogg’s the greatest Crip of all-time. You could go anywhere on this continent and they’ll be like “Snoop Dogg!” I need a feature from Snoop before he retires. I feel like it’s in my grasp. I don’t know why it hasn’t happened yet.
AllHipHop: Snoop is about his bread.
Airplane James: Right, I’m about mine too. Snoop, let’s collab on some s### baby! Take this s### to the top.
AllHipHop: What are you most excited for next?
Airplane James: Man! I just wanna see what happens with that. I have more s### I’m working on. It’s going to be a deluxe for that, I ain’t told nobody yet. You’re the first person.
AllHipHop: Does that mean there are features on the deluxe?
Airplane James: Mmm, that remains to be seen. I can’t tell you all that, but just know the deluxe is coming. I’m excited about that and we’re going to put out a lot of music this year. This won’t be the last little project you hear from me this year. I’m excited about building and continuing to grow the brand.
AllHipHop: How was it linking with Bino Ridaeux on “Impress Me”?
Airplane James: That n*gga’s a good dude. I had been wanting to get in with him. His manager at the time, Jay Shepp, was supposed to link us, but it didn’t happen for whatever reason. I had did this Louisiana Eastside Special pop up event, he saw it like “bro, you’re doing it right. You’re dope.” He reached out to me like like “pull up to the studio.” I pulled up to the studio, caught a vibe. We’re the same type of dude, he’s funny as f###. We’re both goofy. We just did music. I hopped on some of his s###. I played him” Impress Me,” he got on that s### and that’s how it happened.
AllHipHop: What do you like to do when you’re not doing music?
Airplane James: When I’m not doing music, I really like to be at the crib doing regular s###, watching shows and s###. Going to the park, playing ball. I like to play pick-up ball like a muthafucka. I be into my shows. I like to do regular s###, that’s it. The music s###, you be everywhere in music. On my off-time, when I’m not doing it I like to center myself. Get it together, relax.
AllHipHop: Anything else you want to let us know?
Airplane James: Lowkey Hurt out now! That’s it baby, Lowkey Hurt!