On a sunny 90-degree day, thousands gathered in Boston Common to witness Outside The Box. The free arts festival featured something for everyone: salsa dancers, orchestras, and even Smash Mouth.
But amongst the array of acts from all over the world, a local voice could be heard. Born and raised in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood, rapper Latrell James took the stage during Saturday’s lineup to give back to his community.
“It’s important to giveback to the people of the community. Especially with all the crazy things going on in the world, music is the common connector,” said James.
A majority of James’ set featured tracks from his project Twelve. Twelve embodies a whirlwind of emotions, each track a vignette of James’ life at that point in time. When he’s on stage, he makes sure that this emotional range translates to the audience.
“We all experience the same struggles,” James explained, “I’m here to identify the beauty in the struggle, and hopefully you relate to me so we can all vibe together at a show.
The energy of the performance also got a boost from James’ live band. Consisting of a guitarist, bassist, and drummer, they added new energy to each song. James kept everyone on their toes, breaking into freestyles and making room for guitar solos whenever the opportunity arose.
Having a band on stage allows James to adjust his songs when needed, according to what the audience vibes with. He added, “with a band, if a chorus has that emotion in it, I will drag that chorus out . . . and let the audience feel what I’m trying to do.”
James’ ability to go off-the-cuff paid off, drawing the crowd closer as they sang along to the hook of one of his latest tracks, “The Mentality.” Such a diverse audience would present a challenge for some performers. However, James united everyone under a common love for music, proclaiming, “if I can make music for the grandparents, I’m never gonna go broke.”
The most discerning quality in Latrell James’ music originates from pure honesty. As he danced around stage and played with the audience, you could sense his urgency to connect people together in tough times. On a new song that he premiered at OTB titled “Sky Might Fall,” James sang:
I thought the world might end and the sky might fall on the same damn day. But you beautiful people are with me today, so I guess music heals.