Born and raised on the South Side of Chicago, James first developed a passion for music when a woman from his father’s job gave his family an antique player piano, the type of old-school piano that can play itself. James would spend hours following the notes the piano played, in effect teaching himself how to read music. His father’s friend from work also left stacks of books of music, tomes James read repeatedly. When he learned how to play “Amazing Grace,” a new world presented itself. “Once I started learning how to play songs,” he says, “it really inspired me to make my own songs.”

By 2012, James’ music made its way to Rich America and John Monopoly, the veteran manager and talent scout who has worked with Kanye West, No I.D. and Shawnna, among others. James says that John Monopoly’s guidance has been invaluable.

“I’ve learned from him how to make sure everything is complete and to fill up my tracks,” James states. “He and his team, they’ve shown me how to add the missing pieces and make sure that my music captivates people the whole way through.”

Complex for the premiere:

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