If you’ve ever gotten a chance to check out some of Luke James’ music reviews, then you’re in luck. I’ve been following him for quite some time, and after surprisingly not much nagging at all, he agreed to let me interview him. After a few back and forth messages over Twitter, we were able to make this happen. I have a lot of love for him, so even if you aren’t into full music reviews, check him out on Twitter to get a bit of his humorous takes and honest shade. It’s super entertaining.
Luke has an incredible YouTube page with over 21,000 subscribers. His nonchalant yet emotive videos contrast quite a bit with his slightly wilder Twitter persona, but his video reviews are packed with knowledge and authentic reactions that keep you wanting more. The comment sections are amazing too because everyone gives their own take in an educative and personal way, warranting discussions as he oftentimes replies back. With some of the videos gaining over 100,000 views, it’s amazing to see someone so down to earth care so much about the culture of hip-hop while staying true to what they love. And even then, he still finds ways to support Indie artists and discover underground sounds.
Luke and I decided to conduct an interview all through Twitter DMs, because this is 2020 and we’re stuck in our houses. And let’s be honest now, Twitter brought us together. We have to pay homage to that. So copied and pasted below is probably the most productive DM exchange that I’ve ever been a part of in my life (I’m talking to you, guy that photoshopped a picture of his face onto a stock-photo of someone sliding down a water slide).
First off, thank you for letting me respectfully slide into your DMs to do this. Let’s start a bit with who you are. Why don’t you go ahead and introduce yourself.
Luke James: “Haha it’s all good!
Yo! It’s Luke James, ‘Not The Singer’, a music critic & Twitch streamer operating out of Nova Scotia, Canada!”
Okay wait, you’re in Canada?! I have been trying to figure out your accent for quite a while now. That explains a lot.
How much confusion has your name caused, even with specifying that you are, in fact, not the singer Luke James?
Luke James: “You’re not the only one – I’ve had people think that I’m Scottish, Irish, Australian and everything in between!
As for the ‘Not The Singer’ thing, it all started as a joke on Twitter. I used to get people in my mentions all the time like, ‘I love your songs!’, ‘You’re the best singer ever!’, etc., so I started using the hashtag #NotTheSinger to help differentiate. Then it became somewhat of a catchphrase in my reviews so I’ve stuck with it. I still get the odd mention once in a while, usually if he’s dropped some new music, has an acting gig, or something like that.”
That’s incredible! The hashtag is ridiculously catchy. You should do a video of you reviewing a whole Luke James album to really throw people off.
What made you start reviewing music in the first place?
Luke James: “I’ve thought about that for sure and have had some requests! If he has a self-titled project it’d be Luke James Reviews Luke James – Luke James.
I pretty much started reviewing music by accident. Back when it dropped, I put up a video where I broke down the worst/funniest lyrics from Lil Wayne’s I Am Not A Human Being 2 project. It ended up taking off and then people started asking me to review other albums so I rolled with it!”
Hahahahaha I really think with that many Luke James it should be the first Google result for the name. We need everyone to message ~the singer~ Luke James to get on that project, even if it’s for purely selfish reasons.
“Worst of” videos always make for the best content. Did you get a lot of Lil Wayne fans that were like “nah man, that’s genius! You just don’t get it!”?
Luke James: “Yeah, one thing I’ve noticed over the years is that negative content does very well because people love to pile on. On the flipside though, you’ll always get fans who think that certain artists can do no wrong. There were definitely plenty of Wayne supporters commenting on that video about how he’s the greatest rapper alive!”
How do you usually handle the negativity? Have you ever had any of the artists get upset over something you may have said about them?
Luke James: “I don’t really let the negativity get to me. When I first started out it’d bother me a bit, but as time went on I realized that it’s just a part of the game. I also make use of mute & block functions for people who only show up to sling personal attacks rather than talk about the actual music & opinions shared. There was a time when I would go back & forth with people, but you can almost always tell the difference between people who are trolling and people who want to further the conversation.
As for artists responding, I’ve definitely had some get upset over my reviews. I can respect where they’re coming from though because it’s their art and I’m just some guy in his basement making videos. I focus more on the artists who have showed love back!”
That really is such an amazing feeling. Who’s one person you really want to watch a review you’ve done on their work? And were there any albums or songs that you heard where you were like, “I have to review this- this is life-changing”?
Luke James: “It’s hard to say who I would pick to watch one of my reviews because I’ve never really thought about it. It’d be cool if Jay-Z or Kendrick stumbled across one of my videos though, since I respect both of them as MCs so much.
As for life-changing songs or albums, I’m gonna go with a pretty standard answer and say Kendrick’s TPAB. That album was a complete game-changer when it dropped and it’s cultural impact is still being felt today. It’ll go down as one of those rare, timeless albums, in my opinion.”
Oooh yes. That album is absolutely incredible. I’ll never understand how some people think Kendrick is overrated. In my opinion, that’s always been one of those viewpoints where it’s like, oh this isn’t the norm and it’s controversial so let me repeat it over and over again. Speaking of standard answers, in your “2019 Top 30 Albums” video, you said Bandana was your number 1 album of the year. I remember hearing that and thinking it was definitely my top choice as well. How was that received?
Luke James: “Yeah, Kendrick has had a hell of a run so far, so it’s definitely interesting when people say that they find him overrated! I get it to a point though – everything can’t be for everybody.
I think Bandana was the top choice for a lot of people. 2019 had plenty of great albums, but Gibbs & Madlib managed to live up to the overwhelming hype and I think people really appreciated that. Great music is great music regardless, but when you can deliver that music when the expectations are high it makes for an incredible moment.”
Would you say that you’ve heard any albums so far in 2020 that are contenders for your album of the year?
Luke James: “So far I have Quelle Chris & Chris Keys – Innocent Country 2 at the top. That album has beautiful production throughout, introspective bars, a bit of social commentary & is just a great listen from beginning to end. I’ve also really enjoyed projects from CJ Fly, J Hus, The Weeknd, Ty Farris, Ramirez & others!”
Ooo strong choices! I know we’ve talked about how excited we both are for the new Run The Jewels album. What are your thoughts on the singles that they’ve already released so far?
Luke James: “To be honest, I haven’t played the singles too much. As odd as it might sound, I’m really waiting to experience the whole album. Not many artists/groups make me feel that way, but RTJ is one of ‘em!
In other words, I like the singles, but I’ve been anticipating this album since the last one so I’m excited about diving into the whole thing without having the singles played out.”
That’s a super interesting perspective. I know you also tweeted that you haven’t been super inspired lately. Would you say it’s because of the current quarantine or more so because of what’s been released?
Luke James: “I’d say it’s a bit of both. The quarantine has been exhausting for everybody – especially those of us with small children stuck in the house – so that in itself drains energy and limits time.
As for the music scene, I’ve managed to find some great projects this year, but I also haven’t been inspired to review the more typical, mainstream stuff. For example, when an artist with no depth, no bars and no desire to take risks drops a bloated album, it’s hard for me to care at this point. I’ve been doing this for a long time and there are certain projects I avoid now because they’re not worth the time & they’re just not interesting to talk about.”
I totally get what you mean. A lot of popular music gets repetitive too, and it’s like, what more is there for me to say? And with the quarantine, there are some days where I have no desire to do anything, and in my case, I have no real excuse besides a lack of motivation, so that gets even more tiresome. But how would you say we can help artists during this time when we have that bit of energy to produce content, especially as they have to find new ways to push their name and music since touring and in-person interactions aren’t possible at the moment?
Luke James: “I think the best way to support artists right now, especially those more on the underground scene, is to swing by their bandcamp page or official website! They make more money off of those direct purchases and you can also help support by purchasing bundles, shirts, etc.
At the same time though, it’s tough for the consumers who may be off work, working reduce hours, etc. This virus is unlike anything most of us have dealt with in our lifetime, so ultimately we all have to do whatever we can to survive & stay sane!”
Okay and one of my last questions (I promise hahaha), a bit off-topic, but you have a Twitch stream that you mentioned above where you stream yourself playing video games. I grew up with an older brother who worked for Bethesda for a bit, so I’m fairly well-versed, but my nerdy pleasure has always been comic books. One of my favorite things is seeing how that passion overlaps with my love for hip-hop. Would you say that you’ve found any correlation or relation between hip-hop music and video games?
Luke James: “Your bro worked for Bethesda? That’s dope!
I feel like video games have had a huge impact on society/culture over the past couple of decades, but the younger generation, in particular, is bringing a lot of “nerd culture” – for lack of a better term – into hip-hop and it’s been great! These days we’re hearing more samples & references from video games, comics, cartoons, anime, etc. and I think it’s only natural. These things are, or were, a huge part of many peoples’ childhood, so incorporating these ideas is a great way for artists to connect with listeners. There’s also the fantasy, exaggeration & story-telling aspect of gaming and creating music that correlates.”
That’s a super dope way of putting it! It’s amazing to see hip-hop’s way of being a sort of counter-culture intermingle with that “nerd culture” (arguably yet another counter-culture) that you mentioned. It makes the two reach new demographics too, which is always beautiful to see.
Now to wrap things up, what new things do you have coming up and where can people find you? Are you taking artist submissions and do you mind people reaching out, or are you taking a bit of a break?
Luke James: “Right now I’m taking it a bit easy, but people can still reach out to my usual e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org). These days I’m mostly just reviewing what I’m interested in, and also streaming on my Twitch 3 or 4 times a week at 8/8:30 PM EST for a couple of hours (http://twitch.tv/lukejamesnotthesinger…) I’m also on Twitter & IG (@lukejamesbgn on both) and my YouTube is http://YouTube.com/lukejamesbgn“
If you’d like to connect with Luke, here are a few different ways. Remember to shower him with love and compliments, he’s a super awesome music nerd and very fun to chat with.
His most recent review can be watched below:
Make sure to like the video and subscribe to his channel! His year end videos are so worth the wait and will put you on to some incredible music.
Thanks for checking in on my page. I know my recent interview styles have been a bit different than my normal blog posts, but I’ll get back to that next week. During this time, we are all struggling, even if we’re flourishing with this free time. We’re allowed to be exhausted, and while there are a ton of memes and tweets making fun of everybody and anybody for going live on Instagram, it’s important to support artists and their creative methods of making a name for themselves. Pop in to their live for a few minutes, even if you don’t aren’t able to stay. Contributing to those overall numbers help.
And as much as I would love to support everyone, my e-mail is being flooded with amazing new content, which is why I launched my new submissions and services page, where I also offer some resources to brand yourself as an artist. Make sure to subscribe to the blog page either by WordPress or your e-mail address for new content and share this with your friends♥ If you’d like to reach out to me, finding me on IG or Twitter and shooting me a DM is the best method.
I do also have a few releases from friends all over the world, so make sure to check them out below and show them some love!