It’s always a pleasure to feature Boston locals in this column, especially when they release a project as ambitious as Latrell James’ Twelve.
On the album, the number 12 takes on nearly Biblical significance, manifesting in every facet of the album. As DJ Booth notes, the 12-song tracklist tackles James’ gestation from 12 to 24 years old, meditating on the formative years of the Bay State rapper’s coming of age. In the Linklater-ian effort, each track also doubles as a month on the calendar (like a compressive version of what Paris Jones did last year), so there are levels to James’ devotion to the dozen.
Content-wise, Twelve is a lot less symbolic, and the project’s scope isn’t essential to its enjoyment. The length that the local emcee goes to in order to imbue his record with a deeper meaning, especially considering how easy it is to plop thoughtless rhymes on Soundcloud and call it a release.
Over the course of the record, James reflects on his parents (“1+1=6”), his first car (“99 Altima”), a fractured friendship (“Bi-Polar”), and even his Harry Potter obsession (“Flying Nimbus”), the latter of which he uses as a metaphor for getting high for the first time. James addresses each with an uncommonly frank introspection that falls somewhere on the spectrum between Murs and Big Sean.
Twelve is also a familial effort. Jones and his brother Teddy Boyd — billed at 5 Star Generals — cover all the production on the album, infusing an old-school bounce (lead single “The Button” is supremely reminiscent of the beat on “Dead Presidents”) to James’ rhymes. James’ sister Tori Tori also contributes background vocals, fleshing the project out with a syncopation that can only be found with the people who lived the 12-year expanse along with him.
Image courtesy of New England Hip-Hop