Introducing, James Esco

Up & coming rapper, Highbridge’s own, James Esco.

Hello everyone! This piece will be the fifth installment of my newest series titled “Da Hood Prospects”, where I’ll introduce readers to inner-city youth that are rising stars in their respective fields of work. Enjoy & please share it with your friends.

  • This piece is dedicated to, in James’s words, all the people watching, but that’s not saying anything.

Andy: “Tell me about your childhood.”

James Esco: “My childhood was interesting, I ain’t going to lie. It was fun, but at the same time, it was really hard. I had a lot of traumatic moments, just growing up in the household I did, and in my family. A lot of the stuff at the time didn’t affect me, because I didn’t really know what was happening because I was a kid.

As I got older, it ended up affecting me a lot more & really shaped me into the person I am today. I would describe my childhood as fun, but also a tough experience.”

Andy: “Let’s talk about your family.”

James: “I have a Dominican family. My mom & dad were both born in D.R. & immigrated (to the U.S) in ‘96, ‘97. My family is very separated in a sense, but they’re also very connected. They’re definitely charismatic, but problematic.”

“Expect everyone to start tuning in like they should’ve. Should’ve been tuning in.” — Abu, James friend when asked where he expects him in 5 years.

Andy: “What role do they play in your life?”

James: “Growing up, there were a lot of problems between my mom & dad. My dad was abusive towards her, so seeing that was really hard. I don’t talk to my dad anymore, even though we were close.

The role they played, just makes me want to go harder, I don’t want to go through no shit like that. I know if I ever was to start a family, I definitely wouldn’t want to put my family through it. I definitely wouldn’t want to leave my kids & have them not talk to me. It’s definitely a motivating factor in my life.”

Andy: “Which point of life did your father’s mistakes impact you most?”

James: “I’d say my 6th-grade year & 10th-grade year. My 6th-grade year is when my mom finally kicked him out of the house. She was really going through a depressed-like stage because they were in a relationship for 22 years. 

My 10th-grade year really affected me the most, because me & my dad were really close. My 10th-grade year is when I became depressed. Everything I went through started crashing down on me & everything that was happening to people in my family. I was trying to figure it all out, I was trying to figure myself out.”

Andy: “When you start writing & making music?”

James: “The summer of 2018, so June of 2018. I always used to write from time to time, but it was so bad when I first started out. Then one time, in June of 2018 I was in the park with Kwame & my friend Imanol, and we were talking about one of our friends who was making music. So I said, what would y’all think if I started making music. They said go for it.

That same night we were on a PS4 party (party chat) and I wrote a song & I rapped it to them over the mic. They said it was fire. Ever since then I’ve been writing.”

Cover art for the song “Esco Gang Freestyle”, by James Esco.

Andy: “Why’d you start writing?”

James: “Besides from my friends really inspiring me, being able to write & getting a good review from the first thing that I actually tried to write, it encouraged me to keep going. I was also enjoying what I was writing, it wasn’t a feeling that I had before.”

Andy: “What’s the first song you ever recorded?”

James: “I don’t even know, the first time that I ever went to the studio, I don’t remember the name. It was a personal song, but I sounded so bad that day, I was so nervous. It was my first time rapping on the mic, I got so discouraged after that day I said “bro I don’t even think I’m a rap anymore.

That whole day I was just thinking about it. Then the next day I just went in & I said I have to do this. I went in with confidence & I actually recorded the first song I ever dropped, which is Tate Ave.”

Andy: “How’d you get the stage name, James Esco?”

James: “So my full name is James Escolastico. My last name has 11 letters in it, so I wasn’t going to put that in my name. 

When I first started rapping I was just thinking, I’m just be called James, but that was plain & boring, no one was going to listen to me. So I just thought of James Esco, added a little flavor to it.”

Andy: “What role did the neighborhood (Highbridge) play in your upbringing & music.”

James: “It played a huge role. Growing up I seen some crazy shit. You hear a lot of crazy shit. You see a lot of crazy shit. I try to bring it up in my music as much as I can but in a positive way. I just try to motivate people, tell them that they don’t have to be stuck in that environment forever.

Not only in my music, but it’s also played a part in making me the person I am today. I always have my head on a swivel. You never know what’s going to happen. It makes you a tougher person.”

Photo of James alongside a family member during his early childhood.

Andy: “What’s the creative process when making a track?”

James: “I need my MacBook, I need YouTube, I just search up any type beat. Let’s say I’m looking for something, I’d look up a Drake, or Lil Durk type beat. I need to make sure my TV is on to a certain level so my mom can’t hear me. 

If I find a beat, I usually know within the first four or five seconds of the track whether it’s going to be something I’m going to write to. But if I can just come up with a rhyme right away, then I know that beat is a good beat for me.”

Andy: “What’s been your most recent release?” (As of December 2020)

James: “Self Reflection, that was back in April”.

Andy: “Why’s it been so long since you’ve last released?”

James: “First, the pandemic kind of ruined everything. My mom had COVID, when it first came out, back in April, she almost died from it. I was her caretaker. Then I ended up getting it (COVID-19). It didn’t affect me as bad, it kind of affected me in a way. Also, it’s hard to get studio time & I was dealing with college stress. I was trying to commit, finding out what college I wanted to commit to.

When I did try to write, since I was distracted at home all the time, I didn’t really have any inspiration. It was really hard for me to come up with something that I was enjoying myself & that I would put out to the public.

Now that I’m back home (from college), I have a plan now. It’s much easier for me, I’m much more motivated.”

Photo of me (left) and James (right) following our over two-hour long interview.

Andy: “Explain the meaning behind my favorite song of yours, Intro?”

James: For that song, I remember first finding that beat, I said “god damn, this the hardest shit I ever heard.” I said I really got spit fire on this because I really like rapping, that’s the 90’s side of me I guess, the influence of the 90’s music. Then everything just falls into place after that. 

That’s why I talk about selling out shows & going overseas. Then I talk about my relationship with my mom a little bit, how me & her don’t always see eye to eye, but things are going to get better. I know there’s frustration & tension between us sometimes, but eventually, they’re gonna get better.”

Andy: “What’s been your favorite song to record?”

James: “I’ve had a few. The Esco Gang Freestyle was kind of funny because we were all high as hell in the studio. We were just laughing during the process & it was just an uptempo beat, so it was fun.”

Also “Phases” which is going to be the first single off of the project that I have coming up. I recorded that back in August. Making that song was crazy because I remember writing it & I finished writing it after four days, and that shit was lit. I know that’s the one.”

Andy: “What are studio sessions like?”

James: “They usually filled with my biggest friends. I usually try to get acquainted with the engineer. Most times it’s been really hard because the studio I go to, it’s kind of anti-social. 

So it’s hard to really communicate with them sometimes. But yeah most of the time it’s fun. We all in a little space, whether it’s smoking, chilling, or whatever.”

“I want people to be able to go back to it a year later, five years later, and still feel like it got better over time, I wanna make timeless music.” — James

Andy: “Is it easy, or difficult to balance school with the music?”

James: “It’s hard, I ain’t gonna lie. It’s much harder than I make it, it’s much harder than it should be definitely. Because in school, especially in college, the professors don’t really care, they just assign work. 

Not really having your own space, your own room, not really having my own space to really write & shit, it’s just hard for me to write. It just makes it hard for me to really focus.”

Andy: “How does it feel when someone expresses their support for your work?”

James: “That shit feels great I ain’t gon lie. I be saying thank you because you ain’t have to say that. Even if you don’t mean it. You didn’t have to say it. It feels great. Whenever I get a comment from anybody, I just try to show them as much appreciation as I can. I say “Bro, thank you. I really appreciate it, you didn’t have to do it.”

Andy: “What’s a common misconception that people have about you & your music?”

James: “I think people, even before they hear my music, they see I have my music on SoundCloud & it’s not the most popular, it doesn’t get the most plays. I feel they say, I’m not even going to listen to him, he probably trash, he probably just another SoundCloud rapper. 

I remember when I dropped my first song, some girl from my school, she hit me up, she said, I’m not going to lie I only clicked on it to see if it was trash, I was expecting it to be wack but it wasn’t. I knew that was the mindset that a lot of people would have.”

Cover art for the song “Intro” by James Esco.

Andy: “What’s the hardest part about making music?”

James: “Writing. That shit will stress you out. Recording it too, because I’m a perfectionist in a way. Trying to make it sound how I want it to & how I hear it in my mind, and when it doesn’t come out the way I want it to, I just get discouraged for a moment.”

Andy: “Since becoming an artist what’s been your biggest accomplishment?”

James: “Just being able to keep it real. Not allowing my own thoughts & hate to stop me from doing what I want. Not letting my family discourage me. Not letting people discourage me. Just putting out music that I enjoy myself.”

Andy: “How does the family feel about the music?”

James: “My cousins, my brothers fuck with it. My mom doesn’t understand it. But the thing is, she doesn’t want me to do it, because she comes from a place, where she probably didn’t receive the support she deserved. 

Along with other things, I just feel her family is not as supportive as they should’ve been, or not as loving as they should’ve been. She probably put that upon us, because that’s all she knew. 

So she doesn’t really believe in following dreams, she just feels like you got to work. I understand her reaction towards it, she doesn’t want me to chase music & fail. But I tell her that as much as I love you, I don’t want to struggle like you.”

As long you’re paying attention to me I know I’m doing something right.” — James

Andy: “At what point did you consider music a passion?

James: “Probably when I started writing. I knew right away once I dropped my first song. Because right after I dropped my first song I had an in-school performance, in front of a different school inside of the (Taft) campus. It was received well. I think performing is my favorite part.”

Andy: “Talk to me about your upcoming EP that’s dropping in a few months?”

James: “So basically with that, I’m just trying to give little pieces & bits of my story, while also trying to uplift people around me. Definitely, as far as right now, I have an estimation of probably January or February, February seems a little more realistic right now. 

There are certain things that are kind of setting me back right now, but definitely February. If not even if it comes a little later, I’m just trying to make it as good as I can. Definitely excited about it.”

Andy: “How many songs are on the EP?”

James: “Right now, I have about 6. I’m thinking about 6. I have about 3 or 4 songs that I know are going to go on the project for sure. 

Andy: “What should we expect from the (currently) untitled EP?”

James: “Consistency. Authentic material. Just a lot of gems.”

James aspires to have his music recognized across the globe.

Andy: “What’s your ultimate goal in the music industry when it’s all said & done?”

James: “I’m trying to be considered as one of the greats. Even though that sounds so far-fetched, just thinking about it, we see people doing it but it just seems so far away. 

Hopefully, when it’s all said & done, I want that to be what people think about me. I’m one of the greatest. One of the most real.”

Andy: “What do you want your legacy to be?”

James: I just want people to look back on me when I’m gone, to not even just mention the music but mention who I am as a person. When you die that’s the only thing people have, memories. Say “he was a good person, he was kind-hearted, good friend.” That’s really what I want my legacy to be.

I want people to feel like I always keep it real. I’m just a good person overall. With music, I just want to be remembered. I want my music to be timeless. I want people to listen to it whenever.”


*Quick-Hitters

Hometown: the Bronx, New York (Highbridge)

Favorite Artists: A-Boogie wit Da Hoodie, Lil Durk, G-Herbo, Drake, 50 Cent, Lil Baby.

Least Favorite Artist: Playboi Carti, Lil Uzi Vert.

Favorite Albums: Nothing Was The Same (Drake), Artist (A-Boogie), Love Songs 4 The Streets 2 (Lil Durk).

Dream Collab: Drake, A-Boogie.

Dream Performance Venues: Madison Square Garden, Rolling Loud, Nelson Park.

Who do you want to see on Da Hood Journal: Flexxo, OMB Paris, Mondenfeux.

What do you say to the haters: ”Just keep watching, I know who you are.”

“Once I come back I’m never leaving. No more hiatuses.” — James

If you made it to the end, thank you so much for reading. Leave a comment if you enjoyed this piece. And please, share this with your friends!

Best,

Andy


Special shoutout to Abu, Kwame, Janielis, Steven, Brayant, & John. You all played an instrumental role in the success of James Esco.

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