Trinidad James is still wrapping his head around how it feels to be the proud owner of a viral hit. "To be honest with you, man, it's a learning experience," says the flamboyant Atlanta MC, 25. "It's a very fast, big learning experience."
James' "All Gold Everything" has racked up more than 10 million views on YouTube so far. Much of that attention is the result of a memorable drug reference: "Popped a molly, I'm sweating!" he exclaims midway through a verse, punctuating this observation with a quick "woo!" before repeating the line. This pithy phrase inspired a wildly popular online meme last fall, with countless tweets, funny JPEGs and even a YouTube supercut of James saying "popped a molly, I'm sweating/Woo!" for six minutes straight. "Honestly, man, I could not understand why that particular line connected with people," he says. "The reason why I did it is because the first time I tried molly, I got really hot. Shit! Like, it was a real expression. That's how real my music is."
Another key scene in the video features James strolling through the streets of Atlanta with an adorable puppy in one hand. "When we were shooting that scene, my friend that happened to be standing right in front of me had the puppy in his hand," he explains. "I was like, 'Hey, let me see that puppy.'"
James credits four years of experience managing a streetwear boutique for his unique fashion sense. "I'm not scared to wear anything, for the most part – if I feel like I look good in it, I will wear it," he says. "So when I did the video, I thought of the most hyped-up outfit I would want to wear to really represent me, the person, and that's what I came up with: the red slacks rolled up, Versace loafers, that leopard-print shirt from my favorite brand, Joyrich, and my Trinidad flag, repping my country, tied to the front so you know it's real."
James' stage name honors his birthplace of Port of Spain, Trinidad. "I lived a carefree young life, you know?" he says. "We weren't poor. We weren't rich. We were just happy. And then we moved to the States."
His family moved around a few times before settling in Atlanta when he was eight or nine. "You gotta think about it," recalls James. "I'm in second grade, with an accent, in Atlanta, which is the South – it's not even like New York or Miami, which are very cultural. This is Atlanta, where we know Spanish people, black people and that's it. You know? And I had an accent, so kids was giving me all the trouble. Like, me coming from Trinidad, and having to count, I'd be, like, 'One, two, tree.' Everyone was like, 'What is he talking about? Why he is talking about a tree right now?' So I had to deal with that for a long time."
Eventually, the schoolyard mockery helped shape his persona. "My aunties are very smart-mouthed, very snappy," he says. "That helped me to become very witty and get back at people when they started coming at me. People kinda calmed down on the jokes after a while when they figured out, 'Yo, he goes in. He comes back with his jokes.'"
James has only been rapping seriously for about a year, but the success of "All Gold Everything" has already landed him a lucrative deal with Def Jam, which is promoting his current mixtape, Don't Be S.A.F.E. "Dude, it wasn't about the money, honestly," he says of the label contract. "All it was for me was a bigger chance for more people to hear my music so that I get more criticism and more fame."
RELATED LINKS: Trinidad James Achieves Instant Success With 'All Gold Everything' http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/trinidad-james-achieves-instant-success-with-all-gold-everything-20121214 The 50 Greatest Hip-Hop Songs of All Time: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/lists/the-50-greatest-hip-hop-songs-of-all-time-20121205
Photo by Griffin Lotz for RollingStone.com