James Massiah is no stranger to the energy and adrenaline of life in the spotlight. As an artist that expresses their creativity in a myriad of ways; writing, DJing and performing, James echoes that success is obtained through hard work, dedication and a healthy mind, body and soul.
It’s this approach to his work that’s led James to link up with Nike and ASOS ahead of the release of the Nike Free Trainer V7. We sat down with James to discuss who he is, why he trains and how he can achieve a natural release of energy by creating.
James demonstrates how training helps you achieve your potential. This individual philosophy towards training provides an interesting insight into who James is, and his story.
If you had to put a title on what you do creatively, what would it be, and what is it that drives you to create?
The easiest thing to call myself is a writer but I guess in addition to that I write poetry and perform it to music, or dry, so that puts me in a different place. I guess it all kind of stems from a need to express an idea or certain philosophy, and that's the most immediate means for me to do that.
What was it that marked the transition from writing poetry to performing it as well?
I used to write at school and one of my pieces was put up on the family notice board. Our pastor came to visit after school on one particular day and saw it, and asked if I'd like to read the piece out in Church. I was like "sure, I'm up for that" and that really started the notion of writing my poems to be read aloud. I also had books actually by Jon Akard and other sorts of children's poetry compilations that were poems to be spoken aloud so I guess I expected poems to be performed from a young age.
In terms of other people doing it, or people within hip-hop, did you have any key inspirations that sort of shape your direction?
I guess on the music side of things it was just tracks that I had heard and liked by certain artists that I wanted to duplicate. Talking Heads - Seen and Not Seen, James Brown - King Heroin, that was like another seminal track I'd say. Then some stuff that Kanye West had done, I guess the Def Poetry Jam series as well. My Dad was always putting me onto Linton Kwesi Johnson, Mutabaruka… Those were sort of early references points for me, in terms of using spoken word on top of music.
Being from London, do any of your musical interests align with grime, and do you feel as if spoken word has its place within the grime scene?
I wouldn't really consider myself as part of any sort of spoken word scene. I know it exists but I think the things that define it stylistically and philosophically don't really match with what I'm doing at the moment. As far as the philosophy of grime, I mean it's broader, and I think as people become more aware of the scene and the style of music, they're going to add their own flavour to it. I suppose spoken word as a notion generally exists as part of conscious hip-hop, which I also don't really feel much of an affinity to. I think maybe at the earliest point in my journey I may have aspired to be part of that movement, but less and less now do I see that as something to aspire to. But I guess in saying that, a lot of stuff I'm doing now with other writers and producers at some points might feature elements of grime – like from my early beginnings as points of reference. Not even creatively speaking in terms of poetry, but growing up in London. Like I'm from South so Krept and Konan when they were Gipset, Roadside Gs, PDC, which I guess is like the earliest generation of what is known now as Road Rap. Obviously Dizzee Rascal, Wiley as well. It's more to do with the philosophy of a writer, like Dizzee Rascal’s earlier stuff. Like self-determination, "I'm in this situation but I'm going to get out of it no matter what anyone else thinks", that definitely rings true to me now. In terms of my own writing, moving from references in music to literature, I'm always looking for people with that amoral, self-determined way of going about themselves.
Your personal philosophies play an important role within your music. Do you maintain any of these principles within your training routine?
It’s more combat stuff or a run, rather than going to the gym and sweating it out. For me, it's like a feeling, like something I need to shake off so I'll be like "alright cool, let's go for a run”. Or I'll contact Sensei and get myself beaten up (laughs). Rather than it being a regular routine, it's more like when the feeling comes. That's a broader statement about my own philosophy, in terms of my creative writing, it happens when the feeling comes. I'll see something or something will happen in my life and I'll go write or train. It's a natural release.
You mentioned that you train in a similar way to how you create. Do you feel like training directly benefits or draws any further parallels to when you're performing?
Less so than when I'm performing, it's more the creative writing process. I guess you're training and working out to get that release and get that thing off or out of you, and that's more connected to the writing process. Performing is showing off, it's like you take off your top and show off your pecs and six pack. That's the performing side of things - I've been in the dojo working out, checking references, going back and forwards and here I am now to show off.
When you go into training, to get that release and achieve your best performance, what do you look for and require from a training shoe?
Comfort is the most important aspect for me, it's something that you want throughout a training session. For training, I need a shoe that supports my foot and provides flexibility. Second to that is versatility, in terms of my room I don't have too much 'stuff' and like to keep things minimal. Someone asked me the other day why I don't have a watch and I was just like "why do I need a watch when I have a smartphone?" - If you had to offer me this or that, I'd want the thing that does everything I need.
To make the most of your training and learn how the Men’s Nike Free Trainer V7 and Women’s Nike Free TR7 can benefit you, head over to the Nike x ASOS training hub.