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Meet Vine-Famous Syracuse Rap Artist Daniel James

Meet Vine-Famous Syracuse Rap Artist Daniel James

The first rap song Daniel James wrote—in eighth grade—was called “Broken.” “It was definitely about a girl,” he chuckles, recalling his first foray into rap music.

“She probably kissed another dude or something.”

Though the 19-year-old rapper has grown up a bit and refined his flow, he still hasn’t stopped writing about girls or emotion. “I don’t like writing about fake stuff,” he said. “Whatever I feel, I write.”

He describes the first time he rapped over a hardcore rap beat—a remix of the Rocky theme song, to be exact. He felt like he had to be tough, but when he listened to it, the words sounded stupid and phony. “I decided I didn’t want to be like that,” he said.

Relatable Rap Star

For now, though, James isn’t a larger-than-life gangster or a decadent rock star. He is a freshman in Syracuse University’s Bandier Program and has felt his life change drastically in the past few months—but in the normal, relatable ways. He wants to express that in his raps.

James states that his defining influence is Drake, an artist who has made a career out of bearing his emotions—even and especially the ordinary kind—to the world. But what James most admires about Drake is his ear for pop rap, to understand what will resonate instantaneously with a mass audience.

“That’s what I aspire to do: make hits,” said James.

Vine Rap

The hits James has produced so far have mostly come in the form of 6-second clips on the video sharing service Vine, where he has amassed a staggering 127,000 followers. These aren’t rap songs, strictly speaking, but they are still little nuggets by which fans can keep in touch with James on a day-to-day basis, in between his uploads to places like YouTube.


The Show

James is now trying to translate this Vine fame, which he admits contains a high concentration of teenage girls, into real-life. He is collaborating with fellow Syracuse freshman S M I T H. and headlining Made at SU’s second concert. This concert will take place on November 7 at 8 pm at Funk ‘n Waffles, and will be the test as to how far social media charisma can carry an artist.

For those who do show up, James promises the material will be much different than any of the current songs he has up on YouTube. He says he’s worked to try to make it even less generic, even more true to his own experience. But it might still be about girls.

Hey, write what you know.

About The Author

Nathan McAlone

I'm a master's student in the Magazine, Newspaper, and Online Journalism program at Newhouse. I've spent the last few years bouncing between California and NYC, and love writing about the intersection of arts and politics, particularly in music.


This site celebrates the people places, and culture that make Central New York one of the most vibrant and livable regions in the country. From Auburn to Utica, from Syracuse, to Ithaca, this is LivableCNY.

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