James Brooks, also known as “3D,” is looking to secure a major record deal by January and has London already secured in his overseas tour. He will also be touring colleges two weekends out of every month. All this while he’s not hanging out in Tech.
Brooks, a McCormick junior, isn’t your average Northwestern student. He opened for artists like Lil Wayne, Ludacris, Ne-Yo and T.I. when he was only 16 to audiences of up to 8,000 people. He’s releasing the first out of four mixed tapes — all of which will be accompanied by a music video — on Sept. 26, and his back-to-school concert at the Keg this past Saturday was postponed so that it could be relocated to a bigger venue.
“[Music] was something that I was interested in,” said Brooks, who began rapping when he was seven after his cousins introduced him to a karaoke machine. “I’ve always liked music, being a part of it and seeing it on TV, so you know, it was something that I gave a try.”
Now, Brooks’ music is quickly catapulting him into stardom. He collaborated with Lupe Fiasco, among other successful artists, on his first mixed tape. And one of his songs, “Heavyweight Champion,” caught the attention of Busta Rhymes and Ludacris, who Brooks said want to remix it.
“They really loved the beat,” said Brooks, who will begin recording with major artists like Trey Songz and E-40 come December. “It’s a definite humbling experience being able to record with somebody that you listen to on the radio.”
The Arkansas native’s music has been described as a combination of rap, hip hop and R&B, but Brooks said his music is more versatile. For example, he has a few rock songs on his upcoming mixed tapes. It’s this versatility that led him to choose the name 3D.
“Music is so three-dimensional, you can look at it in a number of ways,” Brooks said. He said the name 3D shows his diversity as an artist, too, and is a nickname “that just kind of stuck with me growing up being in the studio, and it was something that I liked.”
Despite the success he has experienced, he still makes school a priority. Brooks tries to record during holidays and weekends and weeknights when he has time. He also said he’ll take work with him when he’s touring.
“It’s all about prioritizing,” said Brooks, who will probably cut a few extracurricular activities from his schedule and has practices with his band three times a week. “School is always going to be a top priority.”
The importance Brooks places on his education doesn’t slow him down though. He is currently working with a clothing brand, Pandarhand, in which $50 million has been invested. He is a “human billboard” for the line and deals with marketing and provides music, he said.
Brooks’ next big gig is his concert on Saturday. It will include a live band, opening act and a 45-minute set by Brooks that includes a “special surprise,” he said. Guest DJ Kwest_on, who has deejayed for artists like Common and Kanye West, will also be performing.
Northwestern has greatly influenced Brooks.
“I think [Northwestern] helped me develop lyrically — like I can actually say I know who I am as an artist,” Brooks said. “And I always thought I knew who I was ‘cause I’ve been rapping for so long that I just got comfortable doing a certain type of music.” He said the diversity on campus and the people he’s met have profoundly affected him.
Despite all the challenges that come with being a rising artist and a student, Brooks is not slowing down any time soon.
“It’s all about what you want,” Brooks said. “If you really want to do it, you’ll find a way to get it done.”
3D’s back-to-school concert is from 9 p.m. – 11 p.m. this Saturday with a $5 cover. Venue is yet to be announced. Ages 18 and up are welcome.