The multi-talented multi-hyphenate speaks with Boardroom about putting his money where his mouth is by dining with a purpose and supporting Black-owned businesses.
Trinidad Jame$ has a lot on his plate.
“I travel a lot,” James tells Boardroom. “And one of the things I must do is eat food.”
For many, moving from city to city means stopping at the staples or stunting at the five-star spots.
For James, the hunger for more is never just about himself.
This proved pivotal in 2019 when a beat spoke to him in the booth. The drums drove James to write “Black Owned,” an anthem ending up on his 2020 album, Black Filter.
Both the song and its sentiment inspired an intention to put more of his money in the pockets of entrepreneurs who share his heritage.
“When I did the song, I wanted to be better at supporting Black-owned businesses,” the rapper born Nicholaus Joseph Williams said. “That’s something nobody ever told me or preached to me growing up.”
The single spawned the Black Owned Food Challenge. Not only was synergy strong when it came to marketing his Black Filter album, but there was also the fact of walking the walk in his own everyday life.
“Being an independent artist, I had to think up my own rollout,” James said. “One of the things that came to me was putting myself out there to support Black-owned restaurants. Let me use a necessity like eating as a way to really push this agenda.”
While James got his fill on delicious dishes en route to dropping Black Filter in August 2020, the challenge has evolved into a lifestyle — and an entrepreneurial passion project.
From IG to TV
The key from the jump for Trinidad Jame$ was to support Black-owned businesses in a way that felt true to himself.
“I started in February 2020 and probably did about 25 restaurants,” James said. “I learned a lot about what’s missing in the game and how many types of Black-owned restaurants there are. It’s a journey and I did it for myself. I needed to get on the right page before I tell somebody else to do it.”
First flourishing in portable form on Instagram in 2020, the series took off.
While that February proved a perfect time to take his message into practice, the imperfect events of the months that followed shifted the social consciousness further in his direction.
“The pandemic hits and the horrible situation with George Floyd happens,”James recalled. “Supporting Black-owned businesses becomes a thing.”
Traction from tragedy sparked many consumers and corporations to start thinking and acting differently when it came to supporting Black-owned businesses. Already on his path, James sought to partner with Postmates to develop a program that incentivized savings when it came to spending with Black-owned establishments.
While that initiative didn’t ultimately come to fruition, the push from Trinidad and the community convinced Postmates and many other companies to start highlighting Black-owned businesses on their platform. Even after the tumultuous year that was 2020 ended, James continued to push forward.
“When 2021 came around, I had dropped Black Filter,” James said. “Some people that I was working with mentioned that I should do the Black Owned Food Challenge, but more professionally.”
Enlisting a camera crew, James and his team shot 24 episodes in February 2021. Already a personality and a host, he knew the content could serve as a sizzle reel while also adding to the initiative that many had treated as a trend.
Now in its third year, James hopes to take the challenge to major players in the media space.
“I want to get it on a syndicated TV channel,” he said. “We have a big pitch coming up.”
Having just wrapped up the third installment of the Black Owned Food Challenge for 2022, Trinidad Jame$ has leaned into his mission of educating himself on the wide range of cuisines offered across the country and the rich stories behind them.
Breaking bread at Black-owned businesses all over the map and chopping it up with the entrepreneurs that drive each one, James is working with MACRO to pitch the show to syndicated TV stations.
After a year, they’re taking meetings and getting traction.
From Brooklyn Chophouse in New York to the Jones BBQ in Arkansas — believe to be the country’s oldest Black-owned restaurant — the revolution may be televised.
Regardless, the journey and the habits it’s changed for the better are their own reward for the humble host.
“I’m going to continue to do it every Black History Month, whether I get on TV or not,” James said. “It’s something I’ve dedicated my life to.”