Babyface James wasn’t always Babyface James. In fact, for six years he was Alexander James Stuart Holme the soldier – at one time the youngest serving soldier in the British Army. After being medically discharged, his life took a turn down some troubled roads. Through drug addiction, homelessness and PTSD, Babyface James has come out the other side and is now living it up in New York with a successful modelling career under his belt and a burgeoning music career about to take off.
Following the drop of his latest freestyle over Eminem’s track “KillShot” – which was film directed by New York-based Film Director Alex Foster – GRM jumped on a call with Babyface James to break down his experience as a soldier, the events that led to his homelessness, and what 2019 is going to hold.
How come you decided to join the army so young?
“My mum was hella worried that I was going to end up in jail or dead, so I joined the army.”
“I was waiting pick up a draw in town and it was raining like mad so I stood underneath this canopy, which is where the army recruiting office was. An officer came out and asked if I wanted a cup of tea, and it was raining so I went in.”
“I went out to pick up a draw and instead got recruited by the army [laughs].”
What was your experience like in the army?
“You know what, yeah, it was sick – I loved it.”
“But it was bittersweet – you’re with your boys everyday, but they die sometimes. One of my best friends died when he was 19 on patrol – I was there, I had to carry him on the stretcher.”
Is this why you decided to leave the army?
“Nah. I got injured. I got called into the medical centre for an appointment one day and there was a general there, which is like the highest officer rank – a big old white dude, and he told me to come and sit down. They were just like you’ve had all these injuries – you’ve broken your neck, both your legs, you’ve fractured your hip, you’ve broken your ribs, you’ve punctured a lung, you’ve had frostbite…’
Which one was the worst?
“The cold… definitely the frostbite. But yeah they said you’re finished, you’ve had enough.”
What did you do when you left the army?
“A mate from Stockwell had gone to Southampton for Uni, so I went down there and we started trapping. We were doing that for a year, and then one night I was freestyling in the smoking area of a club and this guy noticed and asked if I wanted to open up for his group in London.”
“So I went up to London with him to open for this group, and everyone fucked with it. Then I went back to Southampton – didn’t really think too much of it and then from there I started opening up for some pretty big artists which was sick. But, then all of a sudden I was homeless.”
Shit, how did that happen?
“The trap went quiet – a few man went back and did their own thing in London so I was like, fuck it I’ll go back too. I didn’t want to go back to my family because I didn’t want to break their hearts ‘cos I was doing some fucking stupid shit. So I went back to London, but I went back with nowhere to go, so I was living out of a bag under a bridge.”
“I remember once I opened up for someone at 02 Indigo and then after that, I got my shit and went and slept under a doorway.”
“Then, the next night I opened up for another big artist at 02 Indigo and did the same again – but trust me, I was the best looking homeless guy in London [laughs].”
But your in New York now, how did it go from being homeless in London to living in New York?
“Basically this guy came to me and was like ‘yo are you a model’ and I was like ‘nah’ and he was like ‘do you wanna be’ and I was like ‘nah’ and then he was like ‘the money’s good’ so I said ‘alright’.”
“So I signed to Ford Models in New York as talent and took the opportunity to go and make something of it.”
Back to your music though, you talk really frankly about mental health and your personal experiences with it – what motivates you to do that?
“Mental health for me is inspiring other people to let them know that it does get better. Hard times don’t last, hard minds do.”
“I’ve had people message me from “Confessions of a Solider” who have never been a solider or had any real fuckery with their life and been like ‘You know what, I’ve been struggling with stuff but your song really helped me through it.”
“I want to spread awareness that mental health comes in all shapes and sizes – it’s like race almost. It doesn’t matter where you’re from or who you are or what your background is, mental health is mental health.”
“I think it takes a strong man to confess that you’re struggling. Like, that’s a real man if you can come to your mandem and say, you know what, I’m struggling.”
“Mental health for me isn’t just about the person, it’s about helping the people around that person that’s struggling.”
What’s next for 2019?
“It’s gonna be good, still. Got a few labels interested in the US – I’ve got a label that I’m working with and I’ve been seeing them so got a couple of good opportunities coming up.”
“Not gonna say no names but keep your eyes peeled.”