[Exclusive] Interview With Def Jam’s JAHKOY

After a lot of emails, calls, and schedule adjustments, I was able to reach a time that was best to interview this young, talented, unique, upcoming, and busy individual, JAHKOY.

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I had previously written an article on this artist’s latest release  “Odd Future,” and discussed some of his beginnings, history, and sound in the piece, but that did not give the man enough justice. Actually getting to speak with him as he explained his beliefs and values, and thoughts on the questions I posed, was really an exciting and interesting experience. He had so much to say, and I had so much to ask!

If you haven’t listened to JAHKOY before, think of a Trey Songz meets Frank Ocean meets Drake meets Bryson Tiller vocals and the musical sounds of Kanye West, Bryson Tiller, and Chris Brown. His voice is sweet, yet melancholy, with a touch of optimism in the white noise. It’s amazing how he blends different types of tunes and characteristics together to produce the tracks he accumulates.

So, in honor of his tour reaching our hometown, Boston, MA, I requested to interview the artist. All in all, I could confidently say that the conversation JAHKOY and I conducted was a very natural and real conversation, that didn’t feel forced or awkward. Instead, it was just a discourse between two 20-something year olds, who understand a bit of the songwriting process and the music industry and could talk in depth about meanings and emotions behind certain situations, contexts, and music.

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@jahkoy tour list.

He was all big laughs, kind words, and thoughtful comments.

Interview:

Me (N): How did this whole music career start for you, what inspired you to start going in this path?

JAHKOY (J): When I was younger, I used to write poems, and the poems generated, they kind of grew into music, music is poetry just kind of with melodies, you know? So that’s kind of where things started for me, it started at poems and it kind of just… It was random, I don’t even know how, I can’t even remember how  it happened. One day I was writing poems, and the next I was making music, and ever since I just kind of never stopped and kept going.

N: Musician-wise, or doesn’t even have to be a musician, but who was that inspiring figure for you?

J: “There has actually been a few people that have been there: Kanye, Pharrell, Andre 3000, its like a really long list, its more like artists that didn’t that weren’t afraid of being different, and knowing that they were, so they were kind of stepping over the boundaries of music, you know, and kind of creating their own world.”

N: Definitely, they kind of have a whole new perspective in their genres.

J: “Ya, exactly, it’s kind of like experimental, in a world where its like you are you’re growing, you’re discovering yourself you’re experiencing new things and you see new things and it’s kind of like what you’re absorbing reflects in your music.”

N: For sure and do you hope to maybe do that yourself as you grow more in the music industry, do you hope to jump to different types  styles and see what you can experiment with? Would you disqualify those who say your genre of music is Contemporary R&B?

J: “Ya, I do, that’s why I call my music Bi-polar Sound, it’s like, you know, people think that an artist who is in this one genre shouldn’t be able to experiment in another, you know? And that’s why I don’t like about music, and I’m trying to eliminate genres so they know that it’s ok to be diverse, you can experiment, you can be you, you can be your art of creation.”

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@jahkoy

I then asked JAHKOY what kind of future sound he is planning to work on and he explained that he isn’t limiting himself, and whatever comes to him then– that sounds good for others to enjoy– is what he will do. He works and mixes with R&B, hip-hop, house, country meets reggae, and pop.

It’s refreshing and something that is needed in music currently. He calls the music today “too similar,” and something he hopes to break away from.

I continued the conversation by asking what he loves most about music, and he replied that it was an outlet for him to express himself, the thoughts in his head that he hopes for others to hear but is hard to relay casually, so through music he creates, for that listener, a connection of “wow, I know what that feels like,” or …

J: “a taste of an experience of something that they have never come across but they know its out there in the world and its like wow, thats such a beautiful feeling and I want to feel that way too… haha

N: Definitely! You want to love the song that you create before you want others to love it and feel it with you.

J: “For sure!”

I asked him, while on tour, where was the best place he has visited and performed at yet, to which he replied Montreal because it was so responsive to his music, but he is looking forward to performing in Boston, and hopefully they gave him a good welcoming show, so that he will want to come back again!

Transitioning here, we got a little deep and personal as we discussed family and their role in his music life. He said that before he had his deal, he a lot of times when his family said to pick up a course at school or get a job, but he stayed committed and didn’t let anything get past him and he was fortunate enough that throughout the journey, everything went as he had hoped, and got him to a point where his family was proud and supportive. They even came to his show in Toronto and JAHKOY said that seeing their faces in the crowd was the best.

We conversed about the Canadian music scene and he said that there really was no music-hub, it wasn’t the hot spot to start a career, you’d go there if you were already an established artist.

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@jahkoy Beats office

N: How did you get picked up by Def Jam?
J: “At the time that I was just releasing music on Soundcloud, I was getting a lot of label offers, people were reaching out… When I met Def Jam, they kind of welcomed me in a different way than anybody else had, and it was more so after a few meetings that we connected really [well]. You know when you meet someone for the first time, you know whether or not this person is going to be around for a while? So, it was like one of those things where I met with them, they showed me a lot of love, and we met a few times after that, things were really great, I played ping pong with the CEO of Def Jam (Steve Bartels)– haha– you know we were really kickin’ it, so it felt a lot more like a family more so than a business…I mean they found me from Soundcloud.” 

N: Ya, that’s amazing,that definitely shows people that anything is possible, if you just put your mind to it and keep trying.

J: “Ya, it is, that’s very very true! If you believe in your product, you know, someone’s gonna buy it! haha!”

Before all of this happened though, he was doing music on his own until he got a house. It was hobby that turned into a career and he stayed focused on that and didn’t do very much else. Def Jam then found him last year, and the rest is history. He said that a lot of times, people give up when things don’t work out, but he doesn’t advocate for or tolerate that. He says you have to struggle until the time comes for success to happen.

N: How does it feel to be so young and amongst all of these big timers? I think we are about the same age, are you 20?

J: “I’m turning 22 actually..It’s really dope, I mean I know that everyone has a lot of experience and I absorb that, I absorb the compliments. I’ve been around a lot of great producers and writers, as of late, James Leroy, Elijah Blake, and a bunch of names that are really connected to NO I.D. , actually NO I.D. is the first that found me and had me signed, and NO I.D. is like Kanye’s right hand guy, and ya it’s really really dope because I get to be around that environment, and it’s, like, very inspiring for me to see what kind of things they’ve accomplished and where they are today.”

N: Yes, absolutely. So, ok, from all of the people that you’ve met so far in the industry, thus far, has anyone given you any invaluable advice that you will carry on with you?

J: “Yes, actually NO I.D. gave me some of the best advice ever, he told me that whenever it comes to making a decision, make sure that my heart is in it…You really feel strongly about something, don’t let anything stop you…”

I asked about the reasoning behind his name, to which he replied it is actually his really name, and that his mother actually named him after one of her best friends in high school, Jahkoya. They just changed his into the boy version, haha. I thought the unique sound of his name fit his personality and his music well. We joked a little bit about how my name is also absurd and different and people are always mispronouncing it which managed to get a laugh out of him.

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@jahkoy Showbox Seattle

I asked if he has a favorite song, but he mentioned that his music are like his babies, and you can’y have a favorite baby. Each one to him has a different perspective and represent a different part of him and his story.

I asked him what song he thinks he would identify with if he had to choose one, aside from his music, and he replied with an answer I was all for: “I Want to Be Down” by Brandy.

J: “It’s my favorite song of all time!”

N: “Ahhh good choice, very good choice!”

J: “Haha, thank you.”

N: If you could collaborate with anyone, who would they be?

J: “Uh, I want to collaborate with my idols. So that would be Kanye West, Pharrell, Andre 3000, Rihanna, Frank Ocean, Nicki Minaj… haha kind of a strange list…”

N: Ugh! This is a great list! You’re naming some of my top 10 artists!

J: “Thank you– haha– sick!”

N: I bet it will be really exciting when you get to that point of collaborating with people.

J: “Yes, I know, I look forward all the time, I’ve been asked many times in the past if I ever wanted to collaborate, but at the time I was in a very experimental phase at the start of my music that I felt that collaborating too early would kind of throw me off creatively.”

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@jahkoy

The youthful, Canadian discussed with me the ways he approaches song writing, and as expected, it is very impulsive and random for JAHKOY. He says a lot of time he’ll get inspiration from the conversations he has with people and mid sentence he will stop and start writing things down. Sometimes it comes to him when he’s sitting around and sees something that draws his attention. He then will isolate himself because he is then in the zone to produce what he feels.

I referenced a quote the innovative artist had made in a former interview where he stated that he was looking to touch peoples’ lives with the “feel good” music that he creates, and so I wanted to know how he wanted his music to achieve this goal of his? JAHKOY simply answered that the all around product is going to deliver to the people, the unique sound, is going to reach them. He recalls that when a new artist came out with a new sound, it was so organic to him, and he wants to use what he has to do a similar movement.

I had fun asking JAHKOY random questions as well like…

N: When you were little what did you want to be?

J: “When I was little I wanted to be a firefighter. I always wanted to save people. haha.”

N: Awww, well look at that, now you’re doing it through your music. haha

J: “RIGHT?! haha.”

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@jahkoy album artwork for single ‘Hold Your Hand’

N: It seems like a recurring theme in your songs is “Love,” are you trying to delineate a message out to people?

J: “Ya, it’s to spread love and positivity, there’ s not a lot of it, so it’s like let’s bring it back, it’s not too late, and embrace it.”

N: Ya, definitely get those vibes from your songs, especially, “Still In Love” and “Hold Your Hand.” Ok, so if you could go to one place right now, where would that be?

J: “I want to go to Ibiza, Spain. I’ve been thinking about it so much lately.”

N: If you had a color to identify yourself, which would it be? 

J: “The color red, it’s my favorite color, it’s a bright color, it’s positive, I absorb my energy from it.”

N: I see that…It’s the color of love and it’s bold and expressive…

J: “Right, roses and light….”

N: Ya, ok, so another question, if they decided to make a film about you, who would you want to play as you in it?

J: “Wow, a film of me? haha, sick, umm, it would have to be Larenz Tate….haha, I’ll take that, he’s a pretty dope guy. haha.”

N: If you had one word to describe yourself, what would it be?

J: “Spontaneous.”

N: You had also mentioned in a past interview that you were shy, but you don’t seem shy!

J: “Oh, I’m very shy. I’m kind of shy right now, ya, I’m getting heated. haha. I’m still getting used to having conversations with so many people.”

N: I’m sure, interviews are pretty scary. I get scared every time I’m about to give an interview.

J: “Ya haha, wait why do you get scared? You’re asking the questions!”

N: Well, you guys are big names and you’re so cool and I also hope that the questions don’t bother you haha…

J: “Nah, haha not at all, but I appreciate that. haha.”

N: Haha, of course, ok another question, over this entire journey what has been the hardest part?

J: “The hardest part? Having to eat healthy, haha, I need like a housing meal. haha. We are on the road a lot and you come across a lot of burgers and stuff and they say when you are on the road you got to eat a lot….when you’re in a city you got to kind of free style your meals, haha. You got to figure it out.”

N: Haha! You have to be spontaneous with your food? haha. 

J: “YES, hahaha.”

N: Lastly, what advice would you give to aspiring artists?

J: “Don’t stop, if you believe in your product, someone’s gonna buy it.”

N: Well, this was great! Thank you so much, JAHKOY. I really appreciate you taking the time for this interview! This was an awesome conversation. I wish you luck on the rest of your tour and keep doing what you’re doing!

J: “Aw, thank you. Haha. Thank you for having me honestly, this was amazing!”

N: Hopefully, I’ll get to interview you in person some day on your next tour!

J: “Yes, definitely! That would be great!”

Well, that wraps up the interview. If you have not listened to JAHKOY yet, be sure to check him out now because this man is going places and he’s not going to stop until he gets there:

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