Following the release of a string of heartfelt and often heartbreaking originals, we caught an in-depth interview with rapper and artist JJdaking, to find out more about his journey so far, his songwriting style, and his hopes for the future. Here’s the conversation in full.
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Hey, thanks so much for the interview! For those who don’t know, how long have you been making music, and where are you currently based?
I have been making music since my junior year of high school with a group called Vintage Camp and to be honest, I was hesitant because I did not know what to talk about. I did not want to talk about my life because I did not think people would actually listen, so I didn’t really take it seriously until I made my first solo mixtape called First Chapter and saw the reaction it got. I’m from Saint Louis Missouri but I currently live in Frisco Texas.
Did you perform live much before lockdown, and is live performance a big part of your plans?
I never really performed, I’ve always wanted to I just couldn’t because I was always busy. I do want to perform as much as I can when I get the chance to.
What can you tell us about the project On My Mind – what does it mean for you, and how did it feel to share it with the world?
Personally, On My Mind was a very personal tape. Each song from top to bottom says how I have been feeling for a while. I have never been big on therapy or talking about what is going on with me, but I have always used music as my way to vent.
Some people tell me all the time how my music is always sad and each time I tell them it is not sad it is the way I feel. And after putting the tape out many people came to me and said now, they kind of understand why I do certain things and that is really all I wanted. Also, On My Mind is my most viewed, downloaded, and streamed Mixtape.
What about the single Loved Ones – this one cuts deep for its emotional lyricism, and the soundscape is equally emotive and refreshing to listen to. How did the song come to be, and do you arrange and produce your own tracks?
Loved Ones was a harder song for me to write because it is so personal, especially with everything going on in the world today. A lot of people deal with depression, anxiety, stress and other internal issues everyday, but since Covid-19 and people losing their jobs and plans not going the way they are supposed to, everyone is kind of on edge and they want to give up. Loved Ones was me telling the world or at least the people who listened that I’m not ready to give up yet but I’m definitely tired of the fight.
I don’t make beats so after I found and paid for a nice chill beat I was able to do what I wanted when I wrote the song then mixed it and sent it to get mastered. And once it was finished I was able to put it out and hope it does good numbers.
You describe yourself as a storyteller – how close to reality do you keep your stories, and who or what would you say has inspired you to be this kind of artist, with long-form conceptual writing and notably eclectic soundscapes?
I keep my songs very close to reality. I really despise how some people write about what they see and that is not the life they really live. T.I. is my biggest inspiration in all his interviews and in his songs, he just keeps it so real and lets people know what it is and stand on what he says.
Another inspiration of mine is August Alsina – his song, Song Cry, really hit me hard and really made me realize that telling my truth will never do me wrong and if people don’t like it then, oh well, someone will, and all you really need is for one person to believe in you because you won’t want to let that person down.
Do you ever worry about laying bare too much of your personal truth, or is this the key to connecting with an audience?
Everyday I feel like people are starting to listen more to the beats instead of the lyrics and that has made me more nervous about what I write because I feel like some songs people don’t really understand the message but they understand the beat is great. Lately though I have been building a decent size fan base in the last few months.
In what ways has your perspective and thus your approach to making music changed or evolved over time, and have the events of 2020 impacted your view of the world or your ambitions going forwards?
Over time the events I write about have gotten deeper. Like if I didn’t have nothing happen in my life it was hard for me to write about anything or make a good hook/bridge because I didn’t want to get to deep into my life, but I changed that because like I said before music became my therapy.
With everything going on in 2020 so far my life took a hit in all factions but it wasn’t until I lost my job and was short on money that everything kind of started going downhill. The only constant in my life was my music so I used it the best I could to get me through my days.
Which track of yours would you play for new listeners who only have time for one, and why?
I have two, one would be Feel My Pain, produced by Speaker Bangers, because that song took me 3 years to write and I really sat and wrote everything that happened to me in the last three years and why I got put into the foster care system.
My second song would be Final Words, produced by Narrow Beatz, because again I tell my story but this time I get a little more in depth on why I started music and what kind of started my depression, anxiety and trust issues.
If you could sit down for a chat with anyone at all, past or present, who would you choose, and what would you ask them about?
I would sit with my brother Kamren Cherry who passed a while back, because I wasn’t there when he died and I would like to tell him I’m sorry. I’m sure we would just talk about music and what’s gone happen when we make it big like we always used to do.
What’s next for you?
I have one more Mixtape/EP coming before the summer is up, called King. I plan on doing more music videos and just building my brand.
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
Thank you for letting me tell my story.
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Find & follow JJdaking on Instagram.