How did the idea of your latest single and music video "Beautiful Soul" come about?
"Beautiful Soul is a song that touches on my relationship with both my fiancé and my daughter and how they both have influenced me in my life. This was my first time working with producer Terrin Harris @Errytime_Tee and as soon as I heard the beat the song just came very naturally and organically within a day or two. As far as the video, the creative mind behind that concept was thanks to my videographer Chad “Boots” Howard. He really pushed me to try something new and I’m pleased with the end result."
How long have you been doing what you’re doing and how did you get started in the first place?
"I started out really taking an interest in music because of church. Being involved with the choir as a shorty helped me musically and having that heavy gospel influence in the beginning of it all. I released my first solo project in 2013 called “Chemical Imbalance” and followed each year with volumes 2 & 3 in the series. At the time I didn’t quite know that I would eventually pursue this career full-time, it was more of an an outlet to express myself and have something fun to do. Plus, my cousin and closest friends at the time were all getting into the production and beat-making side really heavy, so they needed somebody to put some vocals to em'. That was when Jarrel Young the artist (who was back then JRelz) came to light. It was difficult in the beginning and even now because of the stigma attached to “rappers". And also coming from a religious background,it took a long time fighting to prove to my family that this art was worth pursuing. It’s a fight I still deal with to this day, constantly striving to prove that I’m making the right decision and that this is the path God chose for me."
If you could choose to work with some of today’s established artists or producers, to move your game to the top, with whom would you like to collaborate?
"I think there are several artists in the game that I would love to work with, but just off top I would say artists like Kendrick Lamar, his lyricism is just crazy. Another artist I would like to work with is J. Cole. Cole’s approach to the game and his level of independence is inspiring and drives me to want the same for my career. When it comes to producers, 9th Wonder is a legend in the Hip-Hop game so it would be a blessing to do something with him, and I think working with 40, from OVO, would just be a crazy experience in itself."
You've made an influence in Chicago. Tell us more about the music scene there.
"The Chicago music scene is one that has long been overlooked. Chicago has a lot of deep musical history especially in genres like classical, Jazz and R&B. But the Hip-hop scene is what often gets neglected. Aside from the recently popular “Drill Music” that it has become known for, Chicago has always been a city known to produce great storytellers in the game like Consequence, Common, Lupe Fiasco, and the great Kanye West. More recently we have seen a resurgence of that storytelling lyric based music with artists like TheBoyIllinois, Saba, and Chance The Rapper making waves on the major circuit."
In what ways has your newest music changed from when you first started?
"When I first started my music was definitely a little more aggressive, a lot more reflective of some of the reckless behavior that I was doing and witnessing at that stage in my life. Now my music is a lot more mature, I’ve become a lot more focused on what message I want to convey in my music and how I want to tell my story in thE world we live in from my perspective. I have learned not to trap myself into conforming to the typical status quo of a Hip-Hop artist. I’m learning how to incorporate new innovative ideas, different sounds and trying new approaches to my craft to make my music better. Looking forward to continue to grow my brand on an international level."
Biggest success in your career thus far?
"My biggest success thus far would have to be my album release show this year. I was my first headliner show and it was at the 2nd biggest performance venue on the University of Illinois campus. Now I’ve performed at this venue a few times on the small stage and even opened for Bone Thugz ‘N Harmony in front of a sold out crowd on that stage. But this time the show was all about me and the release of my debut album. Seeing my name on that marquee out front, and performing on that big stage in front of that crowd that was there to celebrate my craft and all the hard work and dedication I put into this album, it was an exhilarating experience unlike any other."
Which ingredient do you think is most essential in making your sound and style the way it is?
"Being from the Midwest, I believe we get a very diverse mixture of influences from all 3 sides, East Coast, West Coast & The South. While most would say my style is more West Coast influenced, it’s that blend of all those regions music that really gives me that ability to make crossover music that is appealing to a much larger demographic. That, and my belief in the almighty God. My faith plays a very strategic role in how I operate and how I create my music, without my faith in God I wouldn’t be here at all."
Watch "Beautiful Soul" here: