On the Record with Jazzy
Female artists of yesteryear distinguished themselves through their voices. With songs and grace that issued in an era of creativity that far surpassed those of their male counterparts. Today’s female artists lack substance, originality and in the constant race to keep up with the Beyonce/Rihanna/Lady Gaga era, many are afraid to show exactly who they are. But a few remain strong. California native and newest member of Busta Rhymes’ Conglomerate, Jazzy, is one of those few. Having been first introduced to her audience by way of her first mixtape, Oh Jazzy, she has made a name for herself underground and is gaining popularity by sticking true to her R&B roots. Edge caught up with the talented songstress to talk about her start, her successes and the future of her music.
Edge: So, tell me a little about who Jazzy is.
Jazzy: I am an R&B artist. I grew up in Orange County. I come from a musical background. My grandmother used to sing opera with Marion Anderson. All of my family plays something. As far everyone is concerned, I’ve done the most and I was the shyest. Nobody knew about my talent until I was about 14 or 15. That was by accident and I released a CD when I was 18 and everyone was like “wait, WHAT?” (laughs). I was really reserved with my gift, I was nervous about how they’d react because we’re Baptist.
Edge: How would you describe your style as an artist?
Jazzy: It’s pretty straightforward R&B. It’s not R&B soul, I would say it’s not R&B pop. It’s a mix between the last Aaliyah album and Destiny’s Child’s “Writings on the Wall”—that’s the best description I could give. There’s no artist doing either of those right now. It’s either really, really pop or really soul. You have Melanie Fiona or Rihanna. Those are extremes, there’s no one in the middle. Beyonce does it but she’s an icon so she’s not consistent in one genre.
Edge: What sets you apart in this business?
Jazzy: My ability to not follow the trend a lot of people are doing pop right now because that’s what’s getting a check. Granted, a check would be great but I don’t want to do anything that will shorten my career. I want longevity as far as shows and being able to connect to my audience. I’ve built so much. I don’t want to start doing something that’s so far left that my fans are like “Who is this? Who are we supporting?” I notice a lot of the artists I came up with are now doing just straight up pop. Some people are trying to rap. People are just trying to get their foot in the door. It’s like building a consistent fan base with what you’ve done from the start and letting them grow with you and then letting that grow as well.
Edge: What do you do to keep yourself inspired?
Jazzy: I listen to a lot of music. One of my closest friends is Janelle Monae’s tour manager and we all know she’s different but the music I’ve been introduced to is amazing. Artists I’ve never listened to before. I feed myself by listening to others that fills me up and shows up in my music when I start recording again. I read a lot. I’m a nerd. I read fashion blogs and get inspired as well. Letters to a King was inspired by a fashion blog that I discovered.
Edge: What is music missing right now?
Jazzy: Music is shifting. It’s going from being really cookie cutter, like fast food, to real musicians having a chance to get on and show who they are. People really loving the art and vulnerability. That’s coming back and that’s what was missing. It’s been missing forever. People weren’t even talking about anything that we could relate to t all. We’re all broke; we’re not popping bottles. Nobody is rolling around in Lamborghini’s, let’s be real. But people are starting to be real. That’s what we all need. That was the disconnect from audiences that many artists had. A lot of our age group knows what’s up…. the recession is definitely here. So that’s something we can respect more, rather than the BS because we’re not living that lifestyle. The real is coming back and I am really, really in love with it. I was listening to Frank Ocean and when you listen to his music it’s so vulnerable especially coming from a man’s point of view. That’s why people are going so crazy over it. It’s so honest and real. He’s just an example of the good direction music is headed in.
Edge: How did you get your start in the business?
Jazzy: I started doing music locally in high school with people around me. Where I grew up there was nothing. No music. Music somewhat, but no Black people. I had no connections. I didn’t know what to do. I got connected somehow with a girl from the group Brownstone and through her I met my writing partner and from there I got introduced to someone else and started working. I was just doing hooks and writing songs. I didn’t even know I was writing songs I would be writing poetry and then hear a track and put the poem to it. And then “Oh Jazzy” in 2004 and we released it digitally on 2005. A friend of mine background dances for Chris Brown. Chris heard the music, wanted to meet me, met me and when I went to sing for him one of the people who were on the bus became my publisher. That’s how I ended up getting signed to Jamie (Foxx). From there a bunch of doors kept opening. Literally I have no clue; I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to sing but I didn’t know how it was going to happen. That’s my faith working. God had his hand on everything I was doing. He just made a way. I really don’t know how I got started. I’d say the Chris Brown stuff but…I guess I’ll just say that got things moving. It put me in front of a different audience and working with Jamie opened me up to so many different people…the name affiliation whether I was actually doing anything with him was another story but people were willing to take a chance on me.
Edge: Why are you an artist who deserves to be heard?
Jazzy: Aside from my grind? (laughs). I think that I have a voice for girls. I learned that my demographic is 13-30. I know a lot of women that are in my age group whose mothers listen to my music. I feel it’s a voice for women. I was talking to my cousin in high school and she was saying some of her friends were listening to my music and I was thinking some of that stuff they shouldn’t be listening to. Some of it is ok and some of it isn’t…but I didn’t know my demographic reached that far. That’s something I am going to be mindful of in my next record as far as content. There has to be a voice for girls period. We have people that come and they do different tracks for them here and there. I mean no shade to an artist like Rihanna but I don’t want my kids listening to “S&M”. There’s different things we can touch on for young girls in particular that’s something I’m focusing on going into my next record. I’m really mindful of the issues that can be addressed.
Edge: Let’s talk a little about the idea behind “Letters to a King”.
Jazzy: I saw a picture of a king with his concubines. I found the picture really intense, that’s their love, that’s dope they’re all in love with this one man. I pulled the picture and I wrote the words “letters to a king” and that’s it. I didn’t do anything else. I was just like that’s an idea that I’ll come back to. I started thinking that I wanted to do a remake project, just different songs that I really, really love. And I was like oh wait, I can tie that photo in or that concept in to writing a love story in the sense of the songs that I pick. Different things like the emotional part of it, the bad parts, the god parts, the beginning. So it was basically a love letter, it was love songs; they all have love in the title. I was a being a little bit more creative that I normally am because usually I’m just blatant but I loved the idea so much that I had to do it.
Edge: What can we expect from you in the future?
Jazzy: I am going to work on a project. I want to do a single and a montage in September and then I am going to drop a whole album in December. I’ve been working on that. I just did a video for “Wayzted”. I am probably going to shoot 3 more videos and doing shows throughout the summer. I’m just working hard not necessarily for a record deal but I love my fans, I like the place that I’m in, I like having the ability to do what I do without any real control from a major so I’m just enjoying this place right now.
Photographs by: Ashley B. Nguyen
MUA: Ashley Blaine Featherson