Interviews

Published on October 11th, 2019 | by Hype Editorial

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Hip-Hop Artist Jelani Blackman is The Next Big Thing from London

Notable for this bassy voice, Jelani Blackman doesn’t let genres define him. The 27 year old London native just dropped his latest single ‘Cheers’ as he prepares for the release of his upcoming EP. Jelani burst onto the scene in 2014 with the critically-acclaimed dark anthem ‘Twenty//Three’. Racking up over 3 million Spotify streams and coming in at #7 on the Noisey end-of-year poll, the track was soon followed up by a collaboration with UK innovator Brian Eno and duo Sylas for the single ‘Layer’.

Born and raised in Ladbroke Grove, Jelani is proud of his West London roots, but he’s adamant that geographical borders aren’t everything. Having grown up (and still is) listening to Craig David’s ‘Born To Do It’ and Usher’s ‘Confessions’, Jelani can’t help but infuse these formative sounds into his music. Many supporters have drawn comparisons to rapper Octavian and his ‘pretty boy’ vibe and intense flows resemble that of ASAP Rocky.

Tapping into the sombre vibe cultivated on recent releases, ‘Cheers’ sees Jelani deliver his deep, baritone flow over the top of a sparse yet forceful trap beat. ‘Cheers’ is Jelani’s first release since the acclaimed ‘Brixton’, a single that was premiered by Annie Mac on her BBC Radio 1 show and went on to receive further support from BBC Radio 1Xtra’s DJ Target and Kenny Allstar amongst others. ‘Nobody’s Son’, his first release of 2019, was crowned BBC Radio 1 ‘Tune of the Week’, Annie Mac’s ‘Tune of the Week’ and BBC Radio1Xtra ‘Introducing Track of the Week’. 

“I make rap and R&B, which is what I always made. It dips its toe into dancey music and soul, and some grimey stuff, but for me I was always a rapper that loved R&B.” Yet another stellar release, ‘Cheers’ confirms 2019 as Jelani Blackman’s strongest year to date. With recent success with shows like ‘Top Boy’ it is clear just how popular his style of music is.

We sat down to talk a little more with Jelani on what is to come!

(Photo Credit: Clokkemaker)

Congratulations on your most recent single ‘Cheers’ tell us a little bit about that track!

Thanks, it felt good to write it. It’s about celebrating the things sometimes you forget to be grateful for. Even the bad stuff because it all makes you who you are.

For our LA readers what is the underground rap scene like in London? How is it different from the scene in the US?

It’s mad at the moment. Everything is bubbling and feels like it’s growing into something special. I think it’s similar in a lot of ways, the energy is the same, but I think because it’s smaller there’s more collabs and crossovers between artists that you wouldn’t think about putting together.

We heard one of your songs ‘Low’ was featured on this season of Netflix’s ‘Top Boy’ how does that make you feel as an artist to start gaining that traction?

Yeah feels great. The show is sick so to have music on there is a nice reflection of whats going on with me and how I’m feeling right now.

(Photo Credit: Clokkemaker)

You’ve worked with other artists like IAMDDB and Rimon on some major campaigns- tell us a little bit about that experience.

I loved working with them and Tommy Hilfiger on those campaigns, was fun and so mad to end up seeing my face up on a billboard all the way in Paris.

Who do you look up to as an artist?

I have a lot of respect for Kanye and Kendrick. I feel like with them their artistry always comes first and that’s what I aspire to be like.

Who are your biggest musical inspirations?

When I was younger I listened to RnB, Rap, Grime and Jazz. The Miseducation of Lauren Hill is one of the most important albums I ever listened to and when I saw her live for the first time recently it confirmed how incredible that project was. To be able to mix that much musicality and also be so cold on the mic is what I’m about. It’s why College Dropout is a huge influence as well. Lyrical content and quality of music is what I want.

(Photo Credit: Clokkemaker)

(Photo Credit: Clokkemaker)

What are you trying to accomplish as an artist that makes you different?

I want make music that touches on what it means to be alive. At the end of the day the world is just made up of individuals, so if I can say something genuinely true about myself it will reflect something bigger than just what I’m going through. I’ve learnt if you’re going through anything you can guarantee there are thousands or millions of people going through something similar.

What is next for Jelani Blackman?

I’ve got my first independent project coming out on November 1st which I’m gassed about – my EP called ‘Average Joe’ –  then headline show later in the month on Nov 21st. After that more music, happiness and good things wherever I can create them.

 

To stay up to date on Jelani, follow him on Instagram and check out his newest music on Spotify and every major platform. We’re exited to watch this artist grow.

 

 



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