Interviews J-Will - Institutionalized - photo (3)

Published on September 1st, 2023 | by Dr. Jerry Doby


Neo-Soul Artist and Rapper J-Will Weighs in on New Music

Growing up in Dallas-Fort Worth, TX, neo-soul artist and rapper J-Will got an early start turning tragedies into inspiring art. Reflecting on family and community crises through poetry at a young age, he found a healthy way to cope and a powerful medium of expression. With his recent relocation to Los Angeles, J-Will now preaches his good words on the streets of the City of Angels. Finding faith and solace in his church and community of artists, he gives back through recording art and performance. His recent releases have gotten people talking and landed him a performance outside the upcoming BET Awards. Keep your ears open for more coming from this up-and-coming emcee of soul.

An early single from J-Will, “Institutionalized,” is your new contemplative soundtrack. Over an ethereal beat crafted by Venuz Beats, J-Will waxes poetic and philosophical reflections on social justice, religion, and inequality. While he notes the multitudinous injustices of the world, the song ultimately uplifts listeners with its memorable chorus, “Don’t turn your back / Let your light shine / You are favored in this lifetime.”

To sink deeper into thought and serenity, switch on the official music video for “Institutionalized.” Directed by Moon Man, this black-and-white flick follows J-Will around his adopted city of LA as he bears witness to the churning of life around him. Through activist marches, public transportation, and church choirs, J-Will drops his wisdom and moves through the world a man of faith on fire. Tune out the wild world and wade awhile in J-Will’s soulful atmosphere.

J-Will weighed in on a few questions

When it became time to create the visuals for “Institutionalized”, how did you want them to enforce the song’s message?

I wanted to show a painful emotion of how the community feels about police brutality. People are crying, yet they have to stay strong in order make the biggest impact on black culture. Many young black men feel like they have to break laws in order to survive. I wanted to show the result of breaking laws, which is putting their lives in dangerous situations.

What headspace were you in when it came to figuring out what you wanted to talk about in this song?

I was sad that lives were taken, yet I remain hopeful, because of my Christian faith, that the issues facing our community can be resolved.

How was it working with Moon Man to direct this music video? How important do you think it is to have a complimentary music video to a song?

I feel blessed to have worked with Moon Man. It was my first time experiencing a music video, so he had to coach me into acting out some parts. I can tell he has a lot of experience. He came up with some footage that I was thinking of, but never spoke about. It was like this guy was reading my mind. I believe it is very important to have a complimentary video to a song, because audiences may not always understand what your music is saying and it adds more details that your listeners will enjoy.

What are some goals that you set for yourself to achieve in the music industry?

I want to be remembered for trying to make an impact in our community. I want to master my art, so that I can win Grammy Awards, Music Television Awards, and top the Billboard charts.

What is it like to be an up-and-coming artist from Dallas, Texas?

It’s exciting, because we don’t have many, yet artists like Eryka Badu and Kirk Franklin are icons in the music industry.

What do you think is the most important part in completing a song from start to finish?

At the end of it all, ask yourself is this a song you will be proud of. It’s important for your wellbeing to be proud of the work you do.

Who are some current artists in the music scene that are inspiring you to do what you do?

Kirk Franklin always gives his audiences what they want, and that’s quality music with substance.

What can fans expect to see and hear from J-Will in the future?

I will continue to make high quality Christian-friendly music. People want good music, and if they like “Institutionalized,” I will make plenty more songs like that.

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About the Author

Journalist, Editor-in-Chief of The Hype Magazine, and Media Consultant. Ph.D. and retired military. Member of ForbesBLK, the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture, and the United States Press Agency. Partner at THM Media Group. Connect with Jerry across social media @jerrydoby_

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