With her classic 1986 album Control, future Pop icon Janet Jackson announced she was taking over the reins of her career from her father Joe Jackson. Thirty years later that same theme of self-actualization and artistic freedom now runs through In My Feelings, the latest work from singer/actor/dancer Trevor Jackson (no relation).
The Indianapolis raised triple threat’s musical career gained steam over the last several years with his 2013 debut EP #NewThang and touring with Diggy Simmons. Despite building a wildly supportive fan base, Atlantic Records was slow to follow up Trevor’s initial success with an official studio album.
The wait for the release of an LP weighed down on Jackson, and he finally took matters into his own hands. The result is the 13-song retail mixtape In My Feelings. Trevor invited Kevin Gates, Mystikal, IAMSU, and Iyn Jay to join him for his rhythmic revelation of becoming a new man.
The 19-year-old entertainer is pushing fresh tunes out to the public, but he has not walked away from his other entertainment-based profession. Trevor’s first steps in showbiz included three years starring as Simba in the Disney play The Lion King. He later appeared on the television series Harry’s Law, Eureka, and Criminal Minds.
Trevor is returning to the small screen as a series regular on the critically acclaimed ABC program American Crime. Season 2 of Oscar winner John Ridley’s drama also stars Andre “3000” Benjamin, Regina King, Timothy Hutton, Felicity Huffman, and Lili Taylor. Up next for Jackson are roles in the films Sons 2 The Grave and Juveniles as well.
AllHipHop.com caught up with Trevor Jackson to get his thoughts on In My Feelings, American Crime, and more.
[ALSO READ: Andre 3000 To Star In “American Crime” Season 2]
You dropped your new project In My Feelings. That phrase could be taken a couple of different ways. What does that title represent for you?
For me, it represents becoming a man and experiencing life. There’s so many obstacles we go through, especially in this industry. We try to be so strong for everybody that’s around us. At one point I was like, “You know what? I’m in my feelings right now, and I’m okay with that.”
I want people to know it’s okay to be you and be real. I feel like there’s so many people trying to be someone else. I found myself doing that. I realized if I’m going to do this, I have to do this – my feelings, my vision, my music – the way I want to do things.
I noticed the sound on this project was more mature lyrically and vocally. How involved were you with the songwriting?
I wrote pretty much every single song. If I didn’t write one, I wrote at least half of it. Me and my brother Ian Jackson wrote the majority of it. I just wanted it to be real. I felt like the only way for it to be real is for me to do it.
I love writing. We were actually writing records for other people before we started writing this project. I said, “This synergy is so good right now. Let’s just keep it going instead of having all these writers come in and try to figure it out. I know what I like. Why not do it myself?”
Do you feel like this is your Control? Janet Jackson took over the direction of her career with that album. Is that where you’re at now?
Yeah, I feel like that is the point I’m at now. Even when it comes to the cover design, I really wanted to be involved, be the captain of the ship. I always want to make sure I’m okay with anything that we do. That way I can never regret anything.
There were a couple of lyrics that stood out to me. You referred to yourself as a “hooligan.” Later on, you sang about being the guy a girl’s parents should be worried about. It seems like you’re breaking from a clean-cut image. Is that the direction you wanted to take?
When I go in there I never really have an idea like, “Oh, I’m doing this, because I want people to think of me in this way.” The hooligan line was from all these people thinking that they can control me, thinking that their way is better than mine. I’m like, “You forget I don’t give a dang about authority at this point.”
This is me. My music is me. It’s not a hooligan in the sense of I’m “crazy.” It’s a hooligan as far as I’m not going to go with the flow if I don’t feel it. I feel when God has a plan for you, it builds confidence. When you trust in that, it builds you to be more confident in yourself.
When it comes to the “momma warned you about me” line, I think you get that. I don’t really have to go into that. [laughs]
For some entertainers that start off young, jumping into being an adult performer doesn’t always crossover well with the public. But you seem to be doing well. How have you been able to manage that?
There was a point where I didn’t really want to go out anymore. I don’t go to parties except premieres and things like that. I was going through some things with myself and with the label, and I was in a “forget the world” moment for a second. So I just went into the studio.
I was in my Bruce Wayne mode for a second. I was just in the house trying to sharpen my tools and make sure everything was the way I wanted it. [My transition] was honest. I feel like people will always relate to honesty.
With some other child stars, I feel like either they were too aggressive or it wasn’t believable. If you keep it real, people will finally catch on. There’s no right or wrong way. It’s all about timing. I’m just thankful it’s been transitioning smoothly for me at this point.
You mentioned the label. On “Bang Bang” you talked about being frustrated that your album wasn’t out yet. Can you talk about what the hold up has been with your studio LP?
I feel like – the music industry especially – but with any business, there’s always politics you got to play. I was signed when I was 15. You think when you get signed things are going to go the way people say they’re going to go. That comes with being a man, you realize the realities of the world. You take it with a grain of salt, and you keep moving.
But yes, I was definitely frustrated. Three years entertaining and not being where I wanted to be, it gets frustrating. But you have to keep pushing and do what you feel is right.
You don’t sound bitter about it. It seems like you took it as a lesson.
I never try to look at anything I experience as failure or negativity. I think of it as: Okay, it should have happen this way. But since it didn’t, it didn’t happen that way for a reason. Now I’m going to make sure when I do it, I do it the right way.
You have both Kevin Gates and Mystikal on the project. Was that a coincidence or are you a big fan of Louisiana Hip Hop?
I’ve always been a fan of Mystikal. I remember that “Move (Get Out The Way)” song. I didn’t even know Ludacris’ part. I would just fast forward to Mystikal’s part. I just love his energy. I’m just thankful that he was willing to get on the project.
Kevin Gates, I didn’t hear of him until like 2 years ago. Then I heard “Satellites.” He’s rapping, but he’s singing. You know me, I’m a sucker for dope melodies.
He’s signed to Atlantic. He was across the hall when I was cutting the record. I went into the kitchen and I told him, “I got a record I’d like you to hear.” He came in, listened, and said, “What do I have to do?” I said, “Are you kidding? Just get in there.” He wrote his verse in like 15 minutes.
He’s a super nice guy. He’s intelligent. He respects me as an artist and vice-versa. That’s the type of people you want to work with. The people that believe in you.
You’re starring in American Crime season 2. From the synopsis I’ve seen, the second season is dealing with some really heavy subject matter. How are you preparing for that role?
To be honest, the director – John Ridley, he’s a genius – he’s been very selective with the information that he’s giving me. I still don’t know pass episode one. I think he’s doing it because he wants us to be surprised when we shoot it. That way it will be more real which I love.
I play a student who’s a basketball player. That’s really all I know up to this point. Ridley even tells me, “It’s about to get crazy. You have no idea.” I’ve never worked with a director like him before. I think it’s dope. Sometimes I’m like, “Why isn’t he telling me?” But I know it’s all going to come together. So I can’t really say much, because I don’t even know.
Are you ready for the attention that’s going to come with that role? The series is popular, especially among critics.
[Season 1 was] nominated for 10 Emmys! I’m blessed and thankful to be able to show people I don’t just act for whatever reason. I act because I really enjoy it. Just like I enjoy my music. I feel like people will take me seriously as an actor. I want to be able to use all that I was given while I’m here on Earth.
It’s a lead role, so I’m blessed. I’m learning. There are so many talented actors and actresses. You got Tim Hutton, Felicity Huffman, and Lili Taylor. Andre 3000 is playing my dad.
Having Andre as your TV dad is pretty cool.
When we had one of our first rehearsals, I was kind of tripping out. We were doing the scene, and I was thinking, “This is Andre 3000!” It was crazy.
Has anyone approached you about doing a reality show?
Yeah, a couple of times. It’s not something I want to do.
Is there a particular reason?
I feel like some people get consumed by this industry, because they give too much of themselves. They have nothing of their own. Once you let so many people in, and they know so much about you, you just open yourself up to negativity. That’s why you have to be selective and do everything in moderation. You have to have a little bit of yourself for you, so you don’t go crazy.
What are your thoughts on where R&B/Soul music is right now?
I think it’s dope. I definitely think it’s on the come up. I feel like it’s needed. Yeah, you turn up – and I’m not bashing any other type of music – but the Techno thing had its day. I feel like those records are made in that time, but I feel like the records that last forever are missed.
People miss feeling. I feel like that’s why it’s coming back, because that part of them has been missing – to be able to feel something when you listen to music. We can turn up, but at the end of the day, the music has got to speak to you.
American Crime Season 2 will return midseason on ABC.
Stream Trevor Jackson’s In My Feelings below. Purchase the project on iTunes.