(AllHipHop Features) North Carolina is currently experiencing the early stages of a Hip Hop renaissance. J. Cole is the undisputed head of the Tar Heel state, Rapsody is the reigning royal lady, Mez is becoming a multi-medium monarch, and DaBaby has established himself as the new court jester that should be taken seriously.
In addition, Daron “Jae” Johnson and Brandon “B” Boone are forging a pathway to their own castle in the territory named after King Charles I of England. The cousins came together as the Hip Hop duo known as Jae Mansa, which is a combination of the shortened version of Daron’s middle name Jaelon and the 14th century Mali emperor Mansa Musa.
Last November, Jae Mansa signed an equity distribution deal with rap aristocrat Jay-Z‘s Roc Nation company. Two months later, Jae and B dropped their 7-track Yung Kings EP. The project was a follow-up to 2017’s F*ck Trump mixtape hosted by Generation Now executive DJ Drama.
AllHipHop.com caught up with the tandem to talk about their come up in North Carolina, their affiliation with Roc Nation, their connection to DJ Drama, and their personal definitions for being a king.
AllHipHop: When did you discover your desire to be musicians?
Jae: I made my first track when I was 16 but started taking music seriously four years ago, when we made the “New York New York” track. I always had a passion for this lifestyle.
B: I used to play ball, football, box. At one point, I got caught up in the streets. When everything else failed, I turned to music. I always knew I would find a way out… music was my goto.
AllHipHop: What led to you formally joining together as a professional group?
Jae: My cousin B been around all our lives. When I was a teenager, B stayed with our family so we kind of grew up together. Around that time, we used to go to the studio and clown around making dope music. It only made sense for us to start doing it professionally.
AllHipHop: How does being from North Carolina impact your artistry?
B: We are in the middle of Hip Hop and down south rap. It has a big influence on our music because we are stuck in between. We knew we were doing real Hip Hop music, but we wanted to get the attention of the younger audience. So, we use our North Carolina sound to help us be creative and find our own sound.
AllHipHop: How did the distribution deal with Roc Nation come together?
Jae: We had a deal with Tidal and playing our single. Our connect, Mercedes, linked us up with Roc Nation’s VP and team, which then led to us doing a listening party for La La’s Halloween party.
AllHipHop: Can you explain how your equity distribution deal with Roc Nation is different from a label contract?
Jae: I don’t really know the details, but we are not signed to a contract. We have control over everything we do and have our own publishing. We are independent artists with the distribution of a major engine. It also has its difficulties because we don’t get all of the perks of being under a label, so we have to work twice as hard.
AllHipHop: Have you had the chance to meet Jay-Z? Has he commented on your music?
B: No, we haven’t had a chance to meet him but are looking forward to that moment. I wouldn’t know what to say to him but will surely want all the advice I can get from him.
Jae: It’s an honor to even be attached to his platform. We’d love to know what he thinks about our music.
AllHipHop: How did you first connect with DJ Drama?
B: We connected through our homie BL after our mixtape F*ck Trump. Not too long ago, we were in the studio vibing out and Drama was telling us that we were next up. It’s crazy knowing he said that because we are finally seeing good progress on everything.
Jae: Yeah, we appreciate the love he was showing us on our music. Shout out to DJ Drama.
AllHipHop: What did having that "Gangsta Grillz" stamp on your F*ck Trump mixtape mean for you?
Jae: I grew up hearing DJ Drama mixtapes. When he co-signed our album, it made it 10-times better.
AllHipHop: Did the Secret Service contact you about the title of your tape?
Jae: [laughs] No they didn’t. Wow, I wasn’t expecting that question.
B: [laughs] Nah man, we ain’t trying to harm the man.
AllHipHop: Jae Mansa managed to gain traction online without major label backing. What are some of the keys to your success as an indie act?
Jae: Working in this music industry is about who you know, so we work harder than everybody else does. The advantage of being an indie artist is having the freedom to do the type of music we want to do. We know the record label is coming.
AllHipHop: A significant part of modern mainstream Hip Hop focuses on materialism, especially in the social media era where so much value is placed on popularity and engagement. How does a more lyric-centered Hip Hop duo break out from the pack in 2019?
Jae: We break out by staying true to ourselves. We both been around money growing up, and learned early on that stuff doesn’t mean nothing. We always hear artists talk about material things, but [we] want to teach people differently.
B: Yeah, don’t get us wrong, we like chains and money, but we don’t have to go around flossing. If you got it, then you got it. Let’s focus on the concerns that matter the most.
AllHipHop: What does being a "king" mean to you?
B: Being a king to me means providing for your family, speaking to the youth, bettering yourself, empowering our people to do better, giving the youth something different to look up to, building our communities and health.
Jae: Right, a true king leads to a way for people to live financially free, healthy, and happy.