Joi : Wild Flower, Pookie Pt 2

With twelve years and four critically acclaimed albums on her resume, Joi is definitely no stranger to the ups and downs that the music industry offers. The story of her career reads like a never-ending roller coaster, going round-n-round, up-n- down, never stopping along the way. In 2004, she plans to rewrite her history book and make the changes she feels will be for the better.

With the recent contract signing to newly formed R&B independent label, Pookie Entertainment, Joi finally feels at home and is ready to deliver the homegrown melodies fans have come to enjoy. Vowing not to take a misstep, she plans to recapture the vibe that has set her apart from all the rest. In an exclusive interview, Joi discussed the formation of the relationship with Pookie and what she plans to accomplish that she hasn’t been able to.

AllHipHop Alternatives: I want to try to make this interview a reintroduction of you to the world. Talk about your upcoming project and how you ended up signing with Pookie Entertainment.

Joi: The new project is going to be coming out in March. I haven’t come up with a title or anything yet. I just really got started on it. I’ve been doing some writing and stuff back at home, but that was just more so to dust the cobwebs out of my brain because I hadn’t been writing consistently in a couple of years. I hooked up with Saadiq and we decided that we was going to do it a month or two ago. I had checked out several other situations since being released from Universal last November or December. I knew whatever situation I got into was going to be something that I wanted to do and not something that I was forced into. I really wanted to go the independent route and put my own shit out.

AHHA: Do you feel that you are starting from square one and starting fresh and anew?

Joi: Every project is starting from square one. There’s always been high critical acclaim on every project. I’m very well known amongst industry insiders and to serious underground heads that seek music out. There are certain consumers that seek out and find music because that’s what they do. It’s always about a rebuilding and restructuring on every project. I have a very nice fan following. I have been able to eat over the past 12 years.

AHHA: What do you do personally to rejuvenate yourself and regain the creativity that’s come to be known as your trademark?

Joi: I never have to worry if I’m going to give my fans what they want from me from project to project because the type of music I do is in me. It’s always going to be funk-based. It’s always going to be to the left. It’s always going to have live instrumentation. It’s always going to have dicey lyrics. It’s always going to put something on sisters’ minds. It’s always going to put something on brothers’ minds. That’s just how I flow. I don’t have to formulate from project to project because I know it’s going to come out.

AHHA: Do you feel as if you are competing with certain artists in the R&B game?

Joi: I don’t feel there’s any competition. For the first time, I think there’s really more room. The majors got the bread, but other artists have the tenacity to just keep it going. They’ve weathered so much shit over the years that I don’t view it as a competition because everyone is so much more equipped independently.

AHHA: My problem with majors is that they seem to be afraid to rock the boat. Without rocking the boat, you won’t make any water move to discover new ground. Do your issues with major run along the same lines?

Joi: That’s been the story of my career. They would always say, “We think this is brilliant,” but they also had to say, “we don’t know what the fuck to do with this. It’s not fitting into a formula that’s been proven to work.” We’ve seen that Mary (J. Blige) works. When I first came out, really it was just Mary. “What’s the 411?” came out a year before “The Pendulum Vibe” came out, and there were a lot of comparisons. I was like, “There’s only one Mary. Let that sister do her.” I had something else that you could get behind and push out there that could prove equally as fruitful for you. But, they couldn’t see that because here’s a little black girl from the south doing some rock and soul music, some European shit but she ain’t never stepped foot on European soil. They just didn’t see it.

AHHA: Do you like being categorized and put under an umbrella as a certain type of artist? Your music comes from so many backgrounds, so it seems hard to lump you under one genre.

Joi: I pride myself on doing what I do. I pride myself on knowing that when I do what I do, people expect something else from me. People expect something different that they’ve never heard before and they welcome that. They don’t expect to hear what anybody else is doing when they buy my album or when they come see me at a show. They expect something that they haven’t had and that they maybe don’t know about. They’re coming to me for the good word or for something visually stimulating that they haven’t tasted before. I pride myself on that.

AHHA: What kind of success do you expect to garner working with a legend such as Raphael Saadiq?

Joi: It is beyond a privilege, beyond an honor, and beyond a blessing to be able to be in Saadiq’s mist on the regular. The brother is so generous with the knowledge of the game. He really wants to see people win that come into the game. He’s a serious champion for the underdog and for people who are doing them. I expect to finally get blessed with what I’ve been aspiring for, which is to have autonomy from the major machine and to flourish outside of that. To be able to completely nurture what I am as my own independent entity, I expect that and I know I can have that.