5 & Done: Jahzel


Institutionalized inequity snatches childhood innocence and continues to slap many upside the head. As this somber reality reflects from sea to shining sea, Chicago’s Jahzel, challenges his pen to triumph for the have-nots. Whether depicting blighted blocks or kind caresses, Jahzel’s bars demonstrate a keen and evolving  perspective on life; The Wake Up is proof.

Your words harness a powerful perspective. Are you an MC who actually puts pen to paper or do you challenge yourself to do it all mentally; when do you know a track is lyrically finished?

Actually, you know, it’s all about the music. It depends on my situation. Like, when I was first starting off as an artist, I used to take the train a lot; so, I didn’t have access to pen and paper. So, I would write in my head. If I’m in the studio and I hear an instrumental that moves me—right then, I’ll put pen to actual paper and write it out.

That took me a long time to even get to that. That was a process in itself. Now, the way that  I write my music, is right then and there; I’ll rewrite it while I’m writing the full piece. So, I might change a line or two; when it’s done it’s done. But if I feel is not developing to the tone, style, or feel that I’m wanting to do, then I’ll dead the whole song completely and move on to the next one.

“John Stockton / Radio Raheem” is my favorite track. What I received is the amplifying of stereotypes while working to use your bars to dismantle Willie’s psychological shackles; very dope. Tell me about the track.

I like that. First the vocals on there, that’s one of my homies, A Cross. Shout out to A Cross. It started off as a hungry track. I wanted people to feel the hunger, the despair. At the same time, the ambition, a hustle—I know I’ve been dealt not the best hand, but at the same time I’m willing to make the most of the situation. I’m not waiting on nobody no more. I don’t care what anybody thinks; I have to go get it. So, that’s where we started with the vocals.

Then we developed it into, ‘Hey, I don’t care.’ It’s more of a lyrical I don’t care what’s going on I have to go out here and get it type of track. And that’s pretty much where the whole feel came from. So, I wanted to structure the lyrics around that. And still be an artist, as far as my structure and my artistry. I still wanted to tell that story and capture that emotion.

If material objects are ultimately worthless, why do so many sell their souls for empty items; how does one struggling with a diminished sense of self regain his inherent sense of worth?

Sometimes, I don’t think that people realize that. I think that we have a perception that when we make it of that success is supposed to look like. And a lot of the times that looks like having certain things—big car, big home—when you get it, it’s not until you get those things that sometimes you don’t realize that this doesn’t mean anything. Part of it is a problem with society. We don’t know a lot of things until you experience it yourself.

You have to go through it yourself. I went through certain things myself and I thought that this is what success look like.  I got a few things in there. I was like, ‘You know what, I’m still hungry. I still don’t feel happy.’ Overall, people just don’t know until they go through it. To others when you collect [material] things that’s what makes you look successful or happy, or whatever it is. So, but everyone wants to have material things. It would be nice to have a nice house. We know that’s not what life’s about. Life is about just being happy in general.

Truthfully, being successful in life is one, surviving and two, surviving happily. Everything we do in life is to be happy. We pick out our clothes that make us feel good, we look good; so, we are happy. We eat foods that make us happy. We go to work, it may not make us happy, but we earn money so that we can do things that make us happy. So, different strokes for different folks. I enjoy making art. I enjoy rapping and writing music. I’m living happy; I’m surviving. I think that what success is. The happier you are, I feel the more successful you are.

The Wake Up is complete. How would you describe the process from its conception to having everything mixed and mastered?

It was grueling process. People think that making albums is so fun; it’s dope—it’s easy! Hell no, you got to do so much sh*t! From the artwork, meetings about the artwork, arguments about the artwork—the name—at one time it was called, Vintage. Obviously, that didn’t stick and that was my idea. That didn’t make it. We changed it The Wake Up. There’s a process for every step. Each step must be refined. We even had to talk about the money involved. We’re indie; we aren’t millionaires. We don’t have expendable or loose money around. We don’t just spend money on whatever. We have a tight budget on things. At time that causes problems. Studio time is not cheap. Nothing is cheap and nobody is giving you anything for free. So, overall it’s a tough process to cut a project. That’s the best way I can describe it. It is unbelievably tough.

What’s next; until the next time, what would you like to share with AllHipHop?

[chuckles] First, I’m going to get in the gym and get toned up—get real righteous. That’s step one. Second we’re working on the EP. The EP should be coming out Spring or Summer-ish. It’s going to be pretty dope. I’m trying to lock in a lot of things for it. It’s going to be a special project. We’re going to be doing some shows at some colleges. We’re going to have more of a presence online, at colleges, and in Chicago. So, that’s what I’d say is what’s on tap next for us.

Stay in touch. I love AllHipHop. That’s one of the first blogs I ever rocked with, ever! AllHipHop was one of the few sites that was popping daily. That’s one of the first sites that I went to on the daily. I’m dope to even be talking to you guys right now. Holla at me on Twitter @JahzelMusic—same handle for Facebook and Instagram!