The Futurist: JMSN Brings ‘Hippie-R&B’ to the Forefront
Editor's note: Welcome to TheBoombox's new column The Futurist in which contributor Sean Lynch aka Kidd Future introduces readers to best emerging talent in the ever-changing worlds of hip-hop, R&B, and progressive music. For the inaugural post we spotlight singer-songwriter/producer and Kendrick Lamar collaborator JMSN.
The multi-talented Christian Berishaj, otherwise known as JMSN (pronounced Jameson), is a Los Angeles transplant originally from Detroit. Berishaj got his start in the music business in 2005 as a teenager under the name "Snowhite," the mastermind behind the band Love Arcade and later as "Christian TV" on record labels Atlantic and Universal respectively.
Now as JMSN, this 26-year-old has made an impact with contributions to Kendrick Lamar's 'good kid, m.A.A.d city' ('The Art of Peer Pressure') Game's 'Jesus Piece' ('Pray') and of course his first full-length album, 'Priscilla,' which debuted to positive reviews. We spoke to him about his view of the music biz, his upcoming collaboration with Ab-Soul and about Detroit the city that raised him.
What is your music's connection to the city of Detroit? Any opinions on it's recent bankruptcy?
JMSN: I grew up there ... Detroit is a great place. I guess that's where the
darkness in my music comes from. I am living in Los Angeles and when I take my music back to Detroit while visiting, I am like "oh, this is where it comes from.' Like it changes with your location. Like you feel so right listening to it in Detroit.
Detroit city hasn't really ever been like a city-city. You know it's always been somewhat vacant and burnt down. It's always seemed like it was bankrupt, this doesn't seem like anything crazy new. I didn't even know they had the money to begin with. It was not like they paid anyone to work there no one even lived there.
Your music videos give your fans a strong look into your vision. Can we talk about the intricate visuals you have been putting out? 'Alone,' 'Jameson' and most recently 'Love & Pain' to name a few.
JMSN: That all stems really from not trusting anyone to make them the way I wanted them. It's tough to keep the quality up and continue to top each one every time. I feel like that is going to keep me making better videos. I really enjoy watching films and I can compare it to making a song. So the video has the same, each video should move you as if you are going somewhere emotionally. You never want to get to a point where you are not moving the viewer, like on an emotional scale. Like why am I watching this? You want them to take a journey.
Christian TV vs. JMSN: Let's talk about how your music has evolved and the differences in sound and direction wise.
JMSN: Christian TV, that wasn't me. I was having this conversation with someone the other day. When I started recording music, I was doing what I am today. But then I got broken down with the people around me. I just got tired of having to be commercially successful and buying into that whole thing. Finally I just got sick of it, saying to myself, "I'm the one who has to live with this stuff." I do not want to be worrying about making money. I want to make the art I want to make. I feel like people should respect that. The artist I listen to and like, went off their path and didn't give a shit about being commercially successful. Not that they weren't but that wasn't necessarily their first priority.
Can you speak on the state of R&B as a genre? Is it fair for us to place you within the walls of R&B?
JMSN: Its great. R&B is more open and experimental than it's ever been before. A great time for it with great artists. I call my music "Hippie-R&B." That is the name that does it for me. It really encompasses it I think.
Speaking of "Hippy" what is going on with that collaboration project between you and Ab-Soul, 'Unit 6?'
JMSN: That album is done. You know labels and people that have nothing to do with creating the art begins getting involved. That is the moment I become uninspired. Hopefully it gets figured out so we can get excited about the project. Right now it is stuck in that world. F--- that world to be honest. I'm good with all the business, I'm all about the art. When we started that is what we thought it was going to be. He's signed to TDE so he has to answer to them, I don't have to answer to nobody. It gets sticky when we have those situations. But we'll get it figured out though.
Is there a chance it gets shelved?
JMSN: The thing is that it did happen, we made the ['Unit 6'] album it was created. It's just a matter of when it is coming out. When somebody finds themselves in a situation of having a project shelved, that's when it is all about the money and, "How can we work out a deal." Like I thought we were making this to better ourselves artistically.
Now you worked on numerous tracks on 'good kid, m.A.A.d city.' Can I get your unbiased opinion on whether or not that album is a classic? Why was your work on the album so overlooked?
JMSN: Will it be listened to 20 years from now? Timeless? Definitely! There is a lot of classic records but that is definitely one that will be listened to years from now. I make contributions to a lot of stuff. I don't want that to be my legacy, I'm not a Nate Dogg whose legacy was Dr. Dre. My legacy cannot be with a rapper. I wanted to set myself apart from that and I was happy to be apart of it. I mean there is no bad blood for not getting credit for being overlooked. I just didn't want that to define me as an artist. That is his thing, my thing is totally different and totally separate. I didn't want to gain fans off the album... Its like "Oh you are the guy on Kendrick Lamar's album and that feature made you pop." I have no problem with co-signs I just don't want it to define me.
A co-sign? That is all hype... I don't care if it takes me longer! I want to help progress my craft. I always felt it was better to earn the respect of your craft.
Explain White Room Records and the current goal. Is there other artists getting involved? A possible backing by a major?
JMSN: We've been courted by a number of record companies. Recently my manager and I decided to just continue the process of releasing music. Release plans are still being firmed up but expect at least two new bodies of work from JMSN before the end of the year. Including an 8 track EP currently being finished in his LA studio which will lead up to the 'Blue' album. Which will be my second album.
Is there a direct connection between the two albums?
JMSN: I'm going to try to set up the story more and more as I write this new music. It is evolution of JMSN, lyrically though it is coming from the same world. I think that is the best way to put it.
We look forward to the new album because 'Priscilla' was awesome. How did the last conversation with Priscilla go?
JMSN: Last conversation with Priscilla? Oh man not good... That is a good question. Probably the best one I've gotten in an interview yet.
How much of your week is allocated for studio time? I heard you are quite the lab rat.
JMSN: Yeah, I guess you can say that. I guess you have to look how much is allocated for sleep and subtract that. Today was probably the least amount of time I spent in the studio this week and I was still there for five or six hours. There is different things I have to do with all the hats that I wear. If I go to the studio and I'm just not feeling as creative, I'll put my producer hat or engineer hat on. The reason why I want to release at least one EP before the next album, is because there is so much music. Like I want the best for the album, but you have to show the progression leading up to it. It's not that these songs are bad or anything, it just helps build it up.
How much is JMSN actually worried about selling records?
JMSN: Don't get me wrong I want to sell music. I feel like that's people investing in what I do and helping me to continue doing it. It holds value and I want to feel appreciated because I need that to keep going, we all do. I'm slaving over this stuff... so if I can help get a little something to pay my rent.. It goes a long way.
Explain the name connection to Jameson. Why not Jack Daniels?
JMSN: I don't do Bourbon. I mean I may do a Bulleit Bourbon but Jack is too sweet for me. Jameson is just right. There is a time and a place for bourbon like if you are eating something. It all depends on the time and the place. I'll drink Jameson with nothing because it is so good. I don't drink on tour so those months are hard. I'm worrying about singing. I can't drink and take a chance of f---ing up my voice. I take things so serious.