Rapper, producer and musician Jelani Fearon sat down with me for an interview about his relationship with music and how he hopes his own music can shape the lives of others.
When were you first exposed to music?
Since I was born mainly. My mom listened to a lot of 90s R&B, rap which are really some of y biggest influences that stuck with me the most. She gave me a whole lot of music like old LL Cool J but it was really A Tribe Called Quest and Jill Scott that really stuck with me. But I’ve been around music since forever. My mom used to tell me I couldn’t go to sleep without listening to music, like it wasn’t happening when I was a kid. Even to this day, I’m a terrible sleeper and, you know, music is always what calms me down.
What do you listen to that puts you to sleep?
Yo, I could listen to anything, like I listen to heavy metal sometimes taking a nap. I’ve been listening to a lot of jazz lately, you know Wayne Shorter. Or some smooth rap, Brazilian music-Brazilian jazz I recommend to anybody.
How did it [music] shape your childhood, middle school?
Oh music? What…those are my vivid memories, listening to music going through school-it really got me through it. I was always sad when I was a kid and music always got me through it, whatever I was listening to. I was listening to whatever. Pandora helped out a lot, it exposed me to a whole lot of new music and stuff and those were, you know, my vivid memories. I might not know what happened back in eighth grade but I knew what I was listening to so…yeah it was really cool.
What about high school? Performance and listening?
High school was like a shocker because I didn’t even think of myself doing music in the future but, like, certain epiphanies kept happening. I was in the marching band and first I did this thing that was like an axis group where we would bang on pots and pans and things like that then I did marching band and stuff but whatever I was doing that was musical was always fun. I was never in bad spirits when I was doing music. And then I wrote my first composition in music theory and then I heard it played back by the band and I was just like “Oh! I’ve got to do this for the rest of my life.”
What was going through your mind when you were composing [Tunnel in G minor] and when you listened to it? What inspired you and how did it sound?
Well, when I was composing it, well I just wanted to get it done, that was the main inspiration. But, as I was writing it, it was giving me direction as I was going with it. It was really kind of dark so I was just following how to write it. And then when I heard it back it was like an epiphany like “Whoa! People can read that!” So yeah.
In the song “Lead” and any other music that you put out and that you’re most proud of, do you remember lyrically what you were feeling when you wrote those words?
Anguish at that moment. Like with “Lead”, that was my favorite because it was almost exactly how I wanted it to sound in my head. I made the beat, and did the lyrics, the hook I like and it was just like okay, I can be proud of this even if it wasn’t the greatest thing…Some people when I show it to people they’re like “eh” but even now when I listen to it I’m like a proud parent. When I wrote [the chorus] I was like “it might go over people’s heads” and I took the full circle concept because like you can go from birth to the grave you can think of Jesus trying to lead people but at the end of the day, going back to what I said about hip hop, people have the decision to say “Yo I feel you” or “I’m not feeling that” and your life can be sacrificed. You can be a martyr for your message so at the end you lead and then, you know if they accept you okay, cool. But usually it ends with lead: Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, you can go down the list. You know what I’m saying? You get hanged for what you say. Words are powerful.
When you create music how do you want it to be received by your audience?
That’s a good question. Cause that can vary depending on the song but, mostly I think what I beat myself up on is I want it to be the craziest thing that person has ever heard before-whether it’s like a trap beat or a composition. I think I just want to open people’s minds to just new sounds period. Not necessarily resort to doing the same thing over and over again but like keep reinventing my sound and just who I am as a person because music reflects myself. But I just want to give people more exposure.
When you’re creating music do you take influence from any particular genres or is it whatever you’re feeling at the time?
I would say a little bit of both. I’ll start something and then I’m like “okay, that’s cool” and then I say “whoa that kind of sounds like this” then I’ll go in that direction. I use that a lot and I guess that’s good for people who are just starting out and don’t know who they are and just like, pick out your influences and just see what you like about their approach and try to make something your own thing and then it just falls into who you really are.
What do you hope to gain from music?
One of the main things I love about music in general is that it takes my mind to another realm. Listening to music is really an out of body experience for me and it has always been that way for me since I was born. I just hope I’ll be good enough one day that I could pass that same euphoria to another person. I think that’s my main goal.
Any thoughts that you just want to put out there? Emotions? Feelings?
Working. That’s it. Just working. I mean, I don’t really have nothing to show for it right now but it’s gonna happen. It’s gonna happen.
Check out lan—fears's blog for more of his music