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Jneiro Jarel
The Lost Art
Growing up as an Army brat, Jneiro Jarel was lucky enough to be exposed to our country's varying regional Hip-Hop scenes, ATL & Houston included. But you'd be hard pressed to hear the Dirty South's influence ov..
Jneiro Jarel: The Lost Art         by DJ TREW
The man of many aliases adds yet another to his resume...

Over the past 15 years, Jneiro Jarel has called many U.S. cities home. Growing up as an Army brat, he was lucky enough to be exposed to our country's varying regional Hip-Hop scenes at an early age. And although, both Houston and Atlanta have been stops along his journey, you'd be hard pressed to hear the Dirty South's influence over his brand of 'Street Soul.' That is unless you've been fortunate enough to catch his releases under the moniker Dat Boy Bwizzo, one of his many aliases.

Like Shock G, MF Doom, RZA, and Big Boi before him, Jneiro has found artistic refuge in anonymity, most notably for his album The Beat Journey, which was produced under the Dr. Who Dat? alias. Most recently Jarel reunited with his old Houston crew the Slum Kids, now renamed Shape of Broad Minds, for the album Craft of the Lost Art. A sort of Psychedelic Soul version of Hip-Hop, this release pushes the envelope of what is considered Dilla-esque, venturing into a futuristic world of bubbling bass lines and synth noodlings.

Recently Ground Lift spoke with the prolific producer about the beauty of aliases, how liner notes are better than the Internet, and always being on some next shit.

You were an army brat growing up, how did you handle being moved around from city to city?

It is what it is, I guess. My mom was in the service, so we lived all over. When she went to Germany I stayed with my Grandmother in ATL for like 4-5 years, and when she came back we moved to Phoenix, then Texas…It was one of those things where having childhood friendships, they never lasted. I feel like living in all these different places and experiencing different things molded me and made me into more of an open-minded person, who understood the different cultures within the U.S.

Do you feel that your sound as a musician reflects this experience?

Somewhat, more extremely the Dirty South and East Coast [sounds] because I spent longer times in those areas. And now when you hear my music, you never really know where it's from. I can't negate it; it definitely contributed to some of my sound, instead of me just dreaming up stuff [laughs.]

So it seems that Shape of Broad Minds is the musical manifestation of your childhood. Can you explain how the group came together?

Basically how it worked was, the main mecca of my crew is Houston, Texas. We all got up there, a lot of people know us as the Slum Kids and cats in the Houston Old School know about that. [Shape of Broad Minds] is the new version of the Slum Kids. The extended members of the crew go back to 1990, so it's kinda cool to be in 2007 and be relevant. But we all met at Madison High School except for Jawwaad, he's the young cat of the group, we're like mentors to him. He came in in '94 and we've been down ever since. But before that, I left Houston and got my shine on, doing my own thing, and eventually when things started jumping off for me, I put them all on board.

But if you listen to all my old records, these cats were there, so it's not some brand new thing [for us] but it's brand new to the world, you know?

So all the members originate in different parts of the country, and bring their own sensibilities to the group. Was is tough coming together as one, and meet at a 'sound.'

Yeah, but we all love music, we all come from music. Jawwaad is an instrumentalist, he plays trumpet and piano, he's not just an MC. And I play the drums, and mess around with a few other instruments, but I'm really all about the beat, and the melody. The same thing goes for the other folk, like Rocque Wun doing vocals, vibing out doing backgrounds. We just attack things from different perspectives. Panama Black is more of a lyrical MC, and I'm more about style, riding the beat, so everybody has their own way of contributing.

So are you the 'brains' behind the group, or was it more of a collaborative effort?

It was definitely under my direction. I come up with what I want things to sound like as a producer and they just get on and vibe with it, and if they can connect, they connect. It's collaborative in the sense that what they drop is what they drop, but it's more about what context.

In many critiques I read about Three Piece Puzzle, it's like the writer's have a tough time pinning down your sound, drawing comparisons to Roy Ayers, Madlib, Native Tongues, etc… How would you personally describe what you do?

It's one of those things where it's hard to put me into any one type of genre because I switch up so much. But I can understand those comparisons because, even before the time of Tribe Called Quest, I've been into Hip-Hop since '86, I was inspired by all those cats, and we all inspire each other today. But now, I'm glad to actually be a part of that, getting props from cats that had a record deal before me, who opened the doors for me.

One thing I must say, and I tell this to anyone who listens to my music, don't ever think I'm gonna keep coming with that same 'ol same 'ol. I'm not into people being stuck in the past, you gotta keep it moving, keep it innovative.

You produce more than straight Hip-Hop, dipping into Afro-Brazilian, Nu Jazz, and Brokenbeat. Do feel that these genres offer you more freedom as a producer, more so than Hip-Hop?

Yeah, well Hip-Hop is the reason why I know as much as I know about some of this music. But the other half has to do with my Mom who's deep into Jazz, so that Jazz bug bit me through her. And my Uncle is the same way, he's into Funk and Soul. Also a lot of inspiration came from watching TV, from VH-1 back in the day when they used to show Prince, and Peter Gabriel. I'd watch Yo! MTV Raps for Hip-Hop and VH-1 for the Pop/80s stuff.

But I feel like me doing these other styles of music, thank goodness I get the love that I do because it's hard being an artist who's doing a lot of different things, and stay getting props for whatever you do. It's all about staying dope, no matter what genre you decide to touch. Bring your certain vibe to that genre and still let it be you, but don't sell your soul, make sure that it's in you because it'll translate into the music.

So you mentioned you got your appreciation for non Hip-Hop music from Hip-Hop. Does that relate to being a digger and record collector?

Yeah, just stumbling across records. The crazy thing is, before the Internet, before we were able to listen to MySpace and iTunes and listen to songs before we could buy them, I had vinyl and tapes. What made me buy records, was two things. Either I'd look at records that was hot, and check the credits and if they gave shout outs to someone who had records out, I thought "They must be dope."If a group I loved was giving props to another group, I'd check them out, that's how I used to find stuff.

Also when it came to Hip-Hop, or any other music, I was always checking for album covers, if it had a dope cover I was gonna cop it. I've always been into music that pushed the envelope, so if an album cover represented something abstract or something different, that made me feel like I wanted to see what their music was all about.

So let's talk about alter egos. Shock G has Humpty, and Jneiro has Dr. Who Dat? What does this alter ego bring to the table? How would you say their styles differ?

There's certain times, when you hear the bugged out tweaks in the background, the panning here and there, or wild panning, that's Dr. Who Dat's contribution. The more straight forward, soulful, 808 beats are Jneiro. And with the rhymes styles, Who Dat is more about having fun, stuttering over the beats, and Jneiro is more straight up, definitely not as weird [laughs.]

Do you feel like it gives you more freedom to express that 'other' side of you?

Oh yeah. If you notice, a lot of people have aka's. I've got so many names that you don't know about yet. I go by Dat Boy Bwizzo in Houston, for a more Dirty South vibe, I'm more popular there under that name, nobody knows Jarel in Houston. But I've got so many musical ideas, that if I was to do them as one artist, people would be confused. I'm only being nice to the customer by using aliases [laughs.] I think that nowadays, people are realizing that they can switch up their game so it doesn't become boring.

Otherwise if you tried to do all your music under Jneiro, maybe your fans would feel like you're trying to do too much, or say "He's schizophrenic."

Right, so instead of being this dude that's all over the place, confusing my fans, I'll be like 'This is one side of me." I look at it [aliases] as being a real person that's outside of me because these are literally different sides of me. But once people understand that it's all me, I think they'll be able to appreciate that, shit I might have more aka's by the end of the day, but it's all about being able to bring more of the 'good music.'

Back to producing outside of Hip-Hop, have you been met with any skepticism entering into these genres? Like they look at you cockeyed because you're known as a Hip-Hop guy?

Nah, actually if anything, these cats are bringing me to my fullest. I never got that kind of look because I never came off as "Yeah, I'm a Brokenbeat artist." They can tell I have an appreciation for it, and my translation was from the heart. But what I don't want is for people to think that I'm just that, because on my next record I'm working with Khujo from Goodie Mob. You know? Never expect [the same sound] as my last record.

As a listener, it's apparent that as a musician you're evolving in leaps and bounds but on the flip side, what are some the struggles you face musically?

Inspiration. As much as I'm doing things, I'm an everyday person, I got bills, I got child support, I got my 'lil man, I'm dealing with all kinds of stuff. So being inspired is a struggle, like the other day my speakers busted and I had done spent all my money on rent, and that can put a dent in your situation. It's always a struggle cuz, but at the end of the day, the fam that supports me keeps me working hard. Thank goodness for that, because otherwise I'd just be doing stuff for CD Baby [laughs.] There ain't nothing wrong with that, but what you gotta do is make sure this a way of life for you, because if you're just doing this to blow up, you gonna stop. It took me a long time to get where I'm at, I've been making music since '89, and I'm just now getting seen.

Also, it's a tough being an older dude and staying relevant. Thank goodness music is just in me, but at the same time I ain't getting no younger. I listen to what these kids are listening to, I try not to be that dude who's like "That's young folk music." Nah, you need to try and understand what they listen to, and bring something in a new way that can turn them from listening to that garbage, that's what it's all about.

I listen to snap music, but not because it's the hottest thing, but because I try to relate to folks, I'm from the South too, so I try not to be prejudice against any style of music. People in the underground world try to hate on it, but I feel that's what's gonna keep Hip-Hop separate. I wanna infiltrate popular music, and do it in a whole new way [laughs.]

Last question: what's your desert island drum break?

Hmm. Good question, man I can't even tell you cuz. I'm not the usual dude. My homies J-Rocc and Cut Chemist, all my West Coast homies are really into finding drum breaks. But for me, I don't really look for breaks and loops like that. I kinda take pieces from here and there and extract it, and then play live drums. So I don't really pay attention to that, even though I buy records [laughs.]


Jneiro's latest release with his group Shape of Broad Minds, Craft of the Lost Art is available now through Lex Records.

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