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
|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
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
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
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,
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
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
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.]
release with his group Shape of Broad Minds,
Craft of the Lost Art is available
now through Lex Records.
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