Wednesday, October 12, 2011
A FASHIONABLE EMCEE----AN INTERVIEW WITH JHENE THA REALER
A Fashionable Emcee---An Interview With Jhene Tha Realer
In today’s hip hop climate, being a fashion plate and emcee is becoming commonplace. Having a sense of style sometimes can even overshadow the musical portion of an artist, for good or bad. Witnessing an artist such as Jhene Tha Realer balance her sense of creativity from a fashion standpoint with her lyrical sensibilities on the microphone is indeed a wonder to behold, especially considering her relative newcomer status on the Baltimore hip hop scene. I’ve been fortunate and blessed to see the genesis and maturation of hip hop in the Monumental City, so getting the opportunity to view the growth in an artist that is building a grassroots movement is a wonder to behold indeed.
Jhene Tha Realer has been on my radar for the better part of the past year, starting with my introduction to her by M.A.M. Records CEO Jay McGraw. Having a brief conversation with Jay, then exchanging a few pleasantries with this female hip hop artist, who appeared more Naomi Campbell than Lil’ Kim upon first view. Truthfully, I didn’t envision her as the prototypical female emcee, but what is a estrogen-laden artist with a penchant for spitting metaphors supposed to look like? Putting preconceived notions to the side, I was intrigued by Jhene Tha Realer as an artist. Unfortunately, playing interview phone tag and not being able to connect time after time became a running theme. From different show performances in the Mid-Atlantic area, to the ill-fated DMV Awards this past March, we have crossed paths, but never having that golden opportunity to sit down and discuss her artistry. Fortunately, a recent performance by Jhene Tha Realer at a local live hip hop showcase, The Sound Boutique, opened the proverbial door to us waxing poetic about melding the worlds of fashion and music into her creative gumbo. “It definitely has been a long time coming”, I opined to Jhene Tha Realer after her energized performance at The Sound Boutique, backed by a live hip hop band. “Yes it has”, she stated in a soft yet commanding voice, making certain that I could understand her every syllable with music and surrounding conversations attempting to overshadow our brief chatter. After a few minutes discussing her performance, we decided on setting up a phone interview a few days later, making certain that nothing would come between this opportunity. “I’m looking forward to it”, she stated, and the wheels were set in motion.
OTR: How did you first get started in hip hop?
Jhene Tha Realer: I first started at eleven, then eventually getting into ciphers and freestyles. I really broke out last year, putting out my first mixtape. I got the chance to network with a lot of different people. I’ve done a lot in the past year alone with getting myself known, performing, things like that.
OTR: Who are some of your influences?
Jhene Tha Realer: Lil’ Kim, Ja Rule, that whole Murder Inc. camp, around ’01-’02. To me, that was a good time with me absorbing the music and style.
OTR: Talk about your background, because you are not originally from this area.
Jhene Tha Realer: Right. I was born in Zambia, and I lived there ‘til I was ten. I moved with my family to the DC area. I lived in Silver Spring and that DC area, was raised there. Even though I was raised in that environment, Baltimore groomed me.
OTR: How would you describe the hip hop scene in the DC area?
Jhene Tha Realer: Hip hop is there in DC, but there are other genres like go-go music that can overshadow hip hop. Everybody raps in Baltimore though (Laughter). If you are unique and real you will stand out.
OTR: Is that where your name came from?
Jhene Tha Realer: Everybody knew me as Jhene, even back home. Family, friends, they all called me Jhene, so of course that stuck. Since I consider myself as real, it was only natural for me to attach that to my name, so you have Jhene Tha Realer. One thing I have to say is that you have to be an emcee and not be cliché.
OTR: So how did you meet M.A.M. Records CEO and artist Jay McGraw?
Jhene Tha Realer: I met Jay at this Baltimore spot called the Black Hole. This dude Cobra got me on the show bill, and Jay was there. Jay was looking for a female artist for his label. I didn’t put on the best performance at the Black Hole, but I guess he saw the potential in me. The next day I went to 5 Seasons, and I saw Jay and there were a whole bunch of n*ggas. I got the chance to meet up with him and Singleton Newman. That chance meeting opened up the door for me to become the artist you see today.
OTR: Describe your style on the microphone.
Jhene Tha Realer: Versatility. I can be street. I can be contemporary. I can have a jazzy flow. I can hop on any joint and spit. It’s as simple as that. I pride myself on the fact that I have that versatility with my music and style.
OTR: What are some other things that you are focusing on outside of music?
Jhene Tha Realer: I go to school right now at the University of Baltimore. I want to be a fashion designer. I’m trying to do design for t-shirts for M.A.M. Records right now. I did get the opportunity to volunteer for Baltimore Fashion Week; that was a cool opportunity. It wasn’t as big this year as before, but I had the chance to be in that realm of the fashion world. One thing I do want to say is that in the future I want to put money aside and start a team, an in-house engineer, get a studio and a couple of artists. I want to put all of my talents to good use.
OTR: Musically, what are you working on right now?
Jhene Tha Realer: I’m working on a mixtape called Legend’s Breed. Are you going to ask me what that means? (Laughter)
OTR: Of course I’m going to ask you the meaning behind that. This is an interesting interview to say the least. I feel like I’m being interviewed. (Laughter)
Jhene Tha Realer: It’s twelve songs on the mixtape. The meaning behind Legend’s Breed is being birthed by the legends. B.I.G., ‘Pac, Busta, those are the legends that paved the way for me being that versatile artist that I am. The mixtape is gonna have club joints, some R&B, some car joints, some slow tempo stuff. When you pick out mixtape songs you should have some variety, so that is what I’m giving to everyone. You will see the continuity in the songs for Legend’s Breed. It should be coming out in December. I’ve been recording at Street Legal Studios with artists like Lord Baltimore, Karron Johnson, Blizzard.
OTR: I know that you have an upcoming show. How did that come about?
Jhene Tha Realer: Florida (radio host for WEAA-88.9 Strictly Hip Hop Show) and Singleton (co-host for WOLB-1010 AM Politic With Permiss Show) hooked up the Caddy Da Don show at CCBC. It’s for a good cause. It is an awareness show for Pediatric Seizure Disorders, and it is an honor to be a part of this show. I’m looking forward to being on the bill with Caddy. I went to CCBC and graduated, so it is like a homecoming for me, and it is for a very good cause. I will get the chance to network with others.
OTR: What is a dream collaboration for you?
Jhene Tha Realer: Are you talking locally or nationally?
Jhene Tha Realer: One thing about Baltimore is that you can work with pretty much anyone here. You have artists like Ms. Cream, Finesse The Best, a lot of different artists here in the region. On a national level, of course Lil’ Kim I would love to work with. Someone who would be a surprise is Lola Monroe. Her whole style is dope, so I would jump at the opportunity to work with her. Drake would be cool to work with as well. Black Thought (from The Roots) would be so cool. He is very dope indeed. I love old school hip hop, like Rakim, Common, Black Thought, real emcees.
OTR: So how does it feel to rock with a live band?
Jhene Tha Realer: I prefer a live band actually because of the energy. At The Sound Boutique performance, it was hot, because I never did that before. There is nothing like live music. You can just feel it.
OTR: What do you see for 2012?
Jhene Tha Realer: Me being hotter than now. I am going to work on my international presence more, especially with me being from Zambia. Hip hop music is very popular overseas, so that is a market I want to target. I want to go back to Zambia, perform, give back to my people. I want to hit in Canada and the UK. I also want to have that presence on internet radio. Next year I am dropping my album. I am going to work with producers that are outside this area. One thing I can say is that I am very involved in my artistry. I am hands on and 100% into my craft. I enjoy networking, photo shoots, interviews, all of those aspects.
OTR: How do you perceive media coverage?
Jhene Tha Realer: Average. The media focuses on covering those in the spotlight. It’s politics, who you know. That’s why I appreciate you giving me the opportunity with this interview.
OTR: That’s why we’re On The Rise. We want to shine light on those that are not necessarily in the spotlight. We want to showcase those that are up and coming.
Jhene Tha Realer: After I drop my mixtape there will be more media coverage. I want to start a blog so I can document my musical and fashion journeys. That’s another aspect I want to get into soon.
OTR: You attended the DMV Awards in March 2011. How was that, before all the craziness happened?
Jhene Tha Realer: I was there, but I missed the drama and violence. Jay McGraw and M.A.M. Records represented of course. It was a good networking tool for the entire region, at least until things turned for the worse. One thing I can say is that we are not exposed like other artists here. We don’t push our own. When artists do get out there they don’t get support that they need. You have an artist like CJ Hilton with R&B that is starting to get noticed. We need to bond and support each other in this DMV region.
OTR: This has been a very good discussion with you. What would you like to say in closing?
Jhene Tha Realer: Follow me on Twitter at @Jhene_meThaMc. I’m very excited about what’s to come for me. I used to watch rappers on television and now I am a part of the revolution, so to speak. When I look back, I can see how my influences have molded me into the woman I am today. I want to get that exposure. Promoters don’t know you, so they don’t pay attention. I want to be able to do three or four shows a week. I’m just excited about the opportunity to be an artist. I want to spread my music and word. I want to let others know that it is cool to be different. Hip hop is a craft, and I take it very seriously. You have to have your own storyline and be unique. I’m going to keep my own style. One thing about me is that I’m fun-loving. You can let everyone out there know that I’m on Reverbnation, Youtube, Soundcloud. Just look for Jhene Tha Realer under each of those and you will find me. Right now I’m in a Journalism class at the University of Baltimore, so I’m looking to start blogging and make t-shirts for promo. It just another step in the evolution of Jhene Tha Realer!
OTR: It’s been a pleasure speaking with such a creative spirit such as yourself. This won’t be the last time!
Jhene Tha Realer: Again, thank you and On The Rise Magazine for giving me this opportunity. I appreciate the love and support!
Talking with this multifaceted young woman, artist, fashion designer, lyricist, you get the impression that there will be no limitations with her creative growth. Let’s hope that this On The Rise individual will live up to the lofty goals that she has set for herself. Truthfully, I don’t think that will even be an issue in the near and distant future, because Jhene Tha Realer is destined to live up to her name
You can visit Jhene Tha Realer at the following social media sites:
The original interview can be found at On The Rise Magazine (http://www.ontherisemag.com/).