This pandemic has been hard on all of us, but JAHMED has stayed blessed and busy throughout. From songs with Freddie Gibbs, IceColdBishop, to the legendary Suga Free, JAHMED has proven that he can run with the best of them. From Pomona, California, he’s heavily Influenced by the West Coast rappers like Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Kurupt, as well as east coast rappers Jay Z and DMX. He has received high praise from Anthony Fantano, who is notoriously critical with his reviews and said that Fantano has been a fan of his music since early in his career. Among his recent achievements, his song ‘ActUp’ with PARTYFAVOR was featured On the Madden 21 soundtrack, among artists like Anderson .Paak and Rick Ross. Recently, he was even spotted partying with Drake at an Oscar party in LA.
When asked what ‘ARMANI’ means to him, he responds, “To me it means a whole bunch, I can’t really give you a direct answer. It’s love, betrayal, redemption, family, unity, the yin and yang, good and bad, negative, positive.” When listening to ‘ARMANI’, Jahmed takes you on a journey. Uptempo tracks like ‘USAY’ and ‘WIPE’ make you feel like you’re partying in the hills, in contrast, the ‘FREE INTERLUDE’ takes you on a cruise through the West Coast while Suga Free spits some game. On the standout track ‘GLIMPSE’, JAHMED links up with Grammy-nominated and gangster rap extraordinaire, Freddie Gibbs. The two deliver some of the hardest bars I’ve heard this year, needless to say these guys have great natural chemistry.
JAHMED really opens up and lets himself be vulnerable on ‘ARMANI’. ‘ARMANI’ is one of those projects that you can listen to countless times, but each time it still sounds fresh and new. JAHMED is a breath of fresh air in an incredibly saturated genre. Go bump ‘ARMANI’ if you haven’t had the chance to listen, and keep a look out for what else JAHMED has in store this year. VIPER spoke to JAHMED about working with legendary West Coast artists, his creative process and his friendship with Anthony Fantano…
When did you start rapping?
I want to be like specific as possible, but I think the earliest memories of me rapping probably was like middle school. I want to say 2009, that’s when I recorded my first first song. I think from there, I just fell in love with it. It was unique.
Do you feel like you’re more influenced by the West Coast or by Texas?
I think West Coast for sure, because that’s where I’m from; Pomona, California. A lot of G-funk, gangsta rap. I think it’s quite a balance though. I think West Coast wins because it’s where I’m from, but it’s a balance. The South, not just Texas alone, but also Atlanta, Memphis, they come up with unique sounds. I think now we’re seeing the impact the South has. We’ve been saying it for years, but the people are finally appreciating the South sounds.
Who were the rappers that you looked up to when you were getting started?
A lot of Jay Z. My Mom was listening to him. ‘American Gangster’, I remember listening to the album. Of course West Coast Rap, I always been listening to Snoop, Dr. Dre, Kurupt, DJ Quik. A lot of West Coast influences for sure. But then we have like Jay Z and DMX, those guys are cool for sure.
How are you feeling about ‘ARMANI’ since its release?
I feel amazing bro! I think just for me to release it was the craziest feeling. This project really challenged me and it challenged me to really speak on something, make it literal and not too hidden behind metaphors, just be direct and be vulnerable as possible. When I released it bro, I felt amazing. Like it’s finally to the people. I don’t care if five people listen to it, it just made me feel so amazing that it was finally out of my hands, because I can’t tweak it anymore. It’s just for the people.
What was your favourite song to write or record on ‘ARMANI’?
I think I think ‘Dirty Hoe’ was a very interesting record. I recorded the first verse in my car. We couldn’t go to the studio, it was very limited because the pandemic and all the studios I’d usually go to were closed down. I think when I did the first verse, I didn’t know what I had until I sent it to my producer. He was like “yo this is crazy, bro. You got to do something for the second verse.” Then for the second verse, I wrote like four or five different verses. I think that record was really just special because I really had to pull from a personal experience of feeling that I felt before, but I had to regain that feeling to finish the record. So it really came from my energetic place, I think that was the most special record to write on the whole project.
What does ‘ARMANI’ mean to you and why did you choose ‘ARMANI’ as the title?
The name itself, is one of those names that rings a bell. You think luxury or a perfectly curved body on a woman. I feel like it’ll make sense in the future. Like when somebody say Armani, I want people to think about the project. To me it means a whole bunch, I can’t really give you a direct answer. It’s love, betrayal, redemption, family, unity, the yin and yang good and bad, negative positive. I want people to listen to it and digest it rather than me give a spoon-fed answer, you know. That’s another thing, it’s definitely a hidden concept if you really pay attention to what Suga Free is saying. I’ll let people figure that out for themselves.
Why did you choose Orange as the focus color for the ‘Wipe’ video?
I really got to give credit to the creatives like Polygon and Kult films. I didn’t really want to do orange but I knew I wanted to go outside of red and black because of the colours before on ‘Boofmobile’, the colours were like a lot darker. And I told myself with this project, I need to step out of the dark and go colour. And when I explained that to the creatives, Polygon was like, “we gotta do orange.” At first I wasn’t with it, I think it’s about trusting your team and trusting the people around you. At first I didn’t like it but then when I saw the way he wanted to portray the orange, I was like, oh this is this is actually hard. I can’t take 100% credit for it, you got to give that to the team. But I think as a team we executed it and it came out fire.
Do you like to have a hand in the creative process when it comes to shooting visuals?
Oh, yeah, 100 percent. I think it starts with my vision, then I pitch it to the homies. Kult Films usually does the treatments and then get a director like City James or Polygon who execute it for us. I’m a very hands from the cover art to the videos to the actual production, I’m super hands on with it. Shout out to the team like I said, it’s really about me just trusting them. I usually start with the idea, and then I let them just run it. Then they’re like, I think we should do this and I say cool let’s try it out.
What was it like working with with Freddie Gibbs? Was that a collaboration that happened in person or did it happen virtually?
It was definitely a virtual thing at first. We reached out to him and he liked the music, I think it was just a patience thing. We were just waiting for like three, four months for him to send it, eventually he pulled through. After he did his verse I went to his crib, I went to see him a few times before we actually shot the video. I actually went to his crib to hear the verse for the first time. He gave it to me and was like, “yo, you fucking with this?” I was like “yeah this is hard!” Then I went back to his crib to shoot the video. So you know, even though the pandemic popped off, we’re still able to do things with precautions, we still got that organic bond together on set. We were just chopping up, he gave me some game. Shout out Freddie though for real. He’s just dope as hell and I knew exactly who I wanted, like yo I need Freddie Gibbs on this song! He did everything I expected for him to do on that record.
How do you feel that your sound has changed or matured over the years?
I think it matured extremely. If you pay attention to ‘Boofmobile’ and what I was talking about then, just topic wise I matured tenfold. Sound wise, I think it’s easy to hide behind big 808s with cool melodies and just rap, and I think with ‘ARMANI’, me and my producers we were like “yo we got to strip all this back.” You know, we’ve got to strip the ad libs back. Let’s see what you can do just off the main vocal, what can you say of one vocal and one simple hook? How can we make this a cool record? So if you pay attention to ‘ARMANI’, you listen to the lyrics. Everything is dumbed down you know, just so the people could really digest what I’m talking about and be direct, and not have a lot of 808s going crazy with crazy high hats. Don’t get it twisted, we still have that sound in there but we just figured out a pocket to minimise it, but still make it more powerful than what it was before. So to answer your question, a whole lot.
How did it feel when you saw Anthony Fantano reacting to your music?
Shout out Fantano bro he’s been supporting ever since ‘Fiat’. It’s amazing man. When we posted ‘Wipe’, he was in the comments like “yo I’m there.” He really fucked with me, and I know he’s a tough guy on music. People be hot at his reviews and shit but at the end of the day, this will come with the territory. So I’m just happy he supported it.
What was it like working with the legendary Suga Free and why did you choose him for the project?
It was amazing, even though it was virtual. I think when you speak to these these guys like Freddie Gibbs or Suga Free and you hear how in tune they are with the music. Like first and foremost, he fucked with the music and I think that was everything that needed to happen. Because I don’t think he would’ve done it if he didn’t like the music. It was cool tho’ man, I had a phone conversation with him. He’s a Pamona native, I’m a Pamona native. He was even doing it when I was an infant, he been putting on for the city. So I felt like it was urgent that we get him on this project. Not only because of being natives, but also the topic of the album itself. I think when we’re in the early stages of creating ‘ARMANI’, we had just the songs and some of the records were like not even complete. I remember looking at the homies and being like, this is not going to work without Suga Free. Like the songs are fire but if we don’t have him to narrate me throughout this whole process, it’s just not going to work. It was a very organic connection. I remember saying that in the studio, and literally the next day, my manager Brian called me like, “yo, I got Suga Free on the line.” I was like, “Man this is crazy!” Like we was literally just saying how much we needed him for the project. A lot of this project, even with Gangster Gibbs, it was almost destined the way things were happening. So shout out to Free, it’s amazing just the whole process of him narrating it. I didn’t really say too much, I just sent him a rough draft of the things I wanted him to talk about. Like yo this is the concept this is the direction and I want you to just do you. He literally just sent me a 12 minute clip of him just talking shit. We chopped it up and put it in the project.
I think you guys make a really great pairing. Unexpected, but really great.
Exactly and that’s the type of shit that I like man. Doing what people wouldn’t expect to happen in 2021. I’m all for the unexpected things.
Are you a video games guy? How does it feel to have one of your songs featured on Madden?
For sure bro, 100 percent if I’m not recording, I’m playing a game. It’s so crazy, man. Like growing up, you play this game all your life, and then when you finally get on the soundtrack, I still don’t know how to really receive it to be honest with you. Like I hear it and be like, “damn that’s really me!” I just get lost, like “damn bro this is really crazy.” It feels amazing nonetheless. I’m super, super grateful to have the opportunity to be on that. A lot of people play that game and they’ll hear that. It’s crazy, it’s amazing.
You’ve been in the game for a few years and you’ve worked with a number of artists. What’s one piece of advice that really stuck to you over the years?
That’s a good one. I think as artists when you come in very early, we battle this. I don’t know if it’s an ego or like we battle this thing of wanting to be in a specific spot and a specific direction with your career. You want everything to happen off rip. You want all the opportunities that Drake is getting or Kendrick is getting. One of the best things I receive is patience. It’s not your time until it’s your time. You’re not that person until you’re that person. Your time will come. Your opportunity it going to strike when it’s supposed to strike. If you’re doing everything you’re supposed to be doing, if you’re working hard and believe that one day your time will come, it’s going to come; you just got to be patient. To sum it up, really just have faith and believe that this can happen to you. Keep working and just doing what you got to do.
Interview by Calvin Schneider