Jabee: Black Future

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Photo courtesy of Benji Sukmanee

Photo courtesy of Benji Sukmanee

Jabee is an Emmy-award winning emcee from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. His music is thought provoking, inspirational, and from the heart. Jabee unapologetically gives listeners a glimpse of what life is like for a young black man from OKC. Jabee’s most recent full-length release carries on that tradition.

Titled “In the Black Future There’s a Place so Dangerously Absurd” or “Black Future” for short, Jabee’s 20-track album features appearances by Statik Selektah, Najah Amatullah, Meant2B, Deus, Allie Lauren, Hannibal King, Miillie Mesh, Cookie Turner, CID, Ashliann, Adam Ledbetter, and Chuck D. Black Future has production from Sardash, Chris Cutta, Phen, DJ Semaj, The Jake, Jonathan Cloud, Halo Hitz, and Todd Beats.

Public Enemy front man Chuck D has been quoted as saying, “Jabee’s music has the potential to change the world,” and that’s heavy praise coming from the likes of Chuck.

TRHH: Explain the title of your album, Black Future.

Jabee: It’s based on a friend of mines poem. Whenever you think about the future, not only the future of our people, but anybody, you want a bright future, we want successful lives for ourselves and our children. That’s where the title comes from. It was originally written for a Black History program. My friend who wrote it said that Black History has become passé. We’re just so used to hearing it and you pat yourself on the back during Black History Month. She was like, “What about the black future?” That’s what the motivation was behind it.

TRHH: Given the current state of black people in America, what’s the ideal vision of our future that you have?

Jabee: It’s a lot of different things. I guess for me it’s about taking care of each other, loving each other, and making sure each other is safe and protected. That’s all we want. I think that if we did that for each other the future is bright.

TRHH: Yeah, man. Have you heard of the book Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome?

Jabee: I definitely heard about it but I haven’t read it though.

TRHH: I just started reading it and the author, Dr. Joy DeGruy, talked about how she went to South Africa in 1994 and everyone greeted each other with, “How are the children?” It was kind of like if the children are okay, we’re all okay kind of thing. In America her son was about to get beat up by a bunch of boys who said he was looking at them funny. She was saying how do we go from “What you looking at?” in America to “How are the children?” in South Africa? I think that speaks to what you’re saying about if we just cared about each other more.

Jabee: Wow. Yeah. I need to read that. That’s exactly right. You hit the nail on the head. A lot of that is we’re so used to and conditioned to only be concerned with our wellbeing and how I’m doing. If I’m good that’s all that matters. There’s so many slogans and phrases that are exclusive and it’s all about me, me, me. Part of my mission is to try and change that. That’s where we get lost because it’s not just about you. If I’m straight, it’s my job to make sure somebody else is straight. If I’m civilized, it’s my job to civilize the uncivilized. If I got it, then it’s yours. We’re so used to bragging about us having and you not having. To me that’s wrong.

TRHH: What inspired the song Tried So Hard?

Jabee: I was going through some stuff with close friends. I’m from Oklahoma and a lot of musicians, artists, bands, and rappers try to make it out of Oklahoma. I’m not anywhere where I’d like to be by any means, but to a lot of people I’m doing a lot. People don’t realize that you’re still sacrificing so much. You’re sabotaging so much of your life. I’m on tour right now. I have two young daughters that I’m not getting to be with because I’ve been on the road for weeks. Somebody back home who has not been able to tour may look at me and say, “He thinks he’s all that,” no, I’m working hard for this and I’m sacrificing so much to be out there. Not only that, I’m doing shows but I’m not making anything. I’m using my own money and I’m borrowing. It’s not about who is the dopest, it’s about getting out and doing it and fighting for what you want. At the same time all the negative things that come back when all you’re trying to do is do you – that’s where it came from.

TRHH: Do you feel pressured to leave Oklahoma? I’m from Chicago and I’m old enough to remember a time when nobody cared about Chicago Hip-Hop. Nobody cared about Chicago Hip-Hop until Kanye. Common and Twista were here for 10-12 years and they did okay. Common didn’t blow until he moved to New York. That was the thing, Shawnna moved to Atlanta. Everybody had to leave to be somebody. Do you feel that pressure to leave home?

Jabee: I used to. I used to a lot. Not so much no more. I feel like a lot of my story lies in the fact that I am from Oklahoma. I feel like just by me being there it makes things easier. I can just live there, hop on a plane, be in New York for two weeks, and come back home. As opposed to moving to New York, jumping in the scene, struggling to pay bills, and everything that comes along with it. Not so much no more, but I did early on because the culture in Oklahoma was small for Hip-Hop music. I feel like now they’re kind of opening more to a Hip-Hop scene and it’s growing. It’s easier to be there and have opportunities at home for rapping.

Before you couldn’t get a show so you try to go to Houston, Dallas, or Kansas City. There are still places like Atlanta and L.A. where there is a music industry for urban and Hip-Hop music, but I feel better just going and visiting for a couple of weeks, recording, meeting with people, and setting up stuff. Then they make it a point to take time and see me because I’m only there for a couple of days. If I moved it would be like, “I’ll get with you next week,” but I’m only here for a couple of days so we have to do it now. I think it’s gotten better, at least for me, to be in Oklahoma because I can do a lot there whereas years ago I couldn’t and it was necessary to leave. I love it. I don’t ever plan on moving.

TRHH: How is this album different from Everything Was Beautiful and Nothing Hurt?

Jabee: Of course production wise. Everything Was Beautiful I put out with MURS. It was put out under his name and he didn’t want any samples so the production I got to have a little bit more freedom with. With Everything Was Beautiful I only had two weeks to record the album because he wanted to put it out on a certain day. And I was just in a different place in my life. I was at a place where I wanted to stop rapping. I had just had my first baby, that’s why I put her on the cover of it. Because I was at that place in my life I wrote that album as if I was writing it to her in case something happened to me, they could play it for her and she could say, “Okay, I see what my daddy was like.” With this album I kind of was more about the message. It wasn’t about being super-lyrical, having the hottest bars, and trying to kill cats. It was just about getting the message across and expressing how I was feeling, what I was going through, and what I was seeing around the world.

TRHH: What happened with your relationship with MURS?

Jabee: Nothing, we’re still tight. I was just on tour with him last summer. I think when he started doing the label thing he had just signed the deal with Strange right after. He didn’t really shut it down, he just kind of passed it off to somebody. He was still going to be involved but the guy he passed it off to kind of dropped the ball and didn’t really want to do it. I think it kind of left some cats hanging, but me, I was already on it before I met MURS. It was nothing for me to pick up the pieces and keep going. That’s still my bro. I call and talk to him even if it ain’t about music – just advice on life. That’s someembody that’s genuinely my friend and a big brother to me.

TRHH: How’d you link up with Statik Selektah for Exhausted?

Jabee: I met Statik at South By one year. We talked for a little bit and he was like, “When you get home send me a track so I can check you out.” I think he had missed my performance but somebody had told him about me. When I got home I sent him a track and he said, “When you get to New York hit me up, we’ll work.” I went to New York, he invited me to his house, he made some beats, we recorded, we watched the Mayweather fight, and just kicked it. We’ve been cool ever since.

TRHH: Why is it important for Jabee to speak on issues that pertain to black people?

Jabee: Because I’m black [laughs]. And I feel like it’s a responsibility of mine being black in America. I feel like our culture has been invaded so much, especially with rap music. We kind of lose our identity in a lot of ways. What’s ours isn’t even ours anymore in a lot of ways. I just want people to know that a lot of the things that we see, a lot of it’s wrong. Being black it’s a part of my responsibility. Not only that, I’ve dealt with it and seen it in a lot of ways. Whether it’s police brutality or black on black crime or racism, I’ve dealt with a lot of that stuff. I’ve had situations in all those areas. It’s affected me so I speak on it. I know if it’s affecting me in Oklahoma City it’s affecting so many people all across the country.

TRHH: What was your opinion when you heard Lil’ Wayne say he never experienced racism and was dismissive of the Black Lives Matters movement?

Jabee: Even though he came back and apologized and said he was high – he might have been high – he was just being real. He’s not a normal, everyday person. For instance if Lil’ Wayne walks in a bank they’re not going to look at him the same way they look at me. If Lil’ Wayne walks in a room full of white people they aren’t going to look at him the same way they look at me. He’s not an everyday black person. He’s not dealing with the same things an everyday average person on the streets deals with. He doesn’t know what it’s like to be an average black man in America because he’s not an average black man in America.

I think in a lot of ways he needs to be humbled. The same kids who are dealing with those things, getting pulled over, and having all these things happen to them in the streets are the same ones that support, believe in him, and buy his music. To say you don’t believe in it is one thing, but to say, “I don’t have to deal with it because I’m a different kind of person, class, and individual. My circumstances are different, but I definitely believe that it happens,” that’s one thing. But to be like, “I don’t believe in it, it’s not real ‘cause I don’t deal with it.” that’s wrong. It’s definitely out here.

I thought he was just being honest. He don’t know what it’s like. You go to a Lil’ Wayne concerts and its thousands and thousands of little white kids, so to him white people love him. That’s the reason I don’t use the word “nigga” in my song because of situations like this. The same kids who are at the Lil’ Wayne concert rapping every lyric and thinking it’s cool might be the same ones who are at a private school in the suburbs and when they see a real n-i-g-g-a in 7-11 then they act different than they did when they saw Lil’ Wayne at the concert. Or they’ll go to a party, try to fit in, and think it’s okay to say nigga. People like that don’t know because they aren’t around real people all the time. They aren’t actually in society the way we’re in society.

TRHH: Yeah, but how can you not know? That’s my thing.

Jabee: I think he shouldn’t have said he doesn’t believe in it. He should have said, “I don’t experience it, but I know it goes on.”

TRHH: Definitely. I don’t know much about Oklahoma, but I know they’ve had two black people in the past year who’ve been killed by police, right?

Jabee: Yeah.

TRHH: I know that much! If you watch the news you know what’s going on in Chicago. You have to know!

Jabee: Exactly. You gotta understand he’s not a real person. He’s a musician and some musicians we can’t look to them for their social awareness or their political views because they just don’t know. They’re not there for that. I remember watching Lil’ Wayne when I was in middle school. When you watch somebody grow up in the spotlight, you watch them go from one person to another, for instance, I grew up around gang culture and I have family members in gangs. Where I come from you don’t just become a gang member just because you hang around people. You gotta be put on. You don’t just become a gang member because you decide to one day and that’s the colors you wear. You gotta legitimately get put on. It’s not something that you can put on and take off like a costume. That’s not real people to me. I think he’s a dope rapper, but that’s it. I don’t pay attention to him for anything other than him rapping. His opinion on rap or politics I don’t listen to because it’s not real. It’s not coming from somebody who is experienced in life like an average person.

TRHH: Let me ask you this then, the backlash that Kanye has received for supporting Trump, is that different than the Wayne situation because Kanye actually used to speak about things?

Jabee: That’s a good question. I don’t know. I feel like Kanye, I hate to say it, I feel like Kanye is on drugs [laughs]. I feel like there’s some part of him that’s still there. One moment I’ll be like, “Man, what’s wrong with this fool?” then I’ll see a video where some kids stopped him in the street and he let him rap for him. I still see glimpses of the old Kanye, but again when you get so high up I think it’s possible to forget where you started, where you came from and what you’ve been through. It can make you who you really are or who you really wanted to be at the end. We never know, he could have just been pimping that whole conscious thing just to get in the door.

TRHH: Conscious rap hasn’t worked for too many people [laughs].

Jabee: Yeah, that’s true. It hasn’t. I don’t know, man. That’s a good question. I saw that he met with Trump but I don’t know if he said why. I read different things about him wanting an autograph and he was speaking to him about stuff in Chicago. I was listening to a 2Pac interview the other day from like 94-95 and he was saying how, “It’s crazy how we sell 5 million records and no politicians reach out to us. The President hasn’t reached out. We’re the voice of five million people in our country and not one President has spoken to us.” When I think about it like that I can kind of appreciate it. I think it’s one thing to say, “This is our President, I want to holler at him and let him know what’s going on,” but at the time he was saying he would vote for him, I don’t know. From what I could tell anybody with money wanted Donald Trump to win. Kanye got money so it might make sense for tax reasons to support him.

TRHH: Totally. What’s your ultimate goal in the music business?

Jabee: My ultimate goal is just to share my story, try to inspire some people, make a living, and continue to do it for as long as I can. I want to be on the road and take my kids with me and have fun. I want to try and be there for people and help change lives. I don’t want it to stop with music. If I’m on tour and I get to your city during the day we can do a workshop or a conference and do the concert at night time. During the day we do a class and in the evening we do the concert. That’s my ultimate goal, to be able to do stuff like that. During the day we go to a high school, spend all day at the high school with the students whether it’s speaking or teaching, and at night we have the concert. That’s the kind of things I want to do.

Purchase: Jabee – Black Future

About Sherron Shabazz

Sherron Shabazz is a freelance writer with an intense passion for Hip-Hop culture. Sherron is your quintessential Hip-Hop snob, seeking to advance the future of the culture while fondly remembering its past.
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