Beyond the Record
Music news, album reviews & interviews
BtR: Give us some insight about your latest single H.E.L.L. When will it be released?
TJ: H.E.L.L. will be released on all major streaming sites including iTunes and GooglePlay on March 27th, 2017.
BtR: Going into the meaning behind this song in particular, is it difficult to talk about this subject/matter? What is the meaning behind this song specifically?
TJ: Personally, I try to refrain from getting too involved in politics. I’ve always been an outspoken individual and when I was younger that kept me in the political circle. However, I’ve learned that you have to pick your battles because if not, you will end up fighting for the rest of your life. H.E.L.L. is an acronym for “Has Everyone Lost Love?” The song divulges into the chaos that is currently happening in The United States. It addresses issues that have been seen too often in the news clips and headlines. H.E.L.L. discusses rape culture, racism, targeting, senseless cop killings, and general inequality.
BtR: How do you feel your normal audience will react to the controversy? And how did you go from Rainbows to H.E.L.L ?
TJ: That’s tough because my “normal audience” is so diverse. Every song that I create is completely different than the next and because of that, with each new song, I gain and lose fans. That being said, I cannot accommodate every person who listens to my music. I have to use MY personal experiences and beliefs in order to create meaningful music. If I wrote songs just to reel in fans, the tracks would be void of emotion and character, what I do in the studio is more than reciting lyrics I’ve written, it’s conveying a message that I whole-heartedly feel and believe. Rainbows was such a successful song for me and it was the complete opposite of H.E.L.L. Rainbows was inspired by my wife. The song was written about unconditional love and everything that comes along with it. Rainbows was an uplifting ballad with a country twist and soulful vocals. H.E.L.L. was written because of all of the animosity and hatred that has been plaguing our country. The song is pleading for listeners to understand the numerous epidemics that we are faced with. H.E.L.L. is a mix of R&B and hip-hop, and it has very dark undertones.
BtR: Some artists need to cultivate a love for music as they get older. At what point did you pursue your talent and love for music, and would you say you were born with this talent?
TJ: I’ve always been a musical person, when I was in 4th grade, I actually wrote a song called the “Pocahontas Rap” which I performed in our class play. From then on music and I were so cohesive. I had normal growing pains like any other adolescent and I used music as a therapy to express my emotions. Prior to 2014, I had never truly pursued music publicly. On May 31st, 2014 , my brother passed away in an automobile accident. This was the most traumatic event that I had ever experienced so I went back to what has always been there for me, writing. Up until the point I had only ever written music. But this time was different so I recorded the song, Come Back To Me, from my debut EP, My Perception. This was a tribute to my brother and a gift to my mother. Once the song was complete, I shared it on my Facebook page and the response was overwhelming so I continued going back to the studio. I believe that if you have a talent you are born with that seed embedded in your DNA, but I also believe that hard work is what separates the decent from the great. Yes, I was born with music in my blood, but I’ve worked hard every single day in hopes of perfecting my craft.
BtR: Clearly you are passionate about the message in your music. Tell us a little bit about the overall message you convey to the world.
TJ: The message I am trying to convey is that music can be much more than the mainstream songs we hear today. I remember a time, specifically in hip-hop, where emcees would tell stories. I remember when R&B music made you want to stop what you were doing and be with the love of your life. But, in today’s world lyrics have been pushed to the side and trends are at the forefront of the music industry. We live in a day and age where computer generated voices are what everyone aspires to sound like. If you turn on your radio to a hip-hop station, I guarantee that the majority of the song will be bleeped out because of profanity or inaudible due to the mumbling phase that music is in. Above The Bar Music is the movement that I’ve created. It’s a vow that my music will always be profanity free and full of substance. I showcase my vocabulary instead of using four letter words. I choose use storytelling instead of degrading others.
BtR: After listening to this single and your other songs, I find it difficult to pinpoint you to one specific genre. I was getting a lot of different inspirations wrapped into one. Where would you say you fit in, genre-wise?
TJ: HAHA! This question is so difficult for me to answer because honestly, I don’t fit in anywhere. The majority of my music typically has a rap verse in it, so I tend to lean towards hip-hop. But if you listen to a Migos song and then put on one of my tracks, you still won’t feel like you’re listening to the same style of music. Then there are a few songs that are completely vocal, but even then they don’t necessarily fit into a box. Trying to categorize my music is like trying to put a square into a circle.
BtR: Would you say your upcoming single best depicts the struggle that this world is in?
TJ: Yes, I wrote this song about numerous struggles that we are facing. Unfortunately, I had to be very vague in order to keep the song from being twelve minutes long. Even though we are in 2017, there are so many issues that this country has faced for decades, even centuries that haven’t been resolved. I wanted to write something that I can hopefully listen to in 10 years and be thankful that we’ve overcome.
BtR: Let's say you have the power to change the music industry. What would be the things you would change and why?
TJ: I would change the fact that no one sounds original anymore. I have less than 100 songs on my iPhone and I recall putting it on shuffle a few days ago and a song began to play. I told my wife that her song was coming on and we didn’t know it wasn’t that particular song until the chorus began. That to me is very disheartening; music lacks creativity and originality now. These emerging artists sign with a record label under the impression that their lone voice will now be heard, but the executives of those labels just have plans to suppress the artist’s originality in order to make them sound like the mainstream artists on the radio.
BtR: What legacy do you hope to leave behind with your art?
TJ: I hope to leave a legacy of being true to myself and my craft. Being that I’m an independent artist, everything that I release is my choice and my voice. I want to be remembered for writing and creating music that impacts my audience and that helps people who can relate to that particular song. I will never be the artist that impersonates someone or pretends to be something that I’m not. I want people to remember the truth and emotion in my music. If that happens, then I’ve accomplished my mark on the music industry.