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[News] #DK11 Project: Interview with Jai Nitai Lotus

DK11_Single5_JaiNitai_Lotus Pi Brahman Built feat. Sam I Am montolla A

As long time readers know, I’m a big fan of Montreal rapper, Jai Nitai Lotus and his Something You Feel album from last year was certainly that! Enough for me to lend my endorsement to it for nomination consideration for Canada’s Polaris Music Prize last year. That didn’t happen but I stayed cool with Jai and when it cam time to start putting the THIS ONE GOES TO ELEVEN… album together, he was one of the first artists to commit a track to the project. Not only that, it also allowed us to have a full length video attached to the album too.

Jai is not only a talented artist & producer, he is a spiritual & thoughtful person and that essence is infused in the music he makes. It was again an honor to have him be part of the #DK11 project and a pleasure to get to chat with him and get some insights into his music and the world view that informs it. Check it out here:

DK: I think I discovered your Something You Feel album totally by accident while randomly surfing the mostly-Toronto focused cityonmyback site one day. Despite wanting to support as much good domestic hip hop as I can I find it hard to find out about much outside of Toronto where I live. What challenges have you found getting your music out as a Montreal-based rapper?

Jai: Everything is so saturated. It’s hard to get your music heard period. So I really feel like it’s about time, place and circumstance… and being different, by being yourself. Who you know can really play a huge part of it too. We tend to know more people and outlets within our own cities, so I feel my reach is sometimes hindered by not knowing the right people elsewhere. That being said, Toronto has actually showed me some love and I appreciate it.

DK: What’s your thoughts on the controversy around fellow MTL rappers, Dead Obies being attacked for rapping in French and English?

Jai: It’s silly.

DK: OK. Most outsiders probably share your sentiment that it’s silly to attack the Dead Obies on that basis but obviously the issue is quite serious for some in Quebec. I’m wondering if you have any additional thoughts on the matter? Is this, from a language pov, a source of concern for Francophones who’ve made it an issue analogous to how the rise of Macklemore or Iggy Azalea is for those who see their success as diminishing the role of Black culture or artists in hip-hop?

Jai: I question the motives of whoever criticized Dead Obies for rapping in ‘franglais’ (French and English mixed). I have a hard time believing the criticizer gives a damn about the genre of hip-hop. I think it has other political motivation, and maybe someone just looking for an interesting angle for a story. Regardless, ‘franglais’ is being spoken on the streets all the time, and it only makes sense it would make its way into music, you can’t control that. The Macklemore/Iggy Azalea criticism is different in terms of the magnitude, it involves white privilege, and so many other factors. I also believe that criticism comes from within the hip-hop community, whereas in the case here in Quebec it’s coming from outside the community.

DK: Something You Feel was an amazing album especially because, while you covered a lot of musical ground style wise, it still felt like a cohesive body of work. Can you talk about your goals with the album and how you were able to do that?

Jai: My goal was to make a honest record that really reflected my thoughts and sound. Doing what I love with zero compromise when it came to artistic integrity. Everything happened very organically when it came to creating. It’s really about having a complete vision to how everything connects, from the music to the artwork to the videos…to how you feel. I’m grateful for the way people’s responses have been and how they have connected to it.

DK: The track you produced for Ian Kamau, “You, I” that dropped recently has been buzzing a fair amount. Kamau talked a bit about how the track came about in the PR blurb he blasted the video out with but can you talk about how you came to meet and work with him on the track from your pov.

Jai: The first time I heard of Ian Kamau was the phone message K-Os put on his album. Fast forward to early 2012 while working on the SYF project and I fell on a short doc on him. So I reached out to him and he had heard of me as well. Later, when he came to Montreal we met up and talked at lengths about music and art. When he came back this year I invited him to my home/studio and we made the “You I” song. It happened very naturally and I felt like it was a beautiful song right away. So I brought up shooting a video for it, and a few weeks later went to Toronto and shot the video. We made it happen all within a very short period of time. So it was a great experience, shout out to Ian Kamau!

DK: Your single from THIS ONE GOES TO ELEVEN…, “Pi (Brahma Built)” is also going to be on your forthcoming Acknowledgement mixtape which will actually be your first ever mixtape. Can you talk about the motivation behind the song, why you’ve never done a mixtape before and why you decided to do one now?

Jai: It took me a while to be open to releasing a “mixtape.” I would record over different cats’ productions for fun, usually with no intent to put it out. But the modern-day concept of a mixtape has really changed. Nowadays mix tapes are put together like albums, so it got me open to actually crafting one. It also gives me a chance to sorta acknowledge other cats that I appreciate and draw the connection to what I’m making. So when I heard Stalley‘s “Petrin Hill Peonies” and the way he worked the Charles Bradley sample, I was very inspired to write and had a complete vision for it.

I reached out to a good friend and collaborator, producer/DJ, Shash’U and went to him with the sample, and we recreated it. I laid the vocals down, and started a rough hook with intent to have the very talented Sam I Am Montolla sing it properly. Her style really matched it perfectly in my eyes. Then I’m like damn it would be great to put some visuals to it. I started scouting locations and began the audio/visual journey. The process of crafting the Acknowledgement mixtape was lots of fun for me. I’m used to producing, writing, recording most of what I do so it allowed me play with sh-t differently. It’s about half and half in terms of originals. I’m looking forward to dropping it Sept 5th.

DK: OK, finally: this might be a tough one but I’m wondering how you feel about the demonization of hip-hop around suspected ISIS member and James Foley beheader, Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary who is being labelled in the media as a rapper, ‘former rapper’ or ‘hip-hop jihadist’?

Jai: I’m no expert on this story. It’s a very sad, crazy circumstance. But, it’s curious the way media is playing the angle of him being a “rapper” in all the headlines, like that had something to do with his actions. If in fact he is the right guy. I think there are plenty of other things they could focus on that may have triggered this insane behavior. I always find it funny when hip-hop gets portrayed as a one-dimensional evil villain. Hip-hop music is a cultural medium that reflects society as a whole with many unique perspectives. Sadly, the music industry and media tends to only give you the negative one, which actually then fuels more of the same. It becomes a cycle and a sort of twisted formula that artists coming up often feel that they need to comply with in order to get attention. My hope is that, as the music industry continues to move in an independent direction, we’ll start hearing that unfiltered variety of music that is underrepresented in mainstream Hip Hop today.

DK: Thanks for your time, Jai and thanks for the “Pi (Brahma Built)” track for the comp.

Didn’t hear “Pi (Brahma Built)” yet? Click play right here or on the video above (then check out the THIS ONE GOES TO ELEVEN… album):

Song Credits:
Written by Jai Nitai Lotus & Sam I Am Montolla
Produced by Shash”U
Cover Art Design by Tiffany Pilgrim for Tiffany Pilgrim Art & Design
Audio mastering by Neil McDonald & Paul Kehayas for Echosound Studiolab

Follow Jai Nitai Lotus online: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Follow Sam I Am Montolla online: Twitter | Instagram

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Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] – #DK11 Project: Interview with Jai Nitai Lotus […]

  2. […] Dig “Noir”? (I know I do with that “Paint It Black” sample chop in the mix.) Then listen to the Acknowledgement mixtape by Jai Nitai Lotus in full right HERE. Previously on The Kitchen: Read an interview with Jai Nitai Lotus HERE […]

  3. […] may be familiar with the name, Sam I Am Montolla from her feature appearance on #DK11 alum, Jai Nitai Lotus‘s track, from the Different Kitchen 11th anniversary compilation, This One Goes to Eleven. This is a video […]

  4. […] music from the homie and #DK11 album alum, Jai Nitai Lotus. The first doesn’t feature any Jai vocals, it’s a remix of the Travis […]

  5. […] Montreal-based MC and #DK11 alum, Jai Nitai Lotus, a lttle holiday-themed […]

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