Humble, downplayed, quiet, musical, influenced, respectful, creative, funky, knowledgeable, cool, collected, calm, talented, etc., etc. Look up the word “Jahah” in the thesaurus and these are the many synonyms that will surely appear.
As a member of the hip-hop live band AFAR and now as a solo artist, Jahah, quite simply, creates melodic and simple tales over hip-hop, R&B, and neo-soul productions that will knock the socks off of any lover of the old-time R&B greats. The first single off his “Mama’s Only Son,” “Oohh,” invigorates a sensual J-Hen-produced track with the soulful vocals of Jahah that instantly throws the album back to a time when the music, not the shock value, sold R&B records.
Elsewhere, Jahah has got the unique ability to rhyme on record but keep it level with the remainder of the song, never overdoing it and always keeping himself collected within the moment. Besides this, he also produced all but one track on his album (“Oohh”) and his unmatched sound steps outside of the normal R&B production and attacks a more musically-based foundation that is unparalleled almost anywhere else.
Put simply, Jahah is one hell of a musician. If you need any further clarification, just check the nearest thesaurus.
Jahah speaks with Christopher “Scav” Yuscavage in September 2004 on his recent album, “Mama’s Only Son,” the structure of his hip-hop group AFAR, and the pressures of sexing up his lyrics…
MVRemix: So to start off, who are your R&B musical influences, and I want to know about both the past greats as well as the present R&B singers?
Jahah: As far as R&B coming up, I would have to say cats like Barry White, Michael Jackson, Earth, Wind, & Fire, Prince, D'Angelo, Musiq, Bilal, that's really all I'm feeling...
MVRemix: Though you don't rap much on "Mama's Only Son," which do you prefer, rapping over top of a beat or singing over it?
Jahah: I mean, really, I like doing both, but I think the singing is more of a challenge for me. I been attacking that for the last 3 years. The state that hip-hop is on, it's kind of like, singing is my new challenge just because I don't like necessarily like where hip-hop is going at times. I would say singing is what I am concentrating on right now.
MVRemix: Which one did you start out doing? How old were you?
Jahah: Rhyming. I started out when I was 15. So, it's been a minute. It's been like 14 years.
MVRemix: Now, another thing that I noticed is that you don't really focus a lot of your singing or your songs around sex like a lot of other current R&B singers, even females, do. Is that something that you do consciously?
Jahah: I try to make a conscious effort not to do it. Plus, like you said, it's over saturated. I try to respect women as much as possible. I have my flaws, but...And I'm also trying to steer away from the norm as much as possible. But still make it so that these kids and these kids listening can hopefully relate to it.
MVRemix: Now, the album title is "Mama's Only Son." Now, the track that features all the cell phone messages has one from your mother. But, how does she feel about you making music? And maybe, was it always that way, did she always support your music?
Jahah: I mean, I think at first, she was like, ‘It's just a phase. He's into it now. He'll grow out of it.’ But as I got older and I was still doing it, she started to take it a little more seriously. I think she enjoys what I do, you know. I think she's all for it. If I'm happy, she's happy.
MVRemix: On top of everything else, you also are a producer. How do you approach a song? Do you produce something with the words in mind, or do you have words and then produce something for that specifically?
Jahah: Typically, what happens is, I'll be making the music and I'm not a cat that like to force things. So if the words come while I'm producing it, that's usually how it gets put down. I'm not really one to sit on songs and then try to write to it. I get writer's block, if you will, so if it comes out naturally, I feel like it was meant to be. But if I have to sit down and force it, then I'm not really feeling it.
MVRemix: Off the album, do you have a favorite track that you liked most?
Jahah: Not really. At this point, I'm tired of every last one of them. (laughter) I'm thankful that I was able to do every one of them. But, as far as having a favorite track, nah, each one sort of serves it's own purpose. So I don't have a favorite one.
MVRemix: Besides being a solo artist, you also are the lead emcee for your group, AFAR. Do you guys (AFAR) pattern yourself after The Roots and use them as a model for what you'd like to become, or do you hope to become something different than them? You guys are from the South, so I'm sure there are some possibilities for flipping it slightly different than The Roots.
Jahah: I mean, I don't think we use them as a blueprint for how to do this thing. We knew when we put AFAR together that we were going to draw those comparisons. I think we try to do us, and if it comes out and people refer to it as The Roots second coming, if you will, then that's cool. I mean, they're a dope group, so...But I don't think our drive is to be The Roots. We're trying to make our own niche.
MVRemix: You also seem to take a stand as a member of AFAR and do a lot more rapping on that album. Is that something that you feel just works better within the group, or why do you rap more than sing with AFAR?
Jahah: What happened is that, when the band was put together, it was put together in the sense that we were going to make a hip-hop record. And, as we got into the record, some songs obviously were slower and more melodic, you know, it called for singing. But, overall, we tried to do something more experimental, like infusing jazz and funk into hip-hop. It was like more than jam sessions than trying to freak an album. It was kind of crazy.
MVRemix: You being a solo artist and also working with the group, what differences do you find when you guys are putting together a song? In a group, I'm sure you can vibe more together, but do you find it difficult when you go solo and it's all on you?
Jahah: I mean, that's one of the reasons I did the band thing when they asked me to do it. I wanted to see what it was like to let someone else take the ball and run with it. I wanted to see what it was like to listen and not take all the control over my project. So, it's not difficult, it's just a different experience.
MVRemix: So, is it a little easier as a member of a group then?
Jahah: It's easier in the sense that I don't have as much work to do. But, overall, I think I like doing the large amount of work. I got to have my hands on it. Because, I have certain things in my head the way I want to hear it. So if I'm doing the leads, I want to make sure that everything is official, at least to me.
MVRemix: And the group AFAR, how did it get put together? Did you know some of the guys from before?
Jahah: Yeah, the guitar player actually played for my last group Good Company. And the bass player sat in a few times for Good Company. And another keyboard player, who is Deron's brother, was also in Good Company. So, we all kind of knew each other at some point.
MVRemix: I also just got an album in the mail from the HBCU Network and their album, "BlackBerry, Vol. 1," which is an album promoting the skills of students and alumni from Historically Black Colleges and Universities. How did you land on that?
Jahah: To be honest with you, they contacted either BeeZee or Shane (Shane Mills, a BeeZee employee) and they had heard a few things I had done with Good Company and off this new album. So I guess they just wanted to use it and were interested. So I went to the HBCU offices and was just like, "Yeah, let's jump on it."
MVRemix: So, almost done, how do you see yourself in the future growing as an artist? What are your goals? What would you like to do?
Jahah: In the immediate future, I'm trying to re-release this "Mama's Only Son." We're going to mix it over and master it again and add a few songs. And then I'm also working on the album after that, which is called "Magnetic." And the long-term goal is hopefully to do this on a larger scale, globally or whatever. Make good music.