In my Sanaa Lathan voice, when did you fall in love with hip-hop? I’m kidding. How and when did your aspirations to be a professional hip-hop artist form?
JL: To be honest, I fell in love with hip-hop when I started actually listening to the verses and understanding rhyme schemes and flow! That wasn't until, like, high school! It’s funny, but the first hip-hop albums I bought [were from] Kris-Kross and Lil’ Bow Wow; haha, classics in my eyes!
In the “Fallen Ashes” video, you’re unfaithful to your girlfriend with an unbalanced mistress, who’s presumably a symbolic representation of hip-hop, to fall in line with the theme of your H.E.R. album. Have you ever sacrificed your personal relationships in pursuit of a music career? Why was hip-hop portrayed as a psychopath?
JL: You hit the nail on the coffin! I have definitely sacrificed personal relationships to pursue my music career. I think people in general have to sacrifice all types of relationships if they want to pursue the dream. Sometimes we are faced with those tough decisions; that will determine how far we go.
How would you describe your stylistic approach and what do you think makes you stand out?
JL: I would describe my style [more] as "song-writing" than "rapping," because I grew up in an era when we rapped just to get an immediate reaction and the "aw-factor" with punch-lines throughout the lyrics. My mind-frame now is to create composition that tells a story with a moral lesson attached.
Who are your biggest musical influences and what are your ultimate goals as an artist?
JL: My biggest musical influences are the people I meet every day. From my friends and family, to someone I just met today. I ask a lot of questions that really don't have a straight-forward answer. [Their] answer is usually an interpretation of the person’s upbringing. My main goal is to touch hearts and change lives with my music; I want to be able to raise a family off the financial opportunity that comes with the music.
What is your opinion on the current state of mainstream hip-hop/rap?
JL: The current state of hip-hop is where it should be right now. I think the hip-hop community is starting to realize how much influence we actually have, so it has to go through ups and down to establish that right path. People give so much down-play on the state that it’s in right now, but hip-hop is not that old! You can say it’s in the college years: where you’re trying to determine what you want to do, but at the same time, you’re getting adjusted to the popularity, party life and etc. It’s going o take time.
What do you want your listeners to understand foremost about you?
JL: I want my listeners to understand that I'm human like them! I want them to grow with me and experience my life as time goes on! I want [them] to know that life is all about helping others and that's how you receive your blessing and determine your future!
Why should people listen to your music?
JL: My music is created by nothing but passion for what I do. Every word that I say out my mouth is an attempt to bring the "love" back!
*Listen to the H.E.R. album here
*More music and videos:
Twitter & IG: @iamajmeslewis