With quantity over quality becoming the new motto for many artists today, it’s always nice to find young artists who still believe in putting forth more effort into their work opposed to just putting out as much as they can. While we’re always huge supporters of R&B and all that comes along with it (including all of its changes), finding young artists who still value the traditional sound and feel of the genre has been a difficult task.
Two years ago, I was given the opportunity to meet a young up and coming singer by the name of Jacquees, performing at the Jagged Edge Anniversary event sponsored by D’usse in Atlanta, Georgia. The young and nervous looking teenager left all of his uncertainty behind as soon as he picked up the mic and opened his mouth. Talented and personable, Jacquees took the room by surprise with his big voice, long hair, and lyrics equipped with enough raunchiness to take every grown woman in the building straight to the bedroom. It was at that moment that I knew that he wouldn’t have the story of many aspiring singers that only went as far as a few showcases and local performances.
Fast forward two years into the future and here we are. Jacquees, now 21, is signed to Cash Money Records, headlining this year’s “Scream Tour” alongside Rich Homie Quan, Justine Skye, Elijah Blake and more, and still singing his life away. Following his successful independently released debut EP 19, the young singer has been setting his sights on nothing but the top. In the process of preparing for his tour, Jacquees took some time to chat with us about all things past, present, and future for his career.
Take a look at our exclusive interview below!
I first got to see you perform in 2013 here in Atlanta and back then I remember saying how talented you were. How do you feel like things have changed for you from then until now?
From the last time you saw me back in 2013, definitely a lot of things have changed up to now. Of course, I was an unsigned artist when you saw me and last year I signed my deal with Cash Money Records. I can say from then, I’m like a better artist – all the way around. I’m a better performer and I’m just writing more music now. I’ve just been working a lot harder from that point too. That was at the end of 2013 I think, so I’ve just been grinding hard and you know, just working on my craft. Right now, I’m just working on my album so that’s definitely just my main focus. But since then, I’ve been growing as an artist, and just getting better.
So you’re 19 EP actually made our ‘Best of’ list for mixtapes last year. You have a lot of good songs on there and it’s still one of my favorites. I wanted to get a little backstory on the process of that project. Were you the person who wrote each track? Being that you were a little younger then, what was your mind frame when writing those?
I think the records that we created on 19 was me just trying to create records about my experiences. It’s like in all the records you can definitely hear that I’m talking about a lot of love. In all the songs I’m definitely talking about love and women and girls, so I was just writing about all my experiences that I went through up until that point. All the music I’m writing right now, it’s like now I’m 21. I was 18-19 when I was doing all that stuff and writing about real life situations. We were going in the studio and I would tell whoever I was working with and we would just talk about the situation and we would just pull up a beat and just express it on the beat. Definitely, I remember when we made “Destiny’s Child.” I just was thinking about a lot and just went straight into the booth and it just came out. 19 was fun. Making it was fun – the process was fun.
What do you think your favorite track off of 19 was and why?
My favorite track was “Destiny’s Child.” I think it’s my favorite because it’s real and I’m just being real, real honest. The beat – definitely the beat. I thought that the song was a hit like before we put any words on the beat. Shout out to Naz Beatz for the beat. That’s my favorite song. I’ma actually put that song on my album and probably add a feature.
So, speaking of the album, do you have a name for the album or is it just up in the air? Do you have any information you can tell us about it?
I know what I want to call it, but I’m scared to say it. I don’t want nobody to steal my swag [laughs].
Is there any song on there that you gravitate to the most?
I got a song that I like on there called “All This Long.” I love that song, it’s like my favorite song that we wrote. It’s another real, honest, honest, honest record. It’s a love record, but it’s – once again – the beat. It’s just crazy. I wish you could hear it.
[Laughs]. Well when y’all have the listening party, make sure y’all call me!
[Laughs] Don’t worry, we’ll make sure we have you at the listening party.
Do you write all of your songs or do you have someone that does it for you?
No, I write all of my music and I work with a few writers and producers.
When you wrote the first EP, you were at a younger age. Being that your album is about to come out and you’re 21 now, how has that shift been going from that younger age to where you are now? You were already putting out mature content at 19, so how is that going to be relayed now in your songs? How can fans say there was a transition from 19 to the new album?
Yeah, I’m 21 – young bachelor [Laughs]. But, the types of situations I’m talking about and how I’m talking about it. They’ll definitely be able to tell the difference from 19 to this album because of the situations that I’m in and the way that I’m expressing it. It shifted. It’s still of course the same things – love, breakups, parties – but it’s like I’m in a different light now then I was when I was writing all of them songs. So, my environment’s changed. The type of people I’m dealing with has changed. And I’m older. It’s a difference. I had to mature more. Girls don’t wanna hear me say what I said when I was 19. I was still a teenager. Now I’m like…I’m a MAN! [laughs] You know what I’m saying?
[Laughs] That’s so funny. Let’s talk about your past connection with Chris Brown. Do you guys still have a good relationship now? Can we expect to hear him on the album? Will you be on his next project?
I just seen Chris at the BET Awards, but I wish we could work together on my album. We got songs in the bag. When we were doing a lot of work together, we were doing a lot of songs. We were writing together, putting songs to the side, leaking records…we got a few smashes!
I believe it. Let’s move into your current situation with Rich Gang and Cash Money. How has that experience been for you so far?
Well working with Rich Gang, that’s my family. It’s love. It feels like family. We the mob, we the gang [laughs]. We make great dope music. That’s my family – we have a lot of fun. I think my favorite memory with all of us was definitely when me, Thug, and Quan were always together. I remember when we were doing the Rich Gang tour, we’d do the big stage, then head to the club, then go to the studio. That time right there was like the Rich Gang highlight. That’s when the mixtape dropped and when I was first coming in ’cause Thug and Quan were already doing their thing. Yeah, that was the highlight.
As a younger R&B artist, do you think that making tracks that feel like traditional R&B is important to you or do you feel as if that type of genre is not necessarily relevant? Is putting a feeling into your song more relevant than having a song that sounds like what some would call “real” R&B?
I think it’s just the feeling. I did a song the other night – I was just listening to it, I didn’t finish it – but I probably played it like 1,000 times. It’s not in the same format that you would think a R&B song goes. The flow of it is different. So I just think it’s about the feeling and about the music. I have songs that you’ll hear and be like “Oh that sounds like something I heard back in the day.” It’s different. I put my own twist on it, but it’s got that Classic R&B sound. You know you gotta have that Classic R&B sound.
Who are some people that you would like to work with in the near future? Whether on a future project of yours or a project of theirs.
I want to do some stuff with a couple of producers. But I definitely want to work with Drake, and Missy and Timbaland – together like how they used to do with Aaliyah. I wanna see how that be; I know that’s like a legendary experience. I wanna work with Erykah Badu and Lauryn Hill. I want to work with Erykah Badu and Lauryn Hill bad…like bad! I wanna have a real studio session with them. I want them to tell me about women…all that. I need that in my life right now. I need some real women around me.
I think a lot of the young up and coming artists need that right now. It’s a lot different for your generation than it was ours.
And they gone keep it real!
They definitely will. With so many different artists coming out right now, a lot of them have different sounds. Do you feel as if the quality of vocals when it comes to singers even matters anymore or does making a hit matter most?
Nah, it still matters. That’s just like performing live. I think you need to still sing live. That used to be the highlight. I remember peeping sometimes like ‘Dang, they not even singing.’ But I guess that just what times have done. We all have to adjust to it, I guess. I sing live at my shows. It’s still important. That’s still important in music. That’s why the game is getting crazy. We letting anybody get into the game. Anyone can do a song and be an artist. It’s important that you still put everything you got into it. And, it’s important to be real and stay real.
What can we expect from this upcoming album sound wise?
I’ll probably have more uptempo records. This one’s got that feeling. I know 19 got that feeling, but this one gone have that real feeling to it. It’s gonna be a lot of hits on there. 19 I put out independently and it hit Billboard. So now that I know I got a push, ain’t no telling what it’ll do. We goin’ to the top.
If you could have penned any song, what would it have been and why?
Whew! I got a lot of favorite songs, but which one would I have wanted to write? Oh, I know! [Begins to sing]: “Ohhh, on & on, on & on…” That’s my juice – I like that! That’s not even my favorite song in the world, but just how she came with it! That’s that Erykah Badu – that “On & On.” Like, the way she twisted all that with the world and us…yeah, that’s that real penmanship.
If you had any advice to give a young person trying to get in the game like you were at one point, what would it be and how would you encourage them to keep pushing?
I would definitely tell them to believe in yourself and put it out. It’s a lot of ways to put it out to the public now so I would definitely tell them that if they wanna do something like sing, first off – just make some videos and slap it on YouTube. Get your friends to tell everybody you sing and just Tweet everybody your videos of you singing. And I’d tell ’em: just keep believing in yourself. Don’t ever get down because you’re gonna go through some situations where you feel like it’s not happening when you want it to, but it’s gone definitely happen at the right time. Timing is everything. I had to realize that. I always knew it, but I definitely know it now. The situation I’m in now is great. I love my situation. It’s perfect timing. I’d tell ’em to definitely keep going – keep believing. Don’t stop – never stop – just keep grinding. And, if you want it, you gotta do it yourself. You can’t wait on nobody. Don’t wait on NOBODY. You gotta just jump out on faith.
I’m sure your females fans would like to know: are you dating anyone right now?
No, I’m single. And that’s the real truth.
[Laughs] OK, so if someone wanted to flatter you and set up the perfect date, what would that include?
Probably you just coming to the house, and we can pre-game. Roll one, smoke one, then we can do something fun. We don’t have to do nothing boring like go to the movies or nothing. Let’s turn it up a little bit – do something you don’t think I’d like. Like take me on an adventure…that’s if she’s trying to take me out. It’s just gotta be something fun. If she sees you doing something fun or having fun doing something you’ve never done, that’s gone make her want to…you know what I’m saying? [laughs] Maybe we can have some more fun.
Lastly, let’s talk about the tour. Do you have anything special planned for it? What can we expect from you?
I’m turning up! That’s basically it. I’ma treat this tour like it’s my tour [laughs]. This is my first major tour. We’ve been hitting the road independently, state to state, but this is my first time I’m going majorly – city to city, day after day.
Nah, that’s a blessing.
You’re right! Is there any stop you’re looking forward to the most?
Atlanta. I ain’t been home in a minute. I said the next time that I come, it was gone be in the Phillips Arena, so you know I’ll be there. I’ma turn up – come through! I’ma turn all the way up!
–Interview by Ni’Kesia Pannell