Wednesday, December 18, 2013
Hip Hop Artist J. Irja
If there is one thing people want to see in their favorite artists, it would be to see the growth an artist goes through as they hone their craft.
Probably no local artist exemplifies that better than J.Irja.
The hip hop artist has shown so much growth in all aspects of her music, from her lyricism to her stage presence and performance, it is hard to fathom she is the same woman that tried (unsuccessfully, depending on who you asked) to hold her own against the artists at Spotlight back in 2006. Her persistence paid off then, and it has continued to pay dividends now.
In many ways, though, she is NOT that same woman. Oh she is still the woman that uttered the phrase “little white girl but I’m not afraid” on her hit “Blessed with the Curse”. But she is far removed (thankfully) from the woman that released the song “Ching” back in the day. But now, the single mother of a five year old daughter is stronger, more confident, and it shows in everything she does.
She has branched out on her own, leaving Spotlight behind and determined to turn J. Irja in to a powerful global brand. The future holds so much for her, you can tell as she sits with me at Harmony Café over a cup of coffee that she can barely contain her excitement for 2014.
While no longer with Spotlight, she retains certain connections to her time in that camp. She still rocks the “Spotlight” tattoo on the side of her head, and still carries with pride the “Spotlight Queen” moniker, (a decision she touches on in the interview). She has no regrets for her time with P-Nice and the boys. Like everything she does, it was a lesson learned.
Judging from the sneak preview I got of the video for her new single “Psycho”, she has learned her lessons VERY well.
What is going on in the life of J Irja?
There is a lot going on right now, especially with my music. I am exploring a lot deeper sides of myself and I am excited to share it with everybody in this upcoming year.
What has changed in your musical life?
Everything has changed. I had to go deeper and take the filter off of my music and really say what I want to say. Certain things I felt that I could not share before that I am ready to share. And I don’t have anyone dictating my music, so I can say what I want to say.
“Don’t wait for a perfect moment; take a moment and make it perfect.” When it comes to your music, what does that statement mean to you?
That statement means a lot to me, especially the second part. There is no perfect time; you have to CREATE the perfect time. The perfect time is whenever you are ready, in my opinion because you only have one shot. I want people to see me. I had to take a step back and fully develop myself and bring myself to a new mental, spiritual and emotional level in order to really express myself.
What are some of the changes you have seen in the music landscape around here since you started?
I think it is cool that since I started there is a lot more white females coming out and rapping, which is cool. There are a lot more independent females taking their music a lot more seriously. They are putting out a lot more mixtapes when before it was just singles coming out. I noticed resurgence in videos and artists taking their music to a more professional level, doing a lot more promoting. It’s exciting to get the area so more attention.
What are some of the things that could be improved?
In this area I have noticed it especially, but it’s in hip hop everywhere, just be real, man. Everyone is sick of hearing about the car you don’t drive and the money you do NOT have in your bank accounts. You know what I’m sayin’? It’s like bro; you got the Wal-Mart Money Card and not the American Express Black Card. I call it ‘wish-list rapping’. There is a lot of it in this area. I just wish people would be more true; I want to hear about your struggles. Tell me something about your real life story.
What caused the move away from Spotlight?
Anyone that has been in the music industry knows, you grow, and you change. I simply outgrew the situation I was in and knew there were bigger and better things out there for me. It’s part of my history, and I appreciate the experience I had and the things that I learned, but I know it’s time to do me.
The things that you learned through that experience, how does that help you now?
I learned a lot of very valuable but very, VERY expensive lessons through my experience. But I also learned a lot. I learned a lot about the industry and politics of the industry, and how people function from P-Nice. I learned about videos and how to structure things from Coop. I also learned a lot of deeper things, but I am going to share THAT in my music.
How do you handle the haters coming at you?
It’s funny, because I have been asked that question before, and I just don’t handle them. I just don’t think about it; I don’t let bother me. And when I DO think about it, I look at it as ignorance and confusion. Really, they love me, but they don’t know how to embrace me. The hate is always going to motivate you, and if you don’t have haters, you aren’t successful.
With the split from Spotlight, why keep the name “Spotlight Queen?”
Because it is part of my history. I have been called a lot of names in my life. For example, I used to be called Lady X, but no one is running around saying ‘you can’t call yourself Lady X anymore’, you know what I’m sayin’?
You are branching out into other avenues. Talk about those moves.
I got a lot of things coming up in 2014. Some things I can’t talk about yet, but there are a lot of things, especially fashion-wise and entertainment-label wise that are coming up that are going to be pretty big. And I am really focusing on repping for the ladies in the upcoming year. That is another reason for the move from Spotlight. I couldn’t really do female empowerment movement where I was.
Do you plan on staying in this area, or are you going to move to a bigger market?
I am barely in this area as it is now. I am in St. Louis, or Chicago, or Indy or Iowa. I am all over the place. I don’t broadcast a lot of my moves, because people obviously tend to copycat me, but it’s all good. I am not in this area very much. I have been traveling a lot, meeting a lot of cool people and making a lot of a cool connections.
Talk about Psycho.
It is the most dear to my heart single thus far that I have made. It is about me unleashing my different personalities and taking off that filter. For all the people asking ‘what happened with this’, or ‘what happened with that’, well, through THIS song, you are going to know. I am speaking through the music and I am going to tell my story.
Tell me about Triplegreen Wireless.
My partner, Apollo Creed, started that and I joined up a few months later. It is something we had been talking about for years, actually. I met him through doing music some years ago and we had been talking about it for a while. He opened the electronic store, and I am adding the expansion, which will be fashion. It’s gonna be hot.
You seem to be very hands on with your career. Where did that knowledge come from?
I have been doing music my whole life. I was BORN in this shit. I started singing when I was three. I started walking around with a flute before I could even play it. I played my whole life. I have always been hands on with my music. As I began to grow and get a serious career, I wanted to know everything. My brain is like a sponge for this shit. I have to be a part of everything.
What would you be doing if you WEREN’T doing music?
I would be raising my daughter. She tells me she loves mommy in the music business and wants to be a famous singer like her mom. I am going to do everything I can do to make this female label and pass it on to her when she feels she is ready.
If you could talk to that little girl that was you in Timmins, Ontario, what would you tell her?
Trust your instincts. Never doubt yourself. If I wouldn’t have second guessed myself, I would be so much farther right now.
When all this is said and done, what do you want people to say about you?
‘Damn, she really changed the world with her music’. I want to pave that path for females. And bring females together. Just like MC Lyte is doing. I want to be a part of a bigger movement. Especially here in the Midwest. There are a lot of areas are suffering right now and I think it will be really important for programs like that to reach those areas and I want to be a leader in that.