Interview: Jhameel On Sexuality, Dark New Music, and Being An Asian-American Musician


Can you tell me a little about your background and how you got started creating music?
I started music basically right out of college. I did the ROTC program in college, which is when they pay for your college education. The military pays for your college education in exchange for 4 years of military service. So, I did about a year of that, went to boot camp and I had a big life crisis. So I came out of that – I quit. And then I went and graduated 2 years early and I went straight into music. And I’ve been playing music my whole life, because I’ve had instruments around the house everywhere and I’ve just been doing it. It’s been my second language.

What was the first instrument you played?
It was violin, but I sucked at it. So, then the trumpet was my first good instrument.

How many instruments do you play today?
I’d say like 15, but at this point it’s like I know each instrument in each category like woodwinds, brass, strings and stuff. So like baritone and trumpet would be like the same thing. So I can play multiple instruments in the same category – so it doesn’t really count.

Describe your style of music.
It’s pop. I’m switching it up every single time, because within that pop I’m talking about a lot of different stuff. So like this new series I’m releasing next week – I’ll talk about domestic abuse and stuff. I have a lot of freedom within the structure of pop. So I don’t want to limit myself to talking about a certain type of emotion. So I just say it’s pop.

You write and produce all of your music?
Yea, I do all the instruments. I do all the production. I do the mixing – performances. 

And you also direct and edit all of your videos?

If you could bring any famous actor into any of your videos, who would it be?
Aw man. That’s tough – that’s tough. Shoot. Ok, what’s his face.  Seth Rogan. That guy. Or, Katt Williams

(I do a bad impersonation of Katt Williams)
Hahahaha. You know comedians in music videos are hilarious. I’d love to do collaborations with other artists though.

How important is your visual identity?
It’s interesting to me, because it’s – it’s so important – not because it’s like. [Pauses] It kind of like overshadows the music. It’s so important because I’m Asian-American and it’s hard for people to grasp what I’m trying to do, because the Asian-American thing hasn’t been done successfully before. It hasn’t been done well. So, I have to be really tasteful and be really careful with how I’m presented or else people are going to blow me off. So it’s really important for me, because I have to look tasteful if that makes sense. I don’t have to be any thing, but it has to be tasteful.

So many people have made comparisons to Prince and Michael Jackson.  Both of those revolutionary artists have had to deal with questions about their sexuality.  How have people reacted to your appearance and sexuality?
Actually, when I started out, I was like people are going to shit on this, because of how I look and stuff. But you know what? It’s really well accepted. I’m so surprised; people get it. Because people have seen Prince. People have seen Michael Jackson. You can do this crazy androgynous thing and still be a dude. You know a lot of YouTube people think I’m gay and stuff, but people shit on everyone. You know? Like, I don’t give a fuck. You know? I’m just me – I’m just doing my thing. Personally, I’m a straight guy… but I don’t care what people think of me. It’s cool that’s its controversial.

For me, it’s like if you call me gay. It’s not even an insult. Like whatever man – it’s cool

How did you and Hoodie Allen connect?
He saw me on… I think it was Pigeons & Planes, and then he tweeted me. We texted each other, we Skyped, and then we made that song together. And it’s been cool ever since.

Your style of dancing is awesome. How did you develop that style?
I have no idea, it just came. That this is how I dance.

In your YouTube videos, are you really getting drunk?
Yea, I’m really getting drunk. You can ask my friend Ryan – he’s my manager and bassist. He helps manage me when I’m drunk. You can tell that I’m trashed in those videos.

Was there any particular lady that motivated the lyrics behind “Collision”?
Um, honestly at that point it was a couple of women. It was the idea of women. It wasn’t a specific one – there were a couple.

Pigeons or Planes?
Pigeons! Because pigeons are the pioneers of flight. You can’t have planes without seeing birds fly first. You know what I mean?

Ryan (Jhameel’s bassist/manager) told me that you have new music releasing soon?
I’ve been in a dark place the past few months. So this next series is going to be really dark. I’m going to say a lot of things that people are going to question a little bit, but I’m willing to take that risk. The first one is not dark, but the second one. I’m really confident abou it, but my fans are going to be like, “Oh, I didn’t know you could say this.”

Is there anything else that you want to get off of your chest? Are there any other messages that you want to promote in your music?
I’ve just been trying really hard through this entire experience to maintain realness and humanness, and to maintain good values. I’m realizing that there are kids here. And there are a lot of people listening now. I want to keep promoting good values. Art is power—art is so powerful. I want to make sure to keep saying the right things, and what I think is right for society. So fuck sexism, and no more bullshit. It’s 2012 and I want that shit to end. I want to just keep talking about things I believe in.

  • -____-

    Jhameel is bomb! Yo, Jacob! When his Pigeons and Planes mixtape coming out? Or can you not say yet?

  • @whoismichal

    He’s just came out with a 5 song music series

  • -____-

    Yeah, I know that. But I mean, “Lost One”, which was on a mixtape for pigeon and planes. That was what I was talking about?

  • Pingback: New! Jhameel – Are You Free | decentlydope()

  • Adam

    I went to this dudes concert and it was awesome. He has so much energy and passion for what he does! Thanks for the tough questions in the middle. I’ve always wondered….

  • Tiffany

    Jhameel, you stand for all the right things. I’m so pumped for this dark music. You can do no wrong…

  • jg

    Keep on keeping. Really liking his output and this interview confirms that I should keep up with it.

  • Euffie

    did he just say that asian americans have not been able to make music well or successfully? i would argue that far east movement has seen some commercial success and many others make music quite well. this guy has a big ego or he’s completely oblivious.

  • disbenaz

    The Far East Movement is just one example. Overall he was right when asian americans have not been able to make music successfully. Seriously, how many asian american performers can you name? Because this is the only one I listen to, let alone really know of.

  • Zeroniss

    I love how he really knows what he’s doing and what he wants to say. He thinks of all the details, of his music and his looks. I also really like how he wants to promote good values and it’s reflected in his music. It’s not like Miley Cyrus or T-Pain, who’ve released derogatory material.

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