Jimetta Rose always knew she wanted to be a singer. As a young girl, she sang in her church choir. She learned how to be a good singer, but she wanted something more.
“I look at that word ['good'] as a very limiting word,” the Los Angeles native says. “Now it’s really about being authentic, and doing things you’re passionate about.”
For Rose, music is a way to speak the truths that are sometimes difficult to express through words alone. “Singing is where I can be completely fluent in the communication of my feelings," she explains. “Language, although it is a tool, it can be limiting, because you can have a feeling that you can't quite put into words. But I can put a tone to any feeling that I have.” She used to try to sing “perfectly”; now she tries to sing “honestly.”
On her new album, The Light Bearer — released today on Busdriver's Temporary Whatever label — Rose is expressing the truths of what it’s like to be a young black women in America. It’s about using music and tone to make issues that aren’t always so easily digestible a little easier to swallow. “Art is about being transparent,” she explains. "Showing the struggle through the music.
“The Light Bearer is very much about possessing myself and what I’m gonna use my voice for,” she continues. “It’s not going to just be this pretty voice that you know doesn’t have a message attached. ... I share my truths to inspire others to share their truths.”
The Light Bearer is produced entirely by Leimert Park legend Georgia Anne Muldrow, who has been a close friend of Rose's for several years. “We met about 12 years ago outside of Little Temple,” Rose recalls, referring to the venue now called the Virgil, where she used to host a monthly soul night called Nappy Thursday. It was the beginning of a genuine, time-tested friendship.
Inspired by listening to Alice Coltrane, Rose initially intended to make a spiritual jazz album. Muldrow is a jazz connoisseur, so Rose reached out to her with the idea. “She’s my jazz-head,” she says with a smile. “Whenever I discover something new, I call her and she always already knows about it.” Rose drove out to Vegas, where Muldrow lives, to make the album. “What I love about Georgia is that I can sing to her and she’ll hear the music. I write melodies and lyrics. I write complete songs, but it just won’t have any music.”
The two friends lived together and recorded for two weeks. During the day, they’d cook and take care of Muldrow’s kids; at night, when the children were asleep, they’d work on music. “So it’s just like a camaraderie,” Rose says. “It’s a sisterhood. It’s women’s work. It’s like how women would sit around and knit blankets. But it’s awesome that we’re doing it in a realm that is usually thought of as masculine.”
Though it’s not always overt, the L.A. music scene is still pretty male-dominated. While Rose has never experienced any sexism or misogyny from her male collaborators firsthand, she is very aware that gender bias exists. So it was nice to create with one of her sisters. Together, she and Muldrow made a record that celebrates the power of femininity — and does so with a sonic palette that ranges far beyond spiritual jazz into hip-hop, soul and funk. “Femininity can be a warrior,” Rose says. “That’s what I love about Georgia’s drums and her bass lines. Nothing’s soft.”
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Rose is looking forward to seeing what kind of gender barriers this project can break. “I definitely think that it is a golden brick that can be used in building a bridge for more women or in breaking a glass ceiling for women, because women are out here creating magical things,” she says. “And I think that more light needs to be shined on it.”
On the song “Rhythm of Life,” she sings the lyric, “What is done with love will stand the test of time.” This, above all, is Jimetta Rose’s truth. She and Muldrow created this project with love, and that love is apparent throughout the album.
“I hope to inspire people to act from a place of love,” Rose says. “To really, truly take the time to maybe sit in meditation or prayer or whatever stills you long enough. However you find stillness. When you find that place, stay there. Just sit still long enough for your natural presence to come through so that you can wow yourself. Maybe the music doesn’t say that in every song, but the intention is there. The tone is there.”
For Rose, every album is like a seed. She’s not entirely sure what each seed will blossom into, but that's part of the journey. “It’s exciting," she says. "I look forward to watching the fields bloom.”
Jimetta Rose celebrates the release of The Light Bearer tonight with a live performance at the World Stage in Leimert Park at 8 p.m., with her band The Great Unknown and special guests Eagle Nebula and Via Leaves. You can stream The Light Bearer now via Mass Appeal.