Jahmed is Draped in Armani: There was no way that west coast rapper Jahmed was going to let a global pandemic slow down his career when it was just getting started. The artist was just preparing to release his THEBOOFMOBILE EP when the world screeched to a halt, and so he had to do everything the hard way. A debut drop with no touring – the ability to take his brand new music to the masses was snatched away. But the internet has made the world a small place, and he’s thriving anyway. Now, he’s just released the Armani album – his second lockdown project.
“THEBOOFMOBILE came out this time last year, in the earlier stages, so we were limited on that rollout,” Jahmed says by phone. “Same with this one. I think it’s a beauty because it takes a lot of guts to do stuff like this. I’m very new into being in the business, the industry. For me to be limited and still making somewhat of an impact is a blessing because when the time is right, when we’re not locked down and limited, I think I’m gonna go crazy when I drop a project and I can really have a full rollout and a press run with it. All of this only tells me what I can do when I’m not limited.”
He’s right. He’s currently like a coiled spring, doing everything he can while options are restricted and ready to go crazy when conditions allow. He’s been preparing for this his whole life.
“Probably the age of 14 around 2010, is when I first started, when I first made my first record,” he says. “It didn’t really get serious until I got into high school. Everybody was figuring out what they were going to do, college-wise. I tried to lean toward the college route but it didn’t make sense. Rap was a tool for me to express myself, because I was going through a lot at the time. It just made sense for me to really take it seriously then, around 2014.”
Back then, he was learning from west coast icons such as Ice Cube/NWA, DJ Quik, and Suga Free. Like the latter, Jahmed is from Pomona, though he has divided his time between Southern California and Texas for family reasons. That geographical split, he says, has helped shape his personality and musical style.
“During high school, at Christmas and winter breaks, I would go out to Texas because my grandmother on my father’s side, they all lived there,” he says. “Both of my grandmothers are southern. So the south has always been in my blood. When I was able, I’d go back and forth to Texas and eventually after I graduated high school, I moved to Texas to see what Texas was talking about.”
“It’s one of the greatest moves I ever did because growing up in California, you’re used to certain things, seeing certain things,” he continues. “The lingo. Then you have this second chance to experience a whole other side of the world. You start getting into the southern lingo, the music, and it was one of the best things I ever did. I was able to match those two worlds together and come up with records like ‘Roadblock’ where it’s a southern bassline but then California sounds, swag and attitudes.”
Nowadays, he describes his sound as energetic, a means to express himself.
“Really just being aggressive with certain records,” he says. “It’s just out there. I guess you never know what you’re going to get when you listen to Jah. I’m not trying to box myself in, but it’s very open.”
While his love for Texas is understandable, Jahmed is keen to stress the virtues of the current SoCal hip-hop scene. This region will, he says, always provide due to its ingrained authenticity.
“It’s aggressive, it’s up front with you, and a lot of times we need that in music,” he says. “We have a lot of different types of approaches from different sides. But Southern California is always gonna be there because it’s just real. We’re tough out here, and we’re tough critics. We’re so selective of who to put on a pedestal because you’ve got to be authentic. You’ve got to be about what you’re talking about, what you’re rapping about. We don’t just accept anything.”
Armani is the new EP, and it displays all of that authenticity and aggression. Jahmed is naturally delighted with the way it turned out.
“I think it was the perfect outcome,” he says. “Making a body of work, I had expectations and of course I exceeded those. Just on the music side, the sonics, the maturity that I’ve obtained while making this project. I’m definitely pleased with the outcome. I couldn’t be happier.”
Lyrically, the artist has tried to keep things as literal as possible. There’s little in the way of metaphor here, as he explores life as he knows it.
“I try to spoon feed the lyrics, and at the same time balance it with saying clever things,” he says. “I think lyrically, it’s a perfect balance. There’s enough for the hip-hop heads, in records like ‘Makaveli,’ and ‘Dirty, Ho.’ It’s a perfect balance when seeing it from afar.”
The evolution from THEBOOFMOBILE is, he says, stark. His writing is more mature, even after only a year. That debut EP saw the rapper having fun and finding himself.
“It’s the same thing with Armani as well, but you can hear a lot of maturity,” he says. “You can hear that I went through something, and putting that vulnerability frontline. What I have to share and my experience of living. Being a young black man in America, I just think those few topics I name right there, it’s a huge progression. It takes a lot for an artist to put himself in front of these songs and giving it to the thousands of people who listen to you. You’re giving your life to these people.”
Looking ahead, Jahmed has some livestreams in the world for 2021, and he hasn’t stopped recording.
“Two days after the project, I went right back into the studio so I think there will be more music coming,” he says. “More records. I’m trying to get one more project out before the end of the year. I’m trying to go crazy with it. It just don’t stop. It’s still going to be coming.”
Jahmed is Draped in Armani: The Armani EP is out now.