Tracked down in 2006 by the band Samiam through MySpace and introduced to Flying Lotus, a year later Jeremiah Jae had signed to Brainfeeder records an moved to LA, albeit reluctantly.
Meeting Jeremiah at his hotel in Old Street, London, he is welcoming, humble and very mellow. His attire and adornment does not scream ‘rapper’ – a word he professes to detest. His fashion is low-key and rather than all night partying he prefers to get high, make music and meditate, revealing he hasn’t been to a gig, other than one of his own, in years. Creating beyond cultural pigeon holes, Jeremiah wants to connect with people spiritually, and says he is about positive communication not fame and money, he’s “just for the music”.
Defining Jeremiah’s sound is tricky but it could be best described as a collage with a variety of textures and layers that usually just work. The combination of compelling samples, psychedelic beats, smooth jazz, experimental hip-hop, and abstract rap creates a hazy, trance like state and transports the listener into “a world of pure imagination”. At the risk of overdoing the understatement, Jeremiah is a subtle poetic and musical talent. He is the quiet man of rap.
ARE YOU ABLE TO DESCRIBE YOUR SOUND?
No, I can’t. I just do it. Spontaneous.
SAMPLING SEEMS TO BE A KEY FACTOR IN YOUR MUSIC. WHY IS THIS?
It’s not the key, its more of a tool, a vehicle for ideas. I kind of like the old record static sound. When I was growing up my mum had all these records and I just loved the dust on it and all that shit and just wanted to have my own collection of records to dig through. It’s just a reference point really, not a key factor, because I still make shit without samples.
HOW DID YOU MEET STEVE ELLISON, FLYING LOTUS, AND BECOME PART OF THE BRAINFEEDER CREW?
Probably around 06/07 I met Samiam and he introduced me to Steve just through mix-tapes I was putting out. I met Steve and was like “yeah he’s a cool guy”. I was really into his music and about a year later he asked me to come out to LA. I was shocked and didn’t know what to do. I was a little apprehensive, I didn’t want to be on a label. I was timid and didn’t want to put out my music like that, it was personal. Obviously I was putting shit online, it was fun, all my homies got together and made music, we were learning how to rap and how to make beats.
SO IT WAS MORE OF A HOBBY TO START WITH?
Right! Yeah, I had an idea of what I wanted to do but the idea of putting an album together, being an artist, the fame and all that shit I was trying to override all those feelings. But then I learned it was just do what ever you wanna do and I was like okay and agreed to the record deal.
HOW MUCH HAS YOUR HOME CITY OF CHICAGO CONTRIBUTED TO THE ARTIST YOU HAVE BECOME?
Everything. That’s why I am here. That’s why I look the way I look. (laughs). I think theres something really raw about Chicago, where I grew up on the South side. I grew up in this kind of nice area surrounded by the hood and the drug dealers, Jackson Park Highlands, people in Chicago know that shit. My grandfather was a preacher, he passed away in ’93, and left my grandma this big ass house and so me, my mum and sister moved in with her and thats where I grew up. It’s literally surrounded by the hood, so I had all these interactions and my friends were out there. I didn’t section myself off, I was in the streets, I was going to school up north. I was all over the city.
WHAT ARE YOU INSPIRED BY?
It’s impossible to pinpoint one thing. Life I guess. My dad was a big influence on me growing up, he’s a jazz musician, a painter and is a self-published artist with his own label. He made me want to do everything on my own, to figure out my own talents and a way to work it out and how to create my own business out of it. That’s another reason I was reluctant to sign. I want to keep it organic. It’s really just for the music. I’m such a fan of jazz musicians and the history of music. It’s so different now with the internet, kids have lost not only the meaning behind music but analogue equipment is being less and less used and the mindset of artists back in the day was a lot different.
AM I RIGHT IN THINKING YOU DO YOUR OWN ARTWORK?
Yes! I try to do everything as far as the visual ideas and concepts go apart from the photography, of which was done by B+ on Raw Money Raps who is a legendary photographer, its crazy.
WHAT DO YOU FEEL SEPARATES YOU FROM ALL OTHER CURRENT ARTISTS?
Me? I’m just me. I like to stay me and be myself. I’m not like anybody.
WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPIEST?
This moment. Being alive. I’m a pretty spiritual person, I like to be connected with god in this consciousness, that keeps me happy. Sometimes I get depressed about other shit but you know the music and the creation and being blessed with the gift of that is something that keeps me happy.
WHAT WERE YOU IN A PREVIOUS LIFE?
Probably a playwright, like Shakespeare. I like setting up scenes in my lyrics and setting up an environment and atmosphere. It would be cool to write a play back in the day Shakespeare style.
IF YOU WERE STRANDED ON AN ISLAND, WHICH THREE TRACKS WOULD YOU TAKE?
I’d say: Miles Davis ‘Boplicity’, Billie Halliday ‘Strange Fruit’ and Jimi Hendrix ‘Machine Gun’.
WHAT CAN WE EXPECT FROM YOUR NEW MUSIC AND WHEN CAN WE HEAR IT?
The new music is going to be dropping via Warp Records and it’ll be out whenever they tell me! I’m excited about making music but when I make it sometimes stuff gets pushed back and I have projects that are going to be unreleased for a while but they are coming out. If I have to self release some I will but the others will be out on various labels. There should be a lot of stuff coming out this year and I already made a plan to drop stuff every month which is annoying to some but I just want to get more of my crew ‘Black Jungle Squad’ out and just keep dropping shit and shitting on people.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE WORD?
WHAT GETS YOU HYPED?
Cocaine and sugar! I’m a mellow person, I stay on a level. Being at live shows gets me hyped although I haven’t seen a live show in years other than me performing. I have to be hyped for that myself, so I guess thats what gets me hyped.
ANY DREAM COLLABORATIONS?
Probably Spike Lee, like he did with Public Enemy. I want to make a video like that, a Spike Lee directed video, so if you’re out there Spike Lee…