Detroit rapper, Jonezen, is on the verge and set to make a splash in the world of Hip-Hop with his uncanny bars, raw authenticity and an outlook on life that transcends the mundane. Spittin’ with heart and grit over stage performances that light up every city that has the pleasure of observing, it is apparent that it is only the beginning for Jonezen. I caught up with the man to discuss his roots in The Motor City, his latest projects, how his life experiences have led to his state of mind, tattoos and more.
First and foremost, introduce yourself to our readers. Who is Jonezen?
I’m a dude from Detroit, MI that makes that real, raw, Hip Hop mixed with some Rock N Roll. I’ve loved music for as long as I can remember, I love connecting with people, telling my story, performing live, and of course getting some ink every now and then!
Tell us about your upcoming release and the creative process behind your latest project, “Bars”.
Man, where to start. Bars was a concept before anything else. I knew coming into this new year that the first record I dropped needed to be something different, something hard, something new. I knew I wanted something heavy, with no hook, and I had some rough ideas about how the beat would sound and I knew I wanted to call it Bars. I took all of that into the studio with me when I sat down with the producer, Brian Bolen and explained to him what I was envisioning. From there we just started jamming it out and before you knew it, BOOM, we had the beat. Then I took that home and spent a couple weeks writing the lyrics. I wanted that shit to be perfect.
Photo Credit: Jonathan Kille
Let’s talk tattoos. Tell us about some of your favorite personal pieces and the artists that brought them to life.
I’ve got a few tattoos that I really love. Probably my favorite is my chest piece that says “Outta Control”. That was the name of my first band and I loved those times in my life. We were quite literally out of fucking control. Today it means something different to me, sort of that life is really out of my control and I can only do what I can do, the rest, that’s in the world’s hands. That was done at Lake Monster Tattoo in Lake Tahoe by the owner Reed. They’ve done a lot of my work. Another favorite piece of my mine is on my wrist. This one has the name of my grandfather’s boat, his birth and death dates. I did the name of his boat instead of his name because that’s where we got to know each other. Again, done by Reed @ Lake Monster. Then I’ve got some funny ones that I love just because of the memories. I’ve got the words “Big Toe” tattooed on my big toe. And then my right foot has a letter tatted on each toe spelling “Z O I W T”. Each of the homies did a letter. They’ve never done tattoos. We have a friend that does, he was at the house doing some ink, we were faded, it was an idea, it got done, and now it’s just a terrible tattoo, it hurt like hell, but it’s a great memory.
Have your previous life experiences influenced who you are as a musician today and the level of vulnerability in which you approach the songwriting process? If so, how?
Absolutely. I’m a big believer that everything affects everything. We’re all more or less the sum of our experiences so it’s really inevitable that those things come out in what I write and create. I’ve always been drawn to music that hits home, that makes you think, that makes you feel. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good turn up joint too, but the stuff I really connect with is the stuff that’s a bit more personal. I try and bring that to my songs and my writing process. Music for me has always been about self-expression. I think that’s how you connect with people, by letting them in. By giving them a window into your world. Your real world, not some made up celebrity fantasy world. That’s not to say that all my songs have this incredible message in them, they don’t. But if you know where I come from as an artist, my history, then you can see the bigger picture and realize the fact that I’m still here doing it is a message in itself.
Give us an example of how you push the boundaries and ensure that you are constantly growing creatively as an artist.
You’ve just gotta be fearless in your creativity and not let limits get placed on what you can do because of the kind of artist you are. I think the biggest thing that I can is to always make the music I’m feeling, regardless of outside pressures. So for example, lots of people might have said dude you can’t do Bars, that’s not a radio hip hop record, where do we market this? I listen to a ton of different music and get inspired by so many things. I think Bars is an example of that. The whole record just blends so many styles of rapping and production. You can’t really put it in a box and label it as anything. It doesn’t fit in a genre. Pretty much it boils down to just maintaining that F.U. attitude toward people trying to dictate what I can, can’t, should, and shouldn’t do creatively. Music is expression. Make it for yourself first, then figure out where to put it and how to sell it.
Photo Credit: Jonathan Kille
Tell us about how growing up in Detroit has transformed your perception of the world. I am from Southwest, therefore, I am curious; where exactly did you grow up in Detroit?
I think Detroit has a vibe, an energy that just gets in your blood if you spend enough time there. You see it everywhere, in the sports teams and their messaging, in the blocks when you drive by, in the abandoned buildings, the city just has this resilience, this power in it. You can’t knock Detroit down no matter how hard you try. It’s as blue collar as you can get. I think I embody that spirit. I’ve been through it, and no matter what, I just keep pushing, getting back up. Even after living on the west coast for over 12 years, people still tell me I don’t seem like I’m from California. I tell them I’m from Detroit, and then they usually say something like “oh yea that makes sense”. Lol. In the name of keeping it 100 I was actually born in Chicago and lived there until I was about 12 or 13. Then I moved to Detroit. My entire family is from the D though, so I spent a lot of time there as a kid and it’s where I have my roots. I don’t have roots like that in Chicago, which is why I say I’m from Detroit. It’s been the most consistent place in my life. My parents live in the burbs, Rochester. Growing up spent a lot of time downtown hitting concerts at the Fox Theater, the State Theater, Cobo, Joe Lewis, Clutch Cargos and just driving around the city doing the things that kids do.
If you could recommend any two restaurants for people to visit in Detroit if it’s their first time in the city, which restaurants would you choose?
If you’re like me you’re into some down-home food. I rarely do anything fancy. But if you are into fancy, you could go to the top of the Ren. Cen. And cop a steak. That being said, if you’re going to hit Detroit and not eat at a Coney Island, you’re really messing up. So any Cony Island for sure. Pick one. Any of them. The one I always go to when I’m home is LiPumas. Another dope spot is Sweet Water Tavern. Best wings in the game.
What do fans of Jonezen have to look forward to in 2017?
New music. New music. New music. Videos. More new music. Just look for content in general. I’ve got a great team behind me this year and I’m excited to release new music that’s got a new sound and see what we can make happen.
If you had to share words of wisdom with a kid just picking up the mic in hopes of following in your footsteps, what would you say?
Man, there’s so many things. I guess to sum it up, be relentless. You will fail, you will have to pick yourself back up and keep pushing, you will hear no more than you hear yes, but if you keep putting one foot in front of the other, you’ll make progress, and if you never give up, anything is possible.
Last but certainly not least, any closing messages for your fans?!
I love yall. Thank you.