For Jelani Lateef, hip-hop is nothing short of a passion project. A Chicago based rapper, Jelani shows us clearly on his newest released album Cold Days and Dark Nights (Official Mixtape), why he deserves to be heard. Armed with some serious skills and great production value, Jelani Lateef is set to make waves in 2016 with his unique style of sound.
Ryan: There is not denying the professional quality of your sound, exactly how long have you been doing this?
Jelani: I’ve been making music now for over a decade. Unfortunately, it took me equally as long to learn the business side, so I’m just now feeling like I’m part of the music scene.
Ryan: Cold Days and Dark Nights (Official Mixtape) is one impressive album, can you take us through your song writing process a bit?
Jelani:Usually for me it starts with the words. I go through phases where I’m doing nothing but writing verses. Later I start making beats and then I go back through what I’ve written and try to put the right words to the right beat. Occasionally I know exactly what kind of beat I want for a specific song I’ve written and it’s just a matter of putting it together.
Ryan: Even though your album is Chicago born, I felt it captured the vibe of some of what I have heard come out of California. Am I connecting the dots wrong here, or is there a bit of Cali in your sound?
Jelani:I’m a fan of hip-hop from all regions, but in this particular case I was definitely looking for something that had a West Coast laidback vibe to it. I hadn’t done anything with that type vibe in previous projects so I thought I’d try it out.
Ryan:Other than the talented Fiyah Wayne, your album didn’t lean too heavy on guest appearances, which seems rare in the industry these days. Was this a conscious decision to keep it mostly just you and the mic?
Jelani:That was a conscious decision. I listen to a lot of old school hip-hop, and back then they didn’t flood their albums with guest appearances. Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, EPMD, Ice Cube, etc., when you bought their album you got to hear THEM. Otherwise it might as well be called a compilation.
Ryan: Manhood Entertainment is a company with a history. In your own words, can you tell us a bit about the mission behind the company?
Jelani:The idea was to create a brand that represented men stepping to the plate and handling responsibility. I was put in a position in my life where I had to do just that, and my art is an extension of my real life. I just want to put a more positive perspective of men, especially black men, out there to offset some of the negative stereotypes and portrayals. I want the young boys and young men to see there are alternatives.
Ryan: At this point in your career, what are some of your biggest highlights?
Jelani:Starting my own company and releasing my own music is a highlight in itself. Meeting certain artists like Rakim and Common were great moments. Having people that I don’t know reach out to me and tell me I’ve inspired them is priceless. To know what I’m doing can have that kind of effect is good feeling.
Ryan:What are some of your musical inspirations, and is there any artist you would like to collaborate with in the future?
Jelani:I’m inspired by music from all types of genres, from rock to jazz to soul. The first artist that comes to mind though is Nas. I was listening to his whole catalogue last week and to me he’s still at the top as far as lyricism goes.
Ryan:Putting together an album is a daunting task for anyone, do you have any advice to give other artists looking to make one for themselves?
Jelani:Well considering we’re in a singles era I’m not sure how much artists even care about putting together albums, but for those that care I say try to treat the album like a movie. Each song represents a scene and you want each scene to tie into each other. Try to capture different moods and emotions and take the listener on a journey.
Ryan: I truly enjoyed the track No Fear, it was a great choice to open the album with. Do you have any personal favorites, and why?
Jelani:Dreams is my favorite, No Fear and In God’s Hands are close second.
Ryan: Lastly, and thank you for your time. Is there any news you would like to tell your fans about what we can expect and look for in 2016?
Jelani:I appreciate your time as well!! I’m finally prepping to hit the stage again. The hold-up has been trying to assemble a band, but that’s finally coming together the way I want it to. Also I have more videos coming. 2016 is looking like my busiest year since starting the company.
by Ryan Donnelly