“I can see it in my mind being up there with the best of the best. You have to see it in your mind too. Always have your future in mind. Always be planning out your next steps…”
Check out the interview with M. Jean M. exclusively on Skilly Magazine Online.
SKILLY: How were you able to start your journey in the entertainment business? Where did this all start?
M. Jean M.: In terms of making music, it was very early in my life. At six years old, I learned my first musical instrument, the piano. I remember always going to practice at my instructor’s house. My mother bought me a keyboard. We had just rented our first house in Pensacola and my mother thought it was important that I learned a musical instrument. That’s when I was introduced to actually making sound.
In terms of the recording industry, the summer of 2011 was a key year for me. I was formerly a Computer Science major, but I sucked at it and I always wanted to find my way back into music. In middle school I used to freestyle and surprisingly folks were impressed. So I switched to being a sound major and got access in the recording studio. Started doing freestyles inspired by artists like Drake and Odd Future Wolf Gang. I was confident in my writing but not my rapping so I needed to find my flow, my style.
What are some of the creative ways you use to promote your music?
One of the biggest aspects of creating Live Through Me was promoting it as both an album and an art piece. I wanted a big way to promote the album in person and across the internet. The album and it’s art work was a part of a Senior exhibit titled “Feedback” at Stetson University. I had my own sound station with headphones so that people could listen. It’s a nerve wrecking yet awesome feeling seeing people actually listen to your music.
On the internet, I started submitted my music to bloggers and magazine editors for reviews. I wanted the world of music media to take notice of me as a serious artist who will be one of the greats in the game.
What is the greatest challenge you face in today’s entertainment business? How do you overcome them?
The greatest challenge for me is getting people to take notice. To pay attention. To recognize my talent. In this industry you have to constantly sell yourself and it’s hard when you don’t have any money or big backing. Especially in Hip Hop when there are so many aspiring rappers who are on the rise. Everyone is fighting to make it. But how exactly do you do it? How was Eminem able to catch Dr. Dre’s attention? How did Drake make a believer out of those who only saw him as a the kid on Degrassi? How did people start taking notice of Odd Future Wolf Gang all of a sudden? And as a female rapper, it’s even harder because it seems like the industry only wants to make room for one. And that one has to look a certain way, sound a certain way or else they either won’t get taken serious or no one will pay attention to them.
So I try to overcome it by doing the best I can to get people to listen. By wearing many hats. For the most part I do this music on my own. I don’t have a main producer who I work with yet. I produce most of my own work. I write my own songs. And I find as many opportunities as possible to get my music heard. I want to make it. I want to be up there with Kendrick, J. Cole, Drake, Gambino, all of them. Another thing I want to focus on in the feature is creating my own image. I want to change up my style. I want to be more different.
How is the music scene like in your hometown? What do you like about it and what don’t you like?
Pensacola and the state of Florida in general isn’t known for producing legendary Hip Hop artists. It isn’t Brooklyn or Compton or the ATL. In the game it’s like where you are from makes all the different as to where you get to eat at the table. I was born and partially raised in Redondo Beach, California in a time where the west coast was dominating. To go from that to P-Cola where the music scene can be sparse and very very underground. In terms of the urban scene, trap music and artists like Lil Boosie and Gucci are very popular. What I like about the music scene is that since it is sparse it does allow for someone like me to come up and do something different. Master P said it best that in the industry if you want to make it the first thing you have to do is find a problem and solve it. What I don’t like about my hometown’s music scene is that there isn’t a whole lot of opportunities.
Where do you think the future of music is going to be? How do you feel artists can be more a part of it?
Music is going in the right direction. I think that a lot of people don’t give our current musical landscape enough credit and just focus on the over saturated acts. There are a lot of great talented artists who are gaining recognition thanks to the internet being an alternative source to the monopoly that is radio play. In the future, that is only going to increase. More great artists are going to get their opportunity to shine. There will be a lot more choices for music fans. I think artists can embrace the changing of the times and roll with the punches. Don’t rely on radio as much because all stations are owned by one company and in effect will only want to play the same artists and songs over and over again. If it was only up to the radio incredible talents like Frank Ocean, the Weeknd, J. Cole, etc. wouldn’t have made it as far as they have now. I think music going digital has allowed all of us to eat and artists should embrace that more.
What advice can you give to other upcoming artists and musicians trying to achieve success?
Don’t lose hope and plan. Seize every moment and every opportunity you get to broadcast your artistry. It can be very difficult being underground and independent. Sometimes it takes years for artists to break through. You feel like you’re the only one who believes that you can do this. I usually tell people that I want to be more behind the scenes in music but truth be told, I want to be one of the greatest musical artists of all time. I can see it in my mind being up there with the best of the best. You have to see it in your mind too. Always have your future in mind. Always be planning out your next steps.
What inspires you to write your next song?
I get a lot of my inspiration from other artists. If I hear something I can get hype to, I want to write a freestyle for it. If I have a particular concept in mind for an overall project, I find inspiration from the music I listen to and my life in order to write my music. I’m a writer who is always feeling some type of way about something. I’m a perfectionist. When I see something isn’t right it gives me something to say.
What are the steps you take to make a song?
When I was recording my debut album, I started off creating demos of beats. I had never produced before and it was very very new to me. I was always afraid I wasn’t going to sound as polished as the producers that we have out today in the rap game. I visualized how I wanted to expand these demos and turn them into full songs. I needed to learn how to feel it like how my listeners would feel it. I would spend hours upon hours in the recording studio at night listening to demo after demo. Trying to figure out what to do with it or if I wanted to do anything with it at all. Finding the words to the beats depended on my inspirations plus what the beats where telling me. If the song had a deep base and a slow pace, usually those songs were more abstract and told a story. That’s the biggest thing to me when it comes to making music, you have to tell a story.
What do you think makes a great song?
The whole has to be greater than the sum of it’s parts. Meaning, if the beat goes hard as hell but the lyrics suck or are okay, it’s not gonna be great. It has to tell a story. It has to paint a picture, a memory. When most people reflect on their artists’ favorite song, they are constantly coming up with questions because a song is like a thesis to a novel.
I remember watching a clip of Spike Lee’s Bad 25, the documentary on Michael Jackson’s album. Artists like Chris Brown and Kanye West reminisce on the song “Smooth Criminal” and they just kept asking the question “Who was Annie?” That’s what a great song is supposed to do, keep you asking questions and wanting more.
Where can we connect with you? Can you give us your social media links and where we can contact you?
You can mainly connect to me on my Facebook page http://www.reverbnation.com/mjeanm and my Tumblr mjmexperience.tumblr.com. I’m also on Twitter now as @GoodGalJean. I’m always looking for other artists to collaborate with, especially now that I am in Houston, TX where the music scene is live. My dream is to be signed on a label and gain more attention.