The Whole 9 returns with a session with NYC spitter Jackson Turner. His last release was a music video for Let Me Clear My Throat, off his forthcoming album Bare Knuckle Soul, which features contributions from Luney Tunez, Bugle, Fantan Mojah, Nkese P, Niki Darling, and Ikeyia. Peep the interview below, and for more, hit him on his website.
the9elements: What made you decide to become a rapper?
Jackson Turner: I’ve always been very poetic and am very good with languages, sounds and words. When I was a kid, I would memorize every word of my favorite Hip Hop songs. At that age, whoever could recite entire verses got respect. Later when I was about 14-15 I started to experiment with writing and freestyling, and found that I had a good voice and sense of rhythm too.
I learned the intricacies of rapping, complex rhymes, different types of flows and patterns in rapping. I became very good at writing. I also wanted to become a rapper because I liked the rebelliousness of the culture; I liked expressing myself through art and music; I fell in love with the creative process.
T9E: What’s the first rap song you ever heard? Describe the moment.
JT: I can’t remember exactly, probably a song by MC Hammer. My pops gave me A Tribe Called Quest CD when I was 11, but at that time I couldn’t appreciate it. Later when I was 12, I started to listen to the Cypress Hill, The Beastie Boys, Dre and Snoop, and House of Pain.
And then later when I was 13, I heard Wu-Tang (Clan) for the first time and I went all in! I remember thinking they are doing what Cypress Hill is doing only it’s so much more raw and tuff! After that day, I began to really study Hip Hop, and I sold all my rock CDs (laughs).
T9E: How did Let Me Clear My Throat come together? How did the DJ Kool song inspire yours?
JT: “Let Me Clear My Throat” came together because I was listening to some of Strazdine’s beats and was really drawn to one in particular. I told him I was going to write to it and he gave me permission. The flow and and feel of the song came to me almost immediately, and as I started to fine tune the lyrics I knew I wanted it to be super lyrical and tuff.
I wanted to throw in a line that symbolized both the lyricism of the song and pay tribute to a time when lyricism mattered. And I felt that the line “Let Me Clear My Throat” did both. It implies I’m coming with bars to spit, and it also references the time period when rappers had to come with bars.
T9E: How has your China experience shaped your approach to your music?
JT: I would say my approach to music is very much rooted in the US and our musical traditions. China opened my mind and eyes to all types of genres of music, and this has helped to inform how I approach Hip Hop.
But it’s more that living in a country as different as China made me a more open-minded person and that led me to explore and accept music from all countries and traditions. My new album tries to blend boombap, trap, reggae and soul music into an entirely new sound.
T9E: What are your thoughts on the year in rap so far?
Well we lost a few very talented rappers this year (at least). There are probably many other rappers that passed away that I’ve never heard of. J. Cole dropped a dope album. Kendrick Lamar won a Pulitzer Prize. Em’s new album is interesting.
I would say there has been positives and negatives this year. In general, I’m a fan of the more creative Hip Hop, which is sadly becoming smaller and smaller.