OneTwoOneTwo talks with Nonsense Recording artist Jalima Shani. The Philly resident breaks down her unique style, The Art of War competition and her new album “Youthful Airplay”.
I know a little bit about you already but for those that don’t, tell me a bit about your background.
I come from a very artistic family. We’re writers, poets, painters, tailors, musicians you name it. Every since childhood I’ve always had an obsession with the abstract. My sister sill teases me about the crappy (they were brilliant to me) gifts I would make for her birthday out of objects I found around the house when we were kids.
One year I took the foam base you use to secure fake plants, come clay dough, which was formally fashioned, into a dinosaur, and some finger-paints to create her present. I leave it to your imagination to determine what it actually looked like in the end.
The great artists are never truly recognized in the beginning. Aside from that I was the kid who loved playing with microscopes, would stay alone for hours reading, and who wore Karate outfits and other costumes around the house.
Music is the only outlet where I can still be that odd ball little girl and be appreciated for it.
Your style is definitely, different and unorthodox at times. What is behind that?
My style is combination of who I am and my perception of who God is. I see God as infinite so I work from an infinite source of art and creativity. My mind doesn’t really work in boundaries when it comes to expression.
Where I hear music the sound speaks to me in pictures, and I use my words to recreate the pictures that I am seeing in my mind. I’m taking the view points of different characters and fully expressing how they would think, act, talk dress, what they would eat, that sort of thing.
So what one may deem as unorthodox, I see as my opportunity to relate to other experiences beyond the Jalima Shani life experience. That approach has opened my understanding to the world more than anything else that I have done.
I’m about freedom. When I create a song, poem, or whatever my goal is to breakdown some preconceived notion that I’ve created about life so I can embrace truth more. There is a lot of self-talk that goes on in my songs.
How has that been received by listeners and audiences? Any criticisms to be more conventional?
For the most part people are really supportive of what I do as an artist. That openness has allowed me to continue to grow as a person and share that growth with others. I’ve gone in certain performance situations, in the past, expecting to be seen as an odd ball or some one who is way out in left field, but at the end of the show some of the most thugged out guys would be telling me how my music touched them that night.
Those moments have really been a confirmation to me, just to keep doing what I am doing right now despite any negativity that I may experience from others and despite personal doubts that try to deter us from achieving our fullest potential.
Music is not a career for me it’s a mission, to be the best.
What ever someone does something different you will have a few people who can’t see beyond what’s currently being presented as the norm, but I’m at the point where those people don’t have any effect on me other than increasing my drive to show people how to love themselves and respect their individuality.
Too many other people like Oprah, Malcolm X, Gandhi, Dr. King, you name it have gone through the same struggle on a much greater level. I know that a greater me lies on the other side of criticism. I choose to not be limited by someone else’s limitations.
People who afraid of standing out are afraid of themselves, they’re afraid of being alone because those people equate individuality with isolation.
Individuality is freedom.
How would you describe your style?
My style is just hip-hop. The poetry is something that happens naturally. The very basis of hip-hop culture is to make everything you do your own.
The music I create is my personal version of what an emcee should be, a storyteller, a painter, who uses his or her own sound colors. I’m silly so that seems to seep through in music a lot.
Writers like Shel Silverstein and Doctor Seuss played a huge part in my apperception for creativity and reading as a child. Even today “A Light In The Attic”, is one of the greatest books ever written in my opinion. The importance of children developing a love for books at an early age is being neglected in our society. Spongebob is great, but let them read the Spongebob story not just watch it on TV. Parents should buy their kids comic books, zoo books, encyclopedias (their on CD-ROMS now) or whatever sparks their interests.
My grandmother was constantly buying us books on science, religion, and biology…everything since I was a kid. My mom and dad also encouraged me by participating in school programs that allowed my parents to buy books for their children from this cool little catalog. If you read a certain amount of books you were given a free personal pan pizza from Pizza Hut. All of this plays into what I am able to express today.
You just put on the Art of War event where emcee’s and poets competed against each other for “cash money – ooooweeee” (said Wilmer Videramma style). What was the idea behind that and how did it come about?
“The Art Of War Lyricist Competition”, is very much my baby. The contest is a reflection of who I am as an artist. For a long time people have been saying that hip-hop is poetry, this event set about to prove them right.
Who knows where ideas come from, but the inspiration came in the summer of 2006, while I was acting as the host of an open mic called “Works In Progress.” I got tired of the same old open mic format, where artists just get up perform and sit down. So initially I tried making that idea an aspect of the night, but the concept was too big and had to have it’s own forum.
Did you learn anything putting on and promoting and event like that for the first time?
When you have a vision or dream you have to keep pushing until that dream becomes a reality even if that means doing everything yourself. My grandfather always says, “If you make one step G-d will make two.”
So many doors opened up for me because I did not quit when sponsors backed out on me or when club owners would not let me rent their venue that meant they weren’t right for me, there was something better. In fact I could not imagine having “The Art Of War Lyricist Competition”, anywhere other than the Rotunda. The staff there is great, and I have a lot a respect for the job that Gina Renzi is doing for the community by running such an awesome venue.
Our show was completely sold out. The crowd was warm and receptive. Hey, James Saul even gave the show a great write up called “Native Tongue” in the Philadelphia City Paper.
G-d made twenty steps to my one step of faith.
I understand that you have a new album coming out on Nonsense Records, which is also home to fast up and comers Sol.Illaquists of Sound. What’s it called and what’s it about?
Actually the Sol.illaquists are now on Anti-Epitaph Records, but they will always be Nonsense Family. The album is called “Youthful Airplay”. I began writing the album a few months after the death of my grandmother, so I was in a very broken place emotionally. I needed an album to help me recapture my passion for art and writing and that’s exactly what this album did.
When Swamburger first sent me the beats they were so dope, but so left field I didn’t know how to approach it as an emcee. In the end I just let go of all that “rapper” instinct and let the artist come out.
The process of creating this album was immensely therapeutic, being around all of the members in the Sol. illa household strengthened my love for not only them, but for what I am able to do as a person. I am really blessed to know such great peole.
What should people know about the album. Anything in particular they should check for?
Listen to the stories. Whenever I listen to this album, I hear something new and unexpected. I am still growing from the lyrics and dancing to super sick beats.
When does it drop? Where will heads be able to get it?
When the stars align and the gods of Nonsense deem the time has come. So check for the album on college radio in the early ’07. We’re still grass roots so in the meantime get a copy off of me personally.
The album will be available online through the Nonsense Records website, my website, CD Baby, mail order, cyberspace, and at my shows.
How did the deal come about with Nonsense Records?
I feel a more appropriate question would be how I came to be embraced by the Nonsense Family.
Short version of a long story…as with a lot of the Nonsense fam we bonded at the greatest open mic ever, Vocalization. Each of us has something unique to say to the world, and our being brought together resulted in the fact that we all share appreciation for that uniqueness.
I respect everyone associated with the label as individuals first, that respect really translates to wanting to grow with my label mates artistically and personally.
Any final words? Where can people get more information about you?
You can check for me at www.NonsenseRecords.com and also at www. myspace.com/jalima. I’m on the road right now on the “Get In Where You Fit In Tour”, so check my space for the dates. I’ll playing shows from Philly to Orlando. Also, I am shooting a project called the “Anti-Hate Documentary”. Anyone who wants to be a part of this great project should contact me.
Final Words…. just follow your heart and embrace truth and end hate.