T.S. Monk signs young rapper
to Thelonious Records, a label owned and operated by
the Estate of Thelonious Monk.
“Only One” Maxi-Single and Video will make its online debut
this week, with a full length album in the works for mid-year.
NEW YORK – Jazz musician T.S. Monk announced today that he has signed a developmental deal with I’mani Kairee for his growing Thelonious Records imprint. The signing represents a new era for the label that is known for major jazz works, such as the monumental 2005 release Thelonious Monk Quartet Featuring John Coltrane – Live at Carnegie Hall (released in partnership with Blue Note Records).
The label will continue to release rare works by jazz icon Thelonious Monk, and new recordings by his son, T. S. Monk, in addition to their new hip hop projects.
A maxi-single and video for I’mani Kairee’s “Only One” will debut online this week, and a full length album is in the works for later this year.
Respect Me, Respect Yourself, And We’ll Get Along Fine
Her idols are Kanye, her mother and God. Not in that order.
Charismatic rapper I’mani, 18, is still on curfew, but she doesn’t mind. She’s thrilled to be alive, and doing what she loves; performing. She has the heart of an old soul; warm and worldly. She’s excited to be able to vote, and wants to encourage other young people to exercise that precious gift. Her social conscience, eagerness to help steer the destiny of her America, and personal modesty set I’mani apart from the more flirty-dirty, eager-to-please girl rappers.
Her name translates to ‘faith,’ and she wears it well.
“For me, rap over R&B is what came easy and stuck to me. It doesn’t get boring. When I hear a beat I start thinking what hook I can come up with, I’ll have rap songs with R&B hooks. I’m still doing age-related stuff, about crushes; my song ‘Ready to Party’ is funny stuff about what teenagers go through. I’m not trying to be a role model, but sometimes it comes off that way.”
“Women are always queens to me. You don’t have to show your body to be sexy. I want them to say that I’mani is sexy and classy at the same time. Showing your body, you’ll get the wrong kind of attention.”
I’mani sees herself in service to others. “In five years I see myself helping people; In my song, ‘Dream Big,’ I thank God for getting me this far. I say ‘Dream past the clouds, for the stars, the moon.’ That’s what really touches me… In ‘Get it Poppin’ I’m just saying that I’m here – I’m a new, fresh young talent… not every song is a message song.”
An only child raised by a single mom, I’mani benefited from a solid upbringing: “My mother is my role model, she’s backed me up through this whole process.”
Kanye West was also an important role model for I’mani: “I just love his work. He’s clever with words.”
But was growing up in Connecticut a sheltered existence? Where does she get her material? I’mani cautions: “Don’t make the mistake of thinking that nothing happens here! Bad things happen in good neighborhoods!” Still her message is about being good. “I feel good about doing more healing through music. I use absolutely no profanity in my lyrics; it makes me a better songwriter to be able to find other words to express things, I don’t need it as filler; I make up my own words.”
A self-described ‘young lady,’ I’mani is concerned about more than just boys, clothes and parties, although for sure, you will find these mentioned in her rapid fire delivery. Her interest in Darfur, presidential and local politics, education and healing through her music define her as a rapper with depth and the potential to develop along the lines of a Kanye, whose political perspectives are well documented through his lyrics. I’mani’s mantra is to ‘Dream Big,’ good advice for a young unknown who was blessed to be taken under the benevolent wing of Thelonious Monk, Jr.; son of the jazz great. A two-song agreement eventually led to an album, which is in works for release through Monk’s Thelonious Records imprint.
I’mani met Monk through a friend who brought them to Butterzone. It was there that she met Producers Floyd Fisher and Extra Large. I’mani and the Butterzone hit it off immediately. “We were like pieces of a puzzle that just fit.” I’mani is feeling the love all round. “Thelonious is incredible; every time I talk to him, he just smiles and you know it’s gonna be good. He called me and said; you’re doing great! For someone that’s been in the biz this long, to take a chance on me…I thank God for putting this amazing person in my path.”
I’mani understands the precarious world of survival in the music business. She appreciates education as an essential. “I graduated, but my biggest frustration was school. Teachers nowadays are not so helpful. A lot of kids need a lot of motivation, and when teachers are upbeat and want kids to graduate, it makes a big difference. I did graduate and I’m so grateful. I’m going to go to fashion design school in New York, and take some courses. I like fashion and style; I’m always looking for ways to make something unique; make it my own.” I’mani also loves to cook. “I experiment! I’m not saying that everything comes out great!”
Importantly, she isn’t ‘bling-blind’: “When I’m making money, first I want to invest, then put money back into the world. I’d like to do something to help single parents…it’s challenging! My mom did it.” With no brothers or sisters, is I’mani lonely? She smiles, hugs her mom. “No, I get all the love.”