Empresses + Queens: An Interview with Jah9

November 21, 2014

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LargeUp: You grew up as the daughter of a pastor, then transitioned to Rastafari. Would you say your style and music are still somewhat informed by the Christian principles you grew up on?

Jah9: I know the church can be like that for some denominations, but the church has never really defined how I dress or act. There was actually a time when I wanted my bredren who play ball to forward, and I dressed down in jeans and T-shirts at church so they would feel comfortable. With my style, the idea of being comfortable is very important to me, and how I dressed in [the “Avocado”] video is not about Jah9โ€™s image. It was about an image of what woman can be โ€“ as beautiful, regal, light and free. Sensual without the “spread out and dash out.” Thatโ€™s something we wanted to capture in the video and my style in it and outside of it represents all of the things that I see as feminine.

LargeUp: You have always presented yourself as a militant and regal woman. With “Avocado,” we’re seeing a softer side. Which side is more you? Is there a difference between Jah9, the artist and the individual?

Jah9: All of the Jah9s are the same. There is no line between the artist and the person. Jah9 is always quite intentionally presented to the world as serious, reflective and militant and it is important as a woman to establish yourself that way. Now that Iโ€™ve introduced myself in the context of Rastafari consciousness, wellness, awareness, it is safe now to say โ€˜I am womanโ€™ and all of the other things that meansโ€ฆ playful, colorful, light, nurturing and to show sisterhood. Me and my sisters share the fact that we love food, we love our bredren, we love life and we love to play. Itโ€™s about showing your feminine side and not taking yourself too seriously. There will never be a Jah9, the artist. We just try to be as comfortable as possible.

LU: We never really see “Orlando” [from the song’s lyrics] in the video. Is “Avocado” really about your special “juvvie”? Take us to the place that inspired the track.

Jah9: Me nah tell no lie, most of it is about avocado [laughs]. I got a very nice one and it just inspired the lyrics because in my mindโ€ฆ a man that loves you will feed you, go out of him way to make sure you have food. He knows what you like and he will bring that. Those are the ways that I am impressed by a bredren. The song is just celebrating those things โ€“ a man that is humble, knows how to take care of a woman, his space. I applaud all of that. In the video, I havenโ€™t made a spectacle of the bredren that plays Orlandoโ€ฆ there are just hints of him. He represents a strong man. He could be my man, your man, anybody.

LU: Love the video. Though simplistic and fun, we get the feeling that there are a lot of layers and depth to the concept, execution and even the talent and styling. What were some of the key messages you wanted to bring forward through it and how involved were you in the making?

Yes and yes! I was encouraged to do a video for the song. I eventually passed it to Samo, Kush-I, who has done two other videos with me before. Creatively, we work well. He brought a story to I, it was more of a montage. I didnโ€™t want to be very prominent in the video. My idea was that it didnโ€™t even have to do with me. It could just generally be about women. Then one day I was steaming and the location came to me first, then from there the rest just flood een. A producer bredren of mine has a beautiful home at the top of Red Hills with five avocado tree inna him yard. It was actually his yard that I got the avocado that inspired the songโ€ฆ it was perfect, and I told them everything from beginning to end as I saw it.

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