Jelani Imani

Photographed by Isaiah C.

Conversations with Clowe.
                                               Jelani Imani.

My name is Jelani Imani. I’m from Clayton County, Georgia. I just cracked the shell and I’m the world heavy weight champ.

I’m a recording artist. A rapper and singer, songwriter preferred. A producer, engineer, former actor and professional wrestler. The last part is a joke but I do a lot of stuff.

How did music become your passion?

I lived in Memphis with my mom. I spent the summer down here [in Georgia] before moving down and my dad gave me his CD to take back home [to Memphis]. I would learn all the lyrics and go to school and rap them like they were mine. When I finally moved to Georgia I would go to the studio with my dad and he ended up writing my cousin and I a song called ‘Get Buck’. Once I got to a certain age he was like, “I’m not about to keep writing your raps anymore. If you want to be a rapper you have to do it yourself.” My dad is a direct influence, I never wanted to be like anybody else but him. 

The Shell is out, how does it feel?

Last year I dropped this album called 'shitJelani, 19yrs?' I kind of just took the best songs I made and put them together. I put this new album out a year to that release day on purpose because the intro says "a year will change everything." If I look back at where I was a year ago and look at right now it’s completely different. Back then I wasn’t getting booked for any shows, people didn’t really know who I was but I knew who everyone else was. To come back a year later, having thrown three of my own shows with my name on it and get all that love back from people is pretty fye. People really like this project, more than I’ve ever seen. We got picked up by Elevator for the ‘A Gram’ video. Last year I made a whole PowerPoint for them to pick up my Goby EP and I didn’t get anything back from that. We got picked up by a Spotify playlist today, ‘Fresh Finds’ and it’s like an official Spotify playlist it has like 33,000 people listening to it a day, its wild. I’m praying they like this song because it could just take off and it’s just fye because I’ve been doing this since I was 6 and now I’m 20. That’s a very long time and I never stopped, I just kept trying to do this. 

Illustration by Jermaine Moody.

The Shell promo artwork

Jelani and Jamila photographed by Isaiah C.

What's your favorite song off of the album?

'My Deepest Vice' might be my favorite. I like 'Dreamland' a lot too and the outro is beautiful, I love that outro. Actually, my favorite is 'Always', 'My Deepest Vice', and the outro.

The creative direction to build anticipation was very unique, what was the thought process behind that?

I wanted to do more than just drop a video on the day of the project because we did that last year. We dropped 'a gram' on the 6th day before and then started a 5-day countdown. The idea was to have different people crack an egg because everyone is going to do it differently. On the last day, I smashed it. We only had 6 eggs left in the carton too. Bryan took all the pictures we’ve put out and Jermaine Moody was responsible for all of the art for the whole year. Anything from flyers to cover art and all the merch that’s coming out soon. He deserves all the praise for this project’s packaging, very talented man.

Who's responsible for production on the project?

I produced the entire album, top to bottom. I started making beats because I couldn’t get people to send me beats or engineer. I was like “let me stop being lazy and figure this out." It works out in the end though because I progressed with everything at the same time. In the end, it’s going to benefit me even more. A lot of the people I look up to do stuff like that, for example Prince, he did the same thing-- Stevie Wonder, Tyler the Creator, Quincy Jones. At first I was so focused on low end and bass because if the trunk don’t rattle that shit is wack to me. My grandma be joanin’ me saying “you still aint figured out that bass?”

Jelani Imani
Jelani Imani Promo Artwork
Jelani Imani Promo Artwork
Jelani Imani Promo Artwork

Illustration by Jermaine Moody.

Jelani Imani Promo Artwork

The Blue Summer Atlanta show is around the corner, are you ready?

I went to it a year ago and they screened Mila’s short film, the way they did it was really cool. I never performed at The Bakery before, I’ve only been like twice. I’m excited, it’s a big show. I didn’t really know who all was booked so when I looked I was like “oh they threw me a play!” I’m the only act with less than 10k on Instagram and I know I’m one of the best live performers on our scene so they didn’t do it for no reason. I’m nervous but nervous is good, that means you care. It’s going to be fun. I’m excited. Shout out to Mila and Queen.

You have an egg theme surrounding you, what's that about?

The egg thing started from this song I had called ‘sunnyside up’ and it was no deeper than, “Aye I have a song called Sunnyside up, let’s use the egg emoji.” From there I kept using it because it was working, people would just spam eggs under my photos. This album was initially going to be called ‘Thanks for Egging Me On’. It sounded so fye but I knew it wasn’t going to look fye so I was like what looks cool…’The Shell’. I made it deeper than Instagram comments and my bedroom in my grandma’s house was my shell. I’m in this room all day, it’s hot and if I go outside what am I going to do? I’m in a shell. I’m incubating in my room and making better songs and a project that will help break me out. I broke the shell, I just had to present it in a nice package for everyone to digest and its working. 

Photographed by Isaiah C.

Jelani Imani, boi plz!

Photographed by Isaiah C.

Jelani Imani

Photographed by Isaiah C.

What more can we expect from you?

If you’re talking about ‘The Shell’, more videos, more gigs, more shows. From this point on you’re going to get better music even though the music was already good but we’re only going to get better because that’s what we do. 

I’m just trying to do good shit. I want to leave a legacy as a black man who did great stuff for his people, his community, his world. Music is the first step and I’m going to put everything I can into doing this. From there that’s my base to do more. You can really just expect good shit, I didn’t even have to say all of that. Good shit.

My music is everywhere under Jelani Imani which is my real name. You can find it anywhere, Apple music, Spotify, church, anywhere you listen to music. 'The Shell' out now, it’s nice, it’s an 11/10. Follow Mila Bucks. Black Jesus forever, shout out to Clowe and read this!

What are you usually listening to?

Everything! I’m still listening to this Solange album. I’ve been bumping this since the day it came out and it’s my album of the year. I listen to my homeboys and I’m not saying that just to say it. 'Sex' is one of my favorites for this year. 'Fit In' ,hard as fuck. Boregard, Kenny [Mason]--Are you kidding me? All my friends make really good music. The underground Atlanta scene is crazy right now, it’s something out here for everyone. It’s cool too because everyone is pretty much friends.

A list of goals were posted on the wall in his room, we asked him to read off a few.

Long term, I want the key to Clayton County. I’ve got lots of things I want to go back and do because it’s too slow and boring out there. Those kids need more to do. I want to go down there and build programs and build youth centers. I just want to uplift that community in ways other than just giving out free backpacks, that’s a tax write-off. I really want to invest in the minds and the hearts of kids that live there because I come from there as well. If I can do it who else can come from there and do some fye stuff.

I want a Jordan deal because I’ve always loved Jordans. I want to sell out Phillips arena—twice or ten times or a million times. Everyone wants to go platinum so I guess I want to do that too. I want to go do some shows in New York, I know I’m going to do that. I performed at the Apollo when I was like 11, rapping. I touched the wood thing Michael Jackson touched--James Brown, all of them. I want a thousand monthly Spotify listeners, I’m at like 303 (as of 9/26/19, two weeks after this sit down, Jelani has reached 13,196 monthly listeners) . That’s the number before being added to this playlist. Accomplishing that would probably just give me an extra level of confidence.I always felt the music was fye but the numbers weren’t there so that’s really just a goal I’m shooting for. I also want another voice over show and I want it to be with adult swim. I walk past the building all the time trying to manifest it.

Jelani Imani

Photographed by Isaiah C.

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