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Jaal: Hip Hop Paradox

The young rapper from South-East Melbourne speaks on finding inspiration in his family, his area and a quest for self-expression.

Whether he’s working his magic at his home studio in the Melbourne’s South-East or bringing all the energy on stage at one of his local gigs in the city, hip-hop artist Jaal is no stranger to the Melbourne music scene. The Melbourne local first stepped out into the local scene in 2016 after releasing his debut mixtape Kurt Place under his previous alias NYLTCK. Jaal found himself fully immersed in the world of hip-hop, from his background in breaking to skating, and eventually identifying heavily with his musical side. After experiencing what he calls “an epiphany”, he left behind the old name and re-entered the scene in his most authentic form with a changed perspective on making an impact with music. “That was an early reflection of who I was as a person,” he says. “Jaal is delivering something that no one else can, so being my own self is what Jaal is”.

Since then he has been shaping his craft and sonic identity, as well as releasing work with friends in the music collective Noble Nativez. Following his debut as Jaal, he has released numerous solo projects. In 2020, Jaal blessed his audience with Nylotic, an ethereal 5-track project that pays respect to his background and the influences he has built himself around. Following this up with another small collection of songs titled El Negro and shortly after came his second mixtape Paradox. 

Jaal’s musical start is rooted in the bold vibrations of the late 80s and early 90s boom-bap era which featured many of Jaal’s inspirations such as Gang Starr, Nas, A Tribe Called Quest & Jeru The Damaja to name a few. The Melbourne artist also pays homage to his home country of South Sudan and also often gives praise to the musical talents of his family that paved the way for Jaal’s trajectory today.

Walk us through what the early days of Jaal looked like, the younger you. What inspired you to make music and how old were you?
I don’t know, just trialling out creative shit and I guess just trying to figure out my path. I used to break before I did music, used to skate too, you know, just trying to find something to pursue. I’d say around 12 old or maybe even younger I found inspiration to make music, and that was through my older sister who used to rap. She’d call me over into her room just to show me her rhymes and I always thought it was cool. It was pretty beautiful that we always had that connection and that relationship cause it really was the foreshadowing for what I’m doing now.

What impact did growing up in Melbourne’s South-East have on your music and you as a person?
That’s a great question actually. I think… growing up Australia in general is very multicultural, but I feel like there are different areas that have a dominant immigrant community in them but the South-East isn’t like that. It’s a bunch of people from all different backgrounds living here. Naturally, it builds a sense of community, you know. And having that connection with so many people makes it easier to develop a community in music and in the creative world because there are so many people from different walks of life doing heaps of things. Aside from that—I’m not saying we’re living in the hood or whatever but there’s a lot of situations you can get yourself involved in—so it’s shown me I have a choice to make and what the different outcomes of life can be. With my music specifically, it gives me a lot to talk about. There’s a lot that I’ve seen and experienced that I can express and have people connect with.  

What would you like to see change in the Australian music scene and industry?
There’s a lot I would like to see, to be honest. I could go on about this for years but I’ll keep it simple. For the scene, we need to stop mimicking other countries and figure out our own sound. We lack originality because we lack identity. Too many niggas are scared to be themselves. As for the industry, there’s a whole lot of gatekeeping and whack ass standards. Not enough people who actually know about the hip-hop culture are involved in the right parts of the industry. But hey, what do I know? 

So I know when you first stepped out into the scene you went by NYLTCK right?

So what caused the transition from that to Jaal? Tell me a bit about what changed for you in that time.
Yeah so NYLTCK was the name I started rapping with and the whole reason why I went by that name was that it was a reflection of who I am but that was an early reflection of who I was as a person. I always enjoyed having a persona or a rap persona but as I’ve grown up I’ve realised there are more important things that a name can represent and you can still build a persona off of your own name. Long story short, I grew older, I grew wiser and I also made a musical change in my sound in terms of how I deliver my music. I had an epiphany and it made me realise like I used to rap like an American and the whole reason I switched to Jaal is cause I took the turn and decided to use my natural accent instead of mimicking everything that I came up on. NYLTCK was the kid just tryna have fun with music and figure shit out and Jaal is delivering something that no one else can so being my own self is what Jaal is. 

What was the creative process like when you made Kurt Place and how does that compare to the process of creating a project like Paradox?
When I made Kurt Place I was recording the entire project with Marc who’s been mixing my music for a long time now. It was a really close collaboration we were working together on everything. COVID wasn’t a thing then so it was different in terms of how my creativity was impacted. We had heaps of people coming in and out of the studio at the time for features and to kick it. Also, those were pretty much the first 12 tracks I made in my career so it was a really youthful experience. Still tryna figure out how to deliver and record stuff and find my voice musically. Whereas Paradox was obviously recorded during COVID, all the vocals were recorded by myself so it was different. I definitely had more freedom to kinda just express cause I was by myself so I could try different things. Being that that was 4 years down the track, my delivery was better, my lyrics were better so I was at a more experienced level so that allowed me to create a more authentic piece and create it alone for the most part.

If there’s anyone you could collaborate with dead or alive who would it be?
Oh shit, can I give multiple names? Notorious B.I.G for sure, MF DOOM and… Smino cause I fuck with his stuff right now.

What keeps you motivated?
My family. My mother. I do it for them. My sister, I’m completing what she started. I wanna do it for my mum to show her that everything that she worked for didn’t just amount to me working a 9 to 5 job. We’re greater than that. That’s all I gotta say. 

And what can we expect from you moving forward?
A whole lotta new music, I ain’t stoppin baby you know what I’m saying. I got a whole lot of music in the vault to unleash and yeah a lot more shows, hopefully sell them out. Building an audience, getting on more streaming platforms obviously, interstate shows, dropping projects on projects and collaborating with more people. And yeah just expect to see more Jaal in the year, in the streets and in your face baby. Period.

Follow Jaal here for more.

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