JSWISS – the MC and journalist from Dobbs Ferry, New York – is setting up for a breakout year.
Building on the strength of his Black Summer EP collaboration with Marcus “M. Drix” Machado in late 2018 and fresh off his “Hold On” single from earlier this month, JSWISS shines as one of the brightest young artists ready to blow up in 2019. With “The Gift” – his brand-new single (video premiered below) – the UNC-Chapel Hill graduate displays strength in his ability to spit technical mastery with substantial, intelligent lyrics.
The second single off his upcoming Every Word Is A Dollar album scheduled for release on April 5th, “The Gift” has JSWISS dropping upper-echelon bravado commingled with introspection and literary references. Over a classic boom-bap beat courtesy of Justin Swiney (drums), Machado (bass), Paul Bloom (keys) and additional production by Vicky Casis and JSWISS himself, the MC simultaneously displays his intelligence and confidence with aplomb:
“Rhyme or prose I school ’em / I’m using all of my faculties / articles to albums / I crank ’em out like a factory / wordsmith in its truest form and application / doing it until perfection be my form of education / don’t let a conversation or book any experience go by / without finding a sliver of inspiration / look me in my eyes and say you don’t see greatness.“
Watch the world-premiere video of “The Gift” below and check the interview and behind-the-scenes look after the jump!
JSWISS ON THE IMPORTANCE OF ACADEMICS
Academics isn’t so much as important as being educated. Just getting a degree or attending a school doesn’t mean anything if you don’t actually learn anything and become better. Personally that meant becoming a better journalist since that’s what I went to UNC-Chapel Hill for, but that’s also where I recorded and released my first mixtape out of a studio in the basement of the library and began to form an actual career out of what was just a hobby before. That’s also where I met a lot of great people with different backgrounds who continue to be friends of mine and inspire me.
In the past few years outside of school, reading has become a huge passion of mine. I feel like it’s the easiest and most entertaining way to become a better person. Whether it’s a non-fiction true story about someone’s life, or a fiction novel, it’s written with a different perspective from my own, which is valuable to be exposed to. And as an MC whose purpose is to produce words, reading – in addition to just living life – gives me the fuel to create content.
Have to take words and experiences in to put them out.
ON ‘EVERY WORD IS A DOLLAR’
The album is called Every Word Is A Dollar, which is a statement equal parts about myself and about the world at large. I feel like when you factor in cost and value, words are the most valuable and powerful thing in the world.
Words inspire and change lives and move whole countries, and it’s costs nothing to produce words. So many revered people in history made their impact just for what they could do with their words and it’s part of what makes hip-hop powerful.
And for myself I realized if there’s one superpower I have, it’s a command over words. Whether it’s been my journalism background and now my abilities as an MC, my skill is something I’ve always been complimented on and has created opportunities for me.
ON THE IMPORTANCE OF SELF-EXPRESSION
It’s funny, I’m a natural introvert and growing up I was even more reserved and shy than I am now, so it’s funny to everyone’s who’s known me a long time, including myself, the fact that I’m a hip-hop artist and I’m so comfortable on stage in front of audience is surprising. But when I think about it, it kind of makes sense. I’ve always been more quiet and more of a listener so when I finally do speak I’m actually saying something of value. Even today, I still listen more than I talk and read more than I write.
“Awthenticity” and the idea of being “Awthentic” is my main theme. It means leaving people in “awe” of how comfortable you are being your authentic self. No matter what you do, you’re always at your full potential when you’re yourself and also probably the most happy that way, too. That’s what allows you to be successful, whatever your definition of success is, and it’s what allows you to have the biggest impact on the world.
The best thing you can be is the greatest YOU of all-time.
Tied to that idea, “purpose” has been one of the most important words in my life. Whatever it is that’s naturally attracting you to pursue, you should follow that feeling, regardless of how difficult it will be, even if you have to balance it with other things. Even if you can’t see the end-game for it at first, if it brings you joy and that feeling of fulfilling a purpose – go for it.
ON “THE GIFT”
“The Gift” has a lot of bars and world-play in it. I’ve got a good amount of book references in there that are some real gems. (Ishmael by Daniel Quinn, Native Son by Richard Wright, Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin). It’s interesting that some see “The Gift” as having that message because I’ve had those more inspiring songs like “Dedicate.LoveSomethin” in my career, but “The Gift” is more just going off with the bars and having fun. Lately I’ve really been able to put on display raw lyricism in a live setting for my own shows or guest performing with top musicians like Maurice “Mobetta” Brown, Daru Jones, Marcus Machado, etc. at spot like Blue Note Jazz Club on the regular, and this track does a good job of capturing some of that essence on record.
Also “The Gift” is interesting in how it came together: borne out of a 22-minute jam session in the studio with myself, Marcus Machado on bass, Justin Swiney on drums and Paul Bloom on bass. They’re just improv jamming the whole time and I was just pulling out bars and verses from my head the whole time. Later, I went back and sampled a small part of that which became the foundation for the instrumental and I arranged the music from that. I don’t call myself a producer in the way we think of hip-hop producers now, but I have a good ear for music and throughout the album I’m more of a producer in the more traditional sense of not playing anything, but overseeing how the music is put together. Some ideas starting me humming parts, etc. This is the only track on where I really got in and did a lot of the programming, with some production help from Vicky Casis.
Every Word Is A Dollar drops on April 5th!