Features, Music Reviews, Race + Culture

INTERVIEW: Racquel Jones

By JD Brant

“We spend so much time fighting to be who we are, and not evolving.”

– Racquel Jones on being a woman (IG video post)

Racquel Jones has gumption, a required trait for those seeking longevity in a forever-shifting industry. Gumption is not to be confused with grit. Grit is doing what it takes because it is expected of you. Gumption is doing what it takes with no perceived expectation. Despite the odds. Despite no odds. Regardless of the consequences or what people think. Gumption is correcting the uninformed with a megaphone. Whether they are receptive to the message or not, it needs to be said.

Sparks ablaze and guns blazing, Racquel Jones is that girl on fire.

To make the most of experience, you need to meet people where they are. On the album, IgnoRANT, we meet Racquel where she is, a woman evolving. A woman of substance, of reckoning. IgnoRANT is a melodrama you can dance to, and so much more: lust, betrayal, destitution, destruction, and clairvoyance on every up-front track.

In artspeak, I’m describing Racquel Jones in peak condition. The incendiary MC was happy to talk with Eloquent Mag about IgnoRANT and the experiences that guided her during the production and songwriting processes.

Eloquent: First off, I want to say I love the cover art for your album, very Basquiat/Dali-looking. Who’s concept? Also, did these artists inspire it (you mention them on the album also)?

RJ: Thank you. I am very much inspired by Salvador Dali and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Obsessed. They are two of my favorite artists, who’ve inspired all aspects of my creativity. They are constant references for me and I mention them in manic, which is my favorite song on the album. The concept of the cover was mine. My label asked me to do a painted self-portrait cover for the record, so I decided to do a surrealist self-portrait baring my soul, showing much of who I am and how that ties into the album for me in a personal way.

Eloquent: Can you discuss a little bit of your heritage/roots and how they influenced the album’s sound and direction? 

RJ: I’m in every way Jamaican, good or bad. Jamaica has the most churches per square mile in the world yet it’s one of the deadliest places on the planet. That is explored on the album through the album artwork, and me examining how religion plays a negative role in our defect and demise as a people on the song sacrilege. Jamaica is one of the most beautiful places on this planet and has a culture unlike any other. Authentic, infectious, beautiful, warm, creative, and influential. That is knitted in every fiber of my being and creativity. I come from a background with a heritage of strength, tenacity, knowledge of self, divinity, and the ability to break barriers and defy odds. That is the core basis of who I am. I’m also from a background etched with trauma and pain which also aid in the shaping of my perception of the world, how I’m perceived, and also my morals…be it good or bad. Sonically, there’s reggae, dancehall, African drums all over the album. The language and overall aesthetic are very much my Jamaican heritage exploring global relatable issues with a Jamaican vocal lens. 

Eloquent: On “Ugly,” you explore the beauty industrial standard. You are vocal about insecurity, turning it into a power, something that makes us unique. As a model and performer, are you noticing that the “typical beauty standard” is on its way out, or is it still present in the industry? 

RJ: No, the unrealistic damaging beauty standards are still very much alive, with people constantly reconfiguring to fit into them. Who has their real faces and bodies anymore? 

Eloquent: How has the music industry changed to accommodate women, if at all, in your opinion? Secondly, what challenges are still present?

RJ: Women have been more vocal about who they are, brave enough to stand up for themselves, strong enough to be themselves and clear about what their voices are and how they want to be presented; so the industry had no choice but to comply. There are changes but still a long way to go. It’s still thought of as a male-dominated field with disparities to reflect that and we suffer because of this. But given what is currently happening, I’m optimistic that it won’t be that way for long. With that said, big ups to all women beasting in this bitch with full ownership of themselves and their businesses within this industry, women who are ferociously aggressive, revolutionary, rebellious, tough as nails, dominant and sexy. 

Eloquent: What would your advice be to young women, especially young women rappers, who find early on in their careers that they are being pressured to act, sing, rap, or present themselves in a particular way?

RJ: Present yourself ONLY how you want to be presented. NEVER compromise and only do it the way that’s true to who you are. So if you want to be overt and sexual, be that. If you want to be an activist, be that. There is a place for Cardi B, Lana Del Rey, Lauryn Hill, Big Freeda, Adele, Kiarra Sheard, Billie Eillish, Lizzo, Beyoncé, Coi Leray. Just be however you want to be as long as it’s true to who you are. 

Eloquent: How do you handle writer’s block or a creative slump? 

RJ: I either push through the resistance (which always gets me magical results) or I step back from it, breathe and take a break, then have a go at it again. 

Eloquent: “Hurt” is a haunting track. You talk about getting through the hurt to achieve greatness or a better life. It’s almost another way of explaining a creative’s path, and how it’s never about the destination, but the journey to get there. Is this an accurate interpretation of the track?

RJ: I welcome that interpretation too, and that’s the interesting part about art…is that it opens up for many interpretations. There’s a lot that has hurt me immensely on this journey and this song is in a way my cathartic release of such, but more particularly relationship-based hurt. When I wrote “Hurt” it was a way for myself and women alike to address pain and bring closure without being shamed, gaslighted, or made to feel invalid by people who’ve hurt us…who are narcissistic, lack emotional intelligence, and refuse to be held accountable. It’s an outlet for pain, and motivation to move on from it. 

Eloquent: In an Instagram video you posted, you said, “We (women) spend so much time fighting to be who we are, and not evolving.” As art is one of few safe spaces for women to truly express who they are, I want to ask, do you feel like you’ve evolved on this album as both a performer and a woman in general?

RJ: For sure. Art has always been a tool that has aided in the evolution of not just the artist themselves but the world in general through cultural and creative expressions. I certainly evolved more after making this album creatively and mentally, especially from discussions I had through IgnoRANT. There’s more understanding, empathy, growth and my moral compass is more guided. 

Standard
Features

INTERVIEW: LHĒON and Her Wings of Neo-Soul

LHĒON is a Neo-Soul singer from Melbourne, Australia who floats like a butterfly and sings like a bee: her May release, Full Disclosure Pt. II, is anything but boring. The EP is her follow-up to Pt. I, released in March. Eloquent Mag asked the singer about the project in full, her inspirations, and more below:

Q: Sonically, what were you going for on Full Disclosure Pt. II? Love the musical embellishments and rich tones in the instrumentation so much!

A: Thank you so much! I believe in this song’s first incarnations, it was more of a ballad and at some point also a rock vibe! When my producer Lee started re-working it for my project, he knew that it would work really well if we put that Motown drive, and spin to it. The grittiness of the drums as well as the vocals. With some really rhythmic horns and the bold organ sound…since I absolutely live for the old-school Soul music from the 60s, it was a match MADE.

Q: How do you think Full Disclosure Pt. I compares to Pt. II artistically/sonically?

A: Pt I has a modern flair, neo-soul, R&B with jazz and electronic twists, a concoction of all those genres with a pop flow. Pt. I was looking forward to my newer influences. I was able to experiment a lot with the harmonics by bringing together genres that might not necessarily be meshing together naturally and making them do that. Pt II is more “looking back” and paying homage to the music I grew up on, the old school Soul and Motown with big horn parts, heavy driving drums and infectious hooks. I got to really spread my wings within my voice and my producer pushed me, in a good way, to really go for it with these songs, no holding back and baring it all.

Q: What was the inspiration behind the track “I Hate The Way That I Love You” on Pt. II and what was recording the track like for you?

A: A relationship gone wrong. Where you put all of yourself yet getting little to nothing back. You’re committing fully because you love this person with every inch of your being but they are not capable of loving you back. Somehow you can’t leave, although you know that’s what you probably should be doing. It was incredibly cathartic recording this song because I had to channel sadness and anger I hadn’t done previously. It was one of the first times I felt I completely let it all go and just went for it…and in the last couple of choruses, I think you hear the actual desperation I felt, because the story and the lyrics really got to me. 

Q: Who are your musical influences?

A: This is always hard to answer since it’s ever-evolving for me! Here are some of them: Aretha Franklin, Jill Scott, Joss Stone, Adele, Emily King, Sara Bareilles, NAO, Emeli Sandé, Frank Ocean, Eryn Allen Kane, BANKS, Melody Gardot and more!

Q: Any up-and-coming bands or singer-songwriters you love right now?

A: You should definitely check out SKŸE, he has such a beautiful way of expressing himself with his voice, lyricism and melodies. I’m in awe of him. I also think you should check out Grace May is another beautiful artists. Very soulful and warmth, when I listen to her songs I feel almost embraced. Lastly, check out Cosima Olu. She is from Sweden. I’m always excited to rep great musicians from my home country. She creates music that’s so so fresh and incredibly unique. I’m mesmerized by her voice and songs, and she produces a lot of it (if not all of it) herself! 

Listen to Full Disclosure Pt. II now and tell us what you think in the comments:

Standard