"Time Dictates Everything": A Guest Editorial by Chicago MC Ajani Jones

"I just turned 25 and I’ve always been worried about that day. Am I old too for this? Do I have time to affect this generation?"
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Ajani Jones, 2019

Since the last time we spoke, life has been a whirlwind. My experience as a creator has always taken place within a very isolated and vulnerable space. My proper introduction to the DJBooth community was just after the release of my debut EP, Cocoons. Working on that EP was easy because I was able to give a part of myself and let my message seep through into my art.

Cocoons is an EP in the traditional sense in that it is the predecessor to a bigger project. That larger project is my debut album, Dragonfly, releasing later this year. I came up with the concept for these connected projects and my evolution while I was at Lake Michigan in August 2017. I saw a bunch of dragonflies flying around, and to me, they embodied freedom. They also embodied change and nature’s need for progress. At this time, I felt like I was in a cocoon, and I was ready to shed that cocoon for progression in my life and music. Hence the title.

After releasing Cocoons in March of 2018, I began to put the finishing touches on Dragonfly. Since joining Chicago-based independent label Closed Sessions, I’ve been able to work at SoundScape Studios. It’s a really big studio with red walls, a large live room, and it is a sharp contrast from my usual setting: small, pitch black rooms with a beat on loop for hours.

At times, being alone in that big studio made it feel isolated, and I continuously fought that feeling of isolation. Sometimes, I would invite 10 people to the studio just so I could feel some kind of energy.

In addition to pursuing music full-time, I also work at a tech company, and most days I hardly speak to a soul. That isolation has made me a lot more wanting of others as positive influences in my space. The entire process of writing and recording new music, both for Dragonfly and my newly-released ONE PUNCH EP, is a culmination of my tendency to fluctuate between feeling insecure and feeling powerful at different times of my day and different days of the week. It is something that many people deal with, and I tried to place those emotions into my music.

While crafting ONE PUNCH, I felt the monotony of the 9-to-5 lifestyle. It became melancholy for me, and that routine left my creativity very low. The long hours, the travel, and then I'd get home and the day is over. Creativity isn’t at an all-time high when you’re tired. It becomes so discouraging. It was a dark time. But that dark energy and wanting to break out is reflected in the music that ended up on this project. You can hear it. You can also hear the emotion and worry that are tied to my uncle recently being released from prison. Both of his older brothers were murdered years ago, a tragedy that has had an impact on my entire family.

ONE PUNCH, as well as Dragonfly (coming soon!), encompass my life over the last two years; seeing my little homies in the street and knowing they don’t have real goals they feel they can achieve. I also carry the burden of my 11-year-old brother. I know his growth can possibly be stunted as a result. I am an example for him, and I feel the pressure to evolve, to show him that evolution is not just necessary, but possible.

My focus is tapping into the essence of growth and showing the world who I am, and why my people’s voice is the most sought out.

I have a song on Cocoons called “Bloom,” which emphasizes that focus: “I spit it for the people that’s on EBT, and to them niggas hating get a DDT.”

My mission statement has always been to create a safe haven for young creators, and other humans who feel like they don’t have a voice. I see people silence their passion, even though it is that passion that will liberate them. They don't realize that denying or ignoring our own powers can be a greater crime than any outside force can inflict upon us.

The theme of this period of my life (and my music) revolves around time. Time dictates everything. I just turned 25 and I’ve always been worried about that day. Am I old too for this? Do I have time to affect this generation? I’ve long suffered from depression and self-deprecation, but within this TIME, I’ve learned to let go of my self-loathing.

What helped me the most was learning how to manifest everything in my life. This achievement was only possible after I read the book The Law of Attraction. I recommend every artist read it. Written by Michael Losier, the book stresses the power that lies in the combination of visualization, intent, and execution. These things work in unison to shift energy into our lives and lead us where we subconsciously want to be. This all started from the people I had around me.

My friends, especially, played a big role in that process and lifted me up with their talents and energy. Banksthegenius, Boathouse (who produced all of ONE PUNCH), and Blookah each came through with their unique styles and supplied the inspiration for me to create my best music. I especially can’t thank Banks enough for helping me get to this point in my career. He worked with me a lot during Cocoons and helped break down some creative doors for me. I was singing more and enacting my role as an MC. (Sidenote: there are still MCs out here and I am one. And I hope you find that immediately evident as soon as you hit play on this EP.)

As time flies, I continue to search for the knowledge that I see and hear from my favorite artists like Bob Marley and Lupe Fiasco. The ability to affect other’s lives in such a way as to affect change in their mindset is the metamorphosis of my life cycle. It is my version of how sporadic and free a dragonfly cuts through the air. Through this representation of life, I’ve not only burst from my cocoon, but I’ve become much more than a free-living creature. I’ve become Ajani. 

ONE PUNCH is now available for stream and digital purchase.

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