If you’re looking for hungry deliveries and hounding flows, you’re looking for JAHMED. The upcoming Los Angeles rapper is as technically savvy and masterful as they come. He stretches his voice, bends syllables, and engages the ear with his every word. Signed to Human Re Sources, the twenty-four-year-old leaves very little for us to desire.
“Being a student of hip-hop,” JAHMED begins to tell me over the phone, “I dived into so many artists from Bone Thugs to Ice Cube; then I would go back to Cyprus Hill. These are the influences I’m falling into, and it’s like, ‘Let me try to rap like DJ Quik and then turn around and rap like Cyprus Hill.’”
His upcoming project, THEBOOFMOBILE, is an eight-track effort showcasing JAHMED’s lyrical range and a great sense of humor. From the title to the final moments, THEBOOFMOBILE oozes personality, and JAHMED holds our attention with his incisive raps. I cannot overstate his precision on the mic.
Single “JEEP” is a blustering display of JAHMED at his sharpest. Notes on mortality and baring his teeth brush shoulders with flexes about JAHMED being the man of the city. The vocal range and playfulness he displays on “JEEP” make it a perfect introduction to the rising artist.
“[‘JEEP’] was me not trying to give the listeners a consistent voice,” JAHMED explains. “That’s one of the records—that’s the first song I recorded—where I played with my voice and then [said], ‘Okay, I can do this on all these records.’ By giving the listeners more than one vocal pitch—not too much—it keeps the listeners a little more involved with the record.”
In an era where it feels like everyone wants to be a rapper, JAHMED stands apart because this is not a game to him—hip-hop saved him in every way imaginable. Hip-hop is JAHMED’s past, present, and future.
“I’m willing to deal with whatever comes with this career because of how much love I got for hip-hop,” JAHMED concludes. “These are the things I live for, so I’mma balance whatever I need to balance. I’m a strong believer in challenges and believing that anything is possible. With that in the back of my mind, I believe I can balance anything this game has to offer me. As long as I can breathe, I’mma keep adding to the culture.”
Our conversation, lightly edited for content and clarity, follows below.
DJBooth: When did music first come into your life?
JAHMED: Music first came into my life at birth. I can’t give you a specific time when I encountered music because I fell into it by default. My mom was a huge hip-hop fan. My uncle used to rap. My older brother used to rap; it was something that grew with me my whole life.
When did you decide to start rapping, especially coming from a musical family?
When I was 13, 14, my older brother used to make beats, and I took an interest in it because it was unique to me. The outcome of spending so much time on a song, then you come up with a sound overall… I took interest [in rapping] when I was 14. [My brother] gave me the torch on how to record myself at a young age. I took that and ran with it. I’m here now; once he taught me how to self-record, I never stopped.
So you’ve been rapping for a decade. Have you ever wanted to do something else?
No, because I fell in love with the process. I fell in love with the creativity of always trying to figure out ways to do something different every time I touched the microphone. It was never about me wanting to do something else; I was just more curious about what else I could do in front of that microphone.
How did you find your voice as an artist?
That’s a good question. Just me being a student of hip-hop. I dived into so many artists from Bone Thugs to Ice Cube; then, I would go back to Cyprus Hill. These are the influences I’m falling into, and it’s like, “Let me try to rap like DJ Quik and then turn around and rap like Cyprus Hill.” When I’m a student of hip-hop, I just try to do everything I fell in love with. It’s me studying the game and trying to apply that to my career.
Your style is very hounding and lyrical. How do you ensure you pack in all the right words to every bar without it sounding too heavy?
It’s me not overthinking it because, as a writer, you wanna say the dopest and most clever thing compared to the next artist. But it all boils down to not overthinking it, and just getting straight to the point. Like everything else, the lyrics will come when you just try to stay focused on a specific topic. Once I find that topic, I just naturally do it. I don’t try to give you 10 metaphors in two bars. I just let it come to me and let it flow out the way it’s supposed to.
Did you ever struggle with letting it flow?
Yeah, often. That’s one of my biggest problems. I get in the way of myself. Sometimes I jump the gun and try to do too much, but the best records I ever made—and make—[are] the ones where I don’t get in the way of myself and let whatever comes to mind out on paper or microphone. Those are the best records: the ones where I don’t try to force them.
What’s your favorite word you’ve ever put in a rap?
Mm, favorite word? I like fiat. That’s why I named one of the recent singles “FIAT.” It sounds so basic, but it just stands out to me. The way it rolls off the tongue… I named it “FIAT” because it sounds nice and because it’s something different. Rappers not rapping about fiats.
That tells me a lot because you’re obsessed with the way the words sound in your mouth.
It’s back to creativity; I try to do something different. That came off me not overthinking and trying to do something totally different from the norm. It’s so simple, though, but it’s so different. I just did it my way.
I love the way you play with your voice on “JEEP.” How did you think of stretching your vocal in that way?
[“JEEP”] was me not trying to give the listeners a consistent voice. That’s one of the records—that’s the first song I recorded—where I played with my voice and then [said], “Okay, I can do this on all these records.” By giving the listeners more than one vocal pitch—not too much—it keeps the listeners a little more involved with the record because you not used to the voice. It keeps everybody on their toes about what else I can bring in the next bar, and what sounds different.
As an upcoming artist, it sometimes feels like passion isn’t enough. How do you balance all the demands that come with starting a career in rap?
It goes back to passion. You’ll deal with whatever you need to if you’re passionate. This is something I grew up on. Hip-hop saved me in so many ways: mentally, physically, spiritually. So, I’m willing to deal with whatever comes with this career because of how much love I got for hip-hop. It’s a balance, but you’ll balance whatever you need to if you care. I’m not somebody that just woke up one day and wanted to rap. The fact that I can be in this industry and make waves… These are the things I live for. I’m a firm believer in challenges and believing that anything is possible. With that in the back of my mind, I believe I can balance anything this game has to offer me. As long as I can breathe, I’mma keep adding to the culture.