Influenced by the original old school hip hop and the current catchy trap instrumentally based new school JoKen seeks to unite both schools of music. Mixing lyricism, catchy melodies and most importantly honest unique self expression in his music JoKen’s ken is boundless. Embodied in his latest self produced and written EP Howard Roark.
From playing congas in elementary school to rapping/singing in his middle school choir, music has played an important role in his life. Although still constantly influenced and inspired by music now he seeks to influence and inspire others. Born in Dominican Republic and raise in New York he seeks to inspire unity not only through different styles but also through different languages and cultures.
Lisa: Hey JoKen! How did it all start for you in the world of music?
JoKen: My first musical experience goes back to 2002. I was lip singing a song from a Spanish singer in a packed auditorium and it was an awesome experience. As far as creating music I have to thank my high school sweetheart for cheating on me. That inspired me to express those emotions through writing and later music.
Lisa: You are Influenced by the original old school hip hop and the current catchy trap. Who are the artists that influence you, from past or present and why?
JoKen: From old school I’d have to say Andre 3000 and Eminem have inspired me most. I love how unique their sound, voice tone and delivery is. Their unique style along with amazing lyricism puts them on a different level. From the new artist I’m a big fan of Young Thug because he’s so boundless. I don’t know anyone who can touch so many flows and melodies within a song.
Lisa: What is your creative process like?
JoKen: My creative process constantly changes. Sometimes I just write poetry to express how I feel at the time and then produce around that. Other times I’ll produce first and then write to it. Sometimes I just freestyle and other times I’ll have a specific idea that I’ll start building from any of the many aspects of a song. There’s no specific structure to my process.
Lisa: I really loved your song “Free”. Can you tell me more about it? What’s it about, and how did you get inspiration to write it?
JoKen: The song free was inspired by the lack of understanding I think criminals get. We don’t look at the root cause and just see the surface so I wanted to speak from the criminals perspective. To remind that good people with good hearts sometimes succumb to crime. Either their environment or life circumstances lead them astray in order to survive in a world that can be very unfair.
Lisa: Do you enjoy recording and production? Where was your last song recorded?
JoKen: I love recording and production. It’s putting the final pieces to the puzzle which goes from yours to belonging to the world. Seeing everything come together is very fulfilling. How people take it doesn’t matter, the creation process is what I love.
Lisa: What is the most trouble you’ve ever gotten into?
JoKen: I’ve always been good at avoiding trouble. Although I’ve almost lost my life a few times most were what I’d like to call trouble from destiny. Maybe almost drowning as a kid for going into a river when i was told not to. Thankfully my uncle was close by and saved my life.
Lisa: What is the best advice you’ve been given?
JoKen: I’ve been given so much great advice throughout my life. But something that has stuck is a quote from Bruce Lee. He said “ Freedom finds man when he is not longer concerned about what impression he’s making or about to make.” Its equivalent to be yourself regardless of the outset. We all seek freedom and peace. I believe that’s how we reach it.
Lisa: If you could change anything about the industry, what would it be?
JoKen: I think the change I would seek in the industry is slowly happening. Artist are gaining more power and control of their music. I think having someone telling an artist what kind of music to make and at what pace to create is debilitating to the art. Then having those same individuals profit most from your expression makes it worst. Everyone has their unique styles and pace. I believe we evolve musically and as a race when individuals are allowed their own path.
Lisa: What are you working on right now?
JoKen: I’m currently working on a Spanish EP. I’m in love with it because it feels like it needs to be sung more than rapped. Thus pushing me to develop my voice in order to give it the feel I envision for it. So I’m working on becoming a great singer with this Spanish EP.
Lisa: What’s next for you?
JoKen: I think next comes performing live. I want to create an entire experience that’s memorable for all involved. So I guess developing the entertainment aspect of an artist. I have an album worth of songs I’ll be releasing monthly leading up to the Spanish EP and a JoKen live show. I’m extremely excited.
Lisa: At the end of the day, what do you hope people take away from your music?
JoKen: To not be ashamed of who we really are and to express that honestly in whatever we choose to do. From our sadness to our joy, from triumphs to “failures”. It’s all what makes us beautiful and i hope in my doing so through my art, I’ll inspire others to do the same. To be ourselves and express that honestly and fully is the greatest gift we can give. It’s the best example we can set for the next generation.