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JM Blackfriend is an artist, drummer, MC and all around mind of brilliance. You can see the wheels turning in his head long before he utters the first word of a sentence and you’d be hard-pressed to find a more articulate thinker. I became familiar with JM Blackfriend at the first Rap-a-thon and was impressed by his ability to include numerous syllables, words and phrases into one breath of rhyme.
Everything about JM Blackfriend the rapper is tongue in cheek. His uses his rhymes as a method of telling a story but almost plays a trick on the listener. Employing double entendres, metaphors and creative components, Blackfriend will take you to the brink of laughter and parodies of disaster.
His name, even, is a throw to John McClain in the Die Hard series. If McClain were to have a “black friend,” he would be similar to JM Blackfriend. Light on his feet, easily humored and the one you want by your side in a pinch. We kept it Grimey with JM Blackfriend in advance of the release of the Roux Black mixtape and debut his track “Garden Paths,” below.
Who is JM Blackfriend as an artist?
Well, I’m a drummer and a writer first and foremost. When I think about being a writer first and a performer second. Essentially I’m a writing performer who likes to do it in rhyme and who needs to give it his all.
Where do you draw your inspiration to both write and perform?
I draw a lot of inspiration from performances in general and entertainment as an aesthetic. I’m sort of born out of that entertainment aesthetic. My motto is give em a show. I do a lot of stand-up comedy and I used to act but got bored.
So you like to be considered to be different people
I think we all wear masks (“The Mask” I take that idea to its core and drive it past that. If you know we’re all wearing masks, the show becomes how much more about can I make my mask look like me. It shows real life who you are and who you portray. I’m really big into the portrayal of a thing. What I go for as a rapper, bombastic, silly and they prove a lot of points along the way, that’s kind of how I see my lyrics, I don’t’ write them to be easily consumed at once, not to say I don’t want to be accessible.
Like you want them to still be thinking about it after the song is over?
It’s more that I want people to know there’s a reason to listen a second or a third time. With a lot of songs it’s the hook or it’s the beat, I don’t hear as much rewind that and play it back; underground hip-hop is a whole other thing. There’s a depth to the lyrical content I’d like to bring as an artist. Sometimes it’s a little esoteric but I’m ok with that because it seems to be dissatisfaction with what is super popular.
Is this about not wanting to confirm to the typical standards of hip-hop?
If you know you’re writing your music to not confirm to the current standards of popularity those standards are going to define what you can’t do. JM BLACKFRIEND plays around with all those.
What kinds of things inspire you?
Overall I would say revolution, both personal and social and sci-fi. That’s not just a fluke, that’s very much on purpose. I like the idea of invoking different aspects of intelligence and genres. I like the idea of touching on a whole set of references that may not get touched on.
What things influence what you’re rapping about?
All kinds of things from Battle Star Galactica, historical facts and figures to things that aren’t easily rhymed about. I enjoy that challenge. I can rhyme crunk for days. It’s a lot of words and basic approaches. The challenge as an artist is to balance entertainment and education. I have no desire to dumb myself down.
Talk about your creative process.
Structurally when I’m writing a rhyme I’ll repeat it back to myself, if I don’t feel like a couple of silly moments I’ll go back and put something in there like a Fibonacci sequence. I want to hear that I already know I can do it. Consciously when I think I’m finished with a flow I’ll do it out loud slow.
You’ve told me you’re a huge fan of Weird Al Yankovich .
He’s absolutely top five and for me, it’s a three prong thing; he’s the only person who does what he does, appreciate what he does, the only consistent artist to do it and he had a number one album this year. Music and humor are my two favorite things in life and he unabashedly combines those. Finally, he’s just an excellent rapper. Not saying he’s a game changer but he has the ability to write raps and rap as well as 80-90% of the rappers out there. He’s very good at that in parody and his own stuff. Admire any person’s ability to rhyme to song and be funny.
Your song for the Roux Black mixtape series is “Garden Path” which kind of takes us on a wandering trip through rhyme.
A garden path sentence makes you think it’s going one way because of the words but you get to the end it’s completely different. I think it describes my style. It’s like weird internal wordplay. I enjoy if somebody listens to my song because I buried little things inside of it. I was ok with being esoteric. I wanted people to know there was something else. I like feeling like I’m there with the listener and this song is one of two or three songs that I’ve written as an evolution of an artist that I truly feel proud of on every level.
Listen to “Garden Path” below.