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The Continuous Evolution of JAHKOY

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Though I didn’t get to meet him in person, from talking to R&B singer JAHKOY, it’s clear that he makes a very strong impression.

“I’m still not the artist that I’m going to be, in the next 5 years,” the Canadian artist said to me, in a phone interview conducted recently, and if there’s one major takeaway I got from talking to him, it’s that he is a motivated guy, always looking to expose himself to new ideas.

Jahkoy Palmer grew up in Toronto, Canada, but now resides in Los Angeles, and his route to the City of Angels is an interesting story.  He first moved to Atlanta, a city he described as vibrant and thriving.  Atlanta is a big place for R&B and rap right now, with artists like Lil Yachty leading the way for the scene, and it was clear that his time there was influential on his artistry.

“It was cool to see the way things operate and people connect” in an urban environment, he told me.  However, JAHKOY’s time in Atlanta would turn out to be limited.  “I wasn’t finding what I was looking for,” he said, and so he packed his bags for Los Angeles.  Having very few connections in a city where connections are everything, he wound up sleeping on his friend’s couch.  However, this was only temporary for the singer, and he quickly grew to love LA; “I’ve found my heaven,” he told me, echoing his latest single, a ScHoolboy Q-featuring slow jam called “California Heaven”.

Indeed, LA has been good to JAHKOY.  Since moving earlier this year, the singer released his debut EP, Foreign Waters, through Def Jam Recordings.  Signing with Def Jam is a major step for any artist, as its roster boasts some of the biggest names in pop right now, including Kanye West, Justin Beiber, and Jeremih, who helped produce Foreign Water, along with Boy Wonda and Rico Love.  For a brand new artist, working with such big-name producers could be intimidating; however, Jahkoy seems rather unfazed by the experience.  He merely notes that it’s nice “not using SoundCloud beats anymore.”

Even though he’s now a rising star in one of the biggest American centers of music, JAHKOY hasn’t forgotten where he comes from.  I asked him about his experience growing up in Toronto, and he immediately got into how different the music scene is in Canada.  “The approach to music is different,” he said, pointing out that dancehall music, which has recently entered American mainstream conscious through the genre known as “tropical house”, has long been an influence on many Canadian artists.  One notable example of the influence of dancehall on a Canadian artist is the #1 hit “One Dance” by one of JAHKOY’s best-known contemporaries, Drake.

Although there are certainly some similarities between the two singers, JAHKOY has managed to carve out a niche in the R&B scene.  His silky-smooth vocals drift over every beat on Foreign Water effortlessly, and it’s immediately clear to a listener that this 22-year old is going to be big.  If this is the first you’ve heard of JAHKOY, it certainly won’t be the last.

Foreign Water is out now on Def Jam Recordings.

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-John Morse

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Track review: JAHKOY – “Odd Future”

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Sometimes, listening to contemporary R&B can be an exhaustive series of tracing the influence of one artist’s sound back to the work of another artist. In a world of standouts like FKA twigs, The Weeknd, Miguel, Jeremih, Drake, and more, it can be easy to forget few artists start out with a definable sound that sets them apart from comparable artists. Predictably enough, this is the case with Toronto upstart JAHKOY, whose new track, “Odd Future,” debuted over the weekend over at Apple Music on OVOSOUND Radio. 

This 5-minute ballad is a two-parter, beginning as a solemn, depressed R&B cut and nicely transitioning into an impassioned hip-hop verse. I really enjoy the production on this track. It’s got an atmospheric vibe that takes me back to some of Clams Casino’s early music, and it nicely fits to JAHKOY’s clean vocals as well as his rapped verse.

People who are familiar with Drake won’t be surprised or necessarily enthused by “Odd Future,” a song that is more sonically exciting than lyrically creative. There’s a mention of preferring the turn-up to sobriety, a lamentably short relationship, and the dangers of letting one’s personal struggle impede their success. 

JAHKOY seems intent on turning over a new leaf with this song, but unfortunately it doesn’t sound like it. There’s nothing about this track that really sticks with me, and I find JAHKOY’s vocal performance to be technically adequate but mostly drab. People who get easily caught up in trends may find something about this song worth loving the same way people tend to flock to fellow Canadian copy-Drakes Bryson Tiller and Tory Lanez. JAHKOY is intent on cashing in on this sound. It might work with some, but until he focuses his energy on memorable tunes, a stronger presence on the track, and letting the mainstream world know why we should be embracing him, JAHKOY won’t be ascending to Drake status any time soon.

Check it out right here, on Soundcloud! 

Jakob Ross is Rainy Dawg Radio’s 2015-2016 Music Director.

Check out more music and news from Rainy Dawg Radio @ RainyDawg.org!