For Jelani Lateef, hip-hop is nothing short of a passion project. Armed with some serious skills and great production value, Jelani Lateef is set to make waves in 2016 with his unique style of sound:
How long have you been making music for?
‘I’ve been making music now for over a decade. Unfortunately, it took me equally as long to learn the business side, so I’m just now feeling like I’m part of the music scene.
Cold Days and Dark Nights (Official Mixtape) is one impressive album; can you take us through your songwriting process for it?
‘Usually for me it starts with the words. I go through phases where I’m doing nothing but writing verses. Later I start making beats and then I go back through what I’ve written and try to put the right words to the right beat. Occasionally I know exactly what kind of beat I want for a specific song I’ve written and it’s just a matter of putting it together.
Even though your album is Chicago-born, we felt it captured the vibe of some of what we’ve heard come out of California. Are we connecting the dots wrong here, or is there a bit of Cali in your sound?
‘I’m a fan of hip-hop from all regions, but in this particular case I was definitely looking for something that had a West Coast-esque laid-back vibe to it. I hadn’t done anything with that type vibe in previous projects so I thought I’d try it out.
Other than the talented Fiyah Wayne, your album didn’t lean too heavy on guest appearances, which seems rare in the industry these days. Was this a conscious decision to keep it mostly just you and the mic?
‘That was a conscious decision. I listen to a lot of old school hip-hop, and back then they didn’t flood their albums with guest appearances. With Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, EPMD, Ice Cube, etc… when you bought their album you got to hear THEM. Otherwise it might as well be called a compilation.
What’s your favourite song from the album?
‘Dreams is my favourite, but No Fear and In God’s Hands are close second.
At this point in your career, what have been some of your biggest highlights?
‘Starting my own company and releasing my own music is a highlight in itself. Meeting certain artists like Rakim and Common were great moments, too. Having people that I don’t know reach out to me and tell me I’ve inspired them is priceless. To know what I’m doing can have that kind of effect is good feeling.
What are some of your main musical inspirations, and is there any artist you would like to collaborate with in the future?
‘I’m inspired by music from all types of genres, from rock to jazz to soul. The first artist that comes to mind, though, is Nas. I was listening to his whole catalogue last week and to me he’s still at the top as far as lyricism goes.
Putting together an album is a daunting task for anyone: do you have any advice to give other artists looking to make one for themselves?
‘Well, considering we’re in a singles era, I’m not sure how much artists even care about putting together albums, but for those that care I say try to treat the album like a movie. Each song represents a scene and you want each scene to tie into each other. Just try to capture different moods and emotions, and take the listener on a journey.