Hailing from Wichita, Kansas, J Raheem is using art and music to materialise thought into action. J began experimenting with sound and poetry almost four years ago from the seclusions of his hometown in the quiet comfort of the night. Making music and film began as a way for J to speak the colours that paintings could not; a way of breaking through shyness and nervousness. This year, J directed and produced ‘ingland vagabond,’ a multimedia short and audio collage layering together spoken excerpts of personal documentation in a visual, abstract dreamscape. We caught up with J to discuss the process behind the film, the power of observation and J’ s plans for the future.
What was the idea behind naming the project ‘ingland vagabond?’ Was this a concept that came before or after filming?
This project was about a year and a half making and conceptualized over time. It started from a drawing I made of myself, and a longing to leave kansas after I got a taste of seizing the right opportunities at the right time. The name emerged around the time I started the project and almost says itself in the film, and what it means. It’s sort of riddle-esque. The ‘as is’ part came after, because the project had been sitting untouched for a while. I had a few demos and was waiting on files – then one day I just compiled these all together to make an audio-collage. That’s when I knew it was complete.
How does observation and watching the world play into your creative process?
I do look at things as always moving. Even before venturing into spaces by myself, I don’t form a solid idea about things before getting there. A person; something that can adjust, improve and grow. People are a compilation of circumstantial or situational adaptations, coping mechanisms, ideas and preferences formed. We can remove all of these things just as fast as we can build them. A place you’re in – you can move to another. A mental space can have so many things piled up or arranged. But you can clear that space. It’s like a forward moving view that I may have always had but didn’t (or may not) have fully grasped yet.
There is a stream of consciousness element to the film in the visuals and spoken word – what influenced this fluidity in style?
The spoken piece in the first segment of the project was a voice memo on my phone. I was 19 years old and at my mom’s house (it was after I’d come back to Kansas from Philly for the first time), and I wanted to leave. I had this intense urge to run and be liberated from that tight room which felt, paradoxically, like an overwhelming about of space. That heavy quietness. I wanted to run from feeling like this weird thing that didn’t fit in, in a place where actually everythingwas weird except me. I stood in the front yard and started talking to myself and recorded it. I didn’t write or pre-meditate it, I just said it. That’s kind of how my things are. I crack my head open and spill it out by accident then take a step back and look at it afterwards, like “oh.”
Which part of the film was the most enjoyable for you to film and why?
I think the purple portion was my favourite part to film. I worked on most of the film in Kansas (around the time when I recorded the spoken piece); filming, making the outfit and props, editing etc. After an intense trip away from Kansas, I made the choice to return as I had a lot of reflecting to do. While I hid away and didn’t talk to anyone, it was then that I filmed the purple scene. I feel like I was in a much different mental space from the red scene. It made sense. I didn’t immediately release it, though. It wasn’t until about another eight months, after moving to LA for a bit that I released it. In that eight months I was in Kansas, though, that’s where I was to deal with those empty, comfortable, dreaded, and cluttered spaces I thought I had moved forward from. Facing myself and very deep mental issues, it occurred to me that place was never really the issue. Kansas is actually fine, it’s a nice, cute place. It’s just not where I wanted to be. Anyway, in that time is when the project ‘soft blue; demos’ had came about. That’s a follow up to ‘ingland vagabond’
What would you like to see more of in music today?
You know, this may sound predictable but I’d like more of my work, personally. There was a point where I was hopelessly bored looking for music to listen to after binging the same playlists. I realised the stuff I wanted to make was what I really needed because nothing else was doing it for me. That’s what spurred me on to actually act on my thoughts. I’m interested in the fact that there’s a growing space of artists who say, do and make things as they please. I’d like for listeners to be more willing to let music make them think.
What can we expect to see from you this year? Are you currently working on any other projects?
So I did just release ‘soft blue; demos’ following up ‘ingland vagabond’. That’s another set of ‘unfinished’ demos along with footage that hadn’t been edited and just in a vault. Now that those are out, I can say those projects have been hinting at something else. The music is actually sound tracking a full film. I may or may not be working on an EP, (my first solely audio-focused project) now that’ll precede it. I’ve already said a lot which makes me feel gross but this body of work delves deeper into stuff in my head, when I was like scrambled eggs inside, self, spiritual things and severe mental work. They’re pieces all to the riddle.You cananticipate a more developed approach to my material, and for me to start implementing my own philosophies in my work.
courtesy J RAHEEM
interview MORNA FRASER
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