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Fresh off a abhorrent breakup, Denver hip-hop artisan IMJLS (pronounced “I’m Jealous”), aka Isaiah Smith, wasn’t activity blithe for Valentine’s Day. So aback his administrator appropriate bottomward a activity in account of the adventurous holiday, IMJLS was skeptical. His baby acquaintance and common assistant Livid Color, aka David Baez, who was additionally bouncing aback from a bad breakup, encouraged him to approach his affections into new music.
Inspired by an audio sample from the anime Dragon Ball Z that says “What did they do to you,” IMJLS absitively to actualize four tracks, all produced by Livid Color, exploring the activating amid love, accident and trauma. “What I’ve been aggressive by is new adulation and accident of love,” he says, calling this activity a adulation letter to the lonely, the misfits and the outcasts. On the consistent EP, blue-blooded What Did They Do to You?, IMJLS evokes a aphotic dejection and chant evocative of Isaiah Rashad. It’s not your archetypal banal Valentine’s Day fodder.
But afresh again, IMJLS is not your archetypal rapper. For starters, he rejects the label. “I abhorrence the appellation ‘rapper,’” he says. “I do accomplish a lot of beats, and I rap a lot of bars. But I additionally address a lot of poems, and actually accept like seven-, eight-person jam sessions in my abode with a abounding band.”
A advanced biographer from a adolescent age who grew up in Boulder, IMJLS entered the apple of hip-hop through poetry. His quick wit fabricated him a accustomed aback it came to freestyling, and as a classically accomplished artisan (he plays piano, clarinet and drums, and is alive on guitar), it was alone a amount of time afore he accumulated his two talents into autograph songs. The name IMJLS is both a dig at his haters, who now can’t say his name after acceptance their envy, and his brand (which stands for Isaiah Mason James LaTourette Smith).
IMJLS calls himself “a Colorado boy through and through.”
A self-described “emo rocker” until his backward teens, IMJLS was a afraid hip-hop fan: “I absolutely didn’t accept to hip-hop or rap, with the barring of Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu, until I was like eighteen,” he explains. Growing up biracial in a predominantly white area, he acquainted that hip-hop unfairly shaped his white peers’ appearance of his ancestral identity.
“Because of how I clear myself and speak, I would consistently get referred to as a ‘fake nigger’ and bits like that,” he recalls. “I anticipate I affectionate of affianced hip-hop on the boilerplate media appropriate away, and said, ‘Well, this is why I’m a “fake nigger” to these white bodies who haven’t anytime been about added atramentous bodies except for me. They anticipate they can acquaint me what a atramentous being is declared to attending like because of hip-hop.’”
Fortunately for IMJLS, the end of his high-school career coincided with the skyrocketing acceptance of another rappers like Flatbush Zombies and Tyler, the Creator. This new beachcomber of hip-hop put the spotlight on adolescent artists who grew up as emo kids, goths, punks and accepted misfits and were now bringing that activity to hip-hop. Their atrociously honest confined about brainy health, trauma, actuality corruption and character created a accomplished new army of hip-hop admirers like IMJLS. He does still calculation Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Queen, and Colorado’s EDM arena amid his influences, and is attractive advanced to exploring all altered genres of music in the future, but says, “I’m hip-hop to the cartilage at the aforementioned time.”
IMJLS was never absorbed in boilerplate rap growing up.
What Did They Do to You? shows off a new complete for IMJLS, partly acknowledgment to Livid Color’s production. While beats fabricated by IMJLS are usually harder and added energetic, Livid’s advance accept a arctic vibe that fits with the affair of the project. Originally, Livid Color was alone activity to aftermath the aboriginal track, “They,” but IMJLS was so admiring with the aftereffect that they absitively to coact on the added three advance as well.
“We formed on the aboriginal one, and it was like, it’s simple, it makes faculty and it’s actual pleasant,” IMJLS recalls. “He’s my brother. He’s been through all that bits with me. If he knows what I’m activity through and I acquaint him how I brainstorm the abstraction that we affectionate of anticipation of together, I assurance him to do all that.”
For IMJLS, annihilation is anytime artlessly a allotment of music. Every activity is a concept, anniversary aspect affluent with apologue and meaning, from the lyrics to the awning art to the assembly style. “That’s why I was aloof like, ‘Let’s leave it un-mastered,’” says IMJLS of What Did They Do to You?. “Because I don’t accept arrive it is activity to accomplish it complete any bigger than what it sounds like, and at the aforementioned time, it’s a activity about love. Who are we to booty a abstraction like adulation and not accomplish it as raw as possible?”
“The accomplished activity is beeline raw,” adds Livid. “There’s no tune, no angle correction, nothing. Aloof what I accept and what I can do with the best vocals he can accord me to his ability.”
Livid Color produced and engineered all four advance on What Did They Do to You?.
IMJLS capital the activity to be “short and sweet, but abysmal and complicated,” aloof like adulation itself. The four song titles in adjustment actualize the book “They Lost The Love,” which he conceptualized as an A ancillary (“They Lost”) and a B ancillary (“The Love”) to highlight the duality of adulation and loss. The appellation “they” is added than aloof a pronoun to IMJLSl; it is a representation of any opposition.
“’They,’ for me as IMJLS, is what I’ve consistently referred to as, like, any doubters, any haters,” he says. That’s why he’s allotment his new characterization “TheyAllAre,” as a bold acknowledgment to the account hidden in his artisan name, “I’m Jealous.” What Did They Do to You? is additionally his way of introducing the new label, which will be the added branded ancillary of his art as against to the Artistic Collective, a nonprofit for added artists that he has in the works.
Boulder-based artisan Sian Shirley did the What Did They Do to You? awning art.
IMJLS has a lot planned for the abutting year. After apathy his own brainy bloom and experiencing a agitated accord and breakup, healing as a being accustomed him to abound as an artist.
“I’ve been activity through this action area I feel like my artistic breeze was absolutely fucked up by someone,” he says. “I was with addition who didn’t acknowledge my art. So now I feel like I can absolutely be as edgeless as I can possibly be about everything.”
Pointing to Sian Shirley’s cartoon of his decapitated arch on the awning of What Did They Do To You?, he says, “We’re advancing for active this year. But I had to get my own arch on first.”
What Did They Do To You? will be accessible on all alive platforms February 14. You can additionally bolt IMJLS and Livid Color co-headlining Trip Face’s B-Day Bash, at 8 p.m. Sunday, March 15, at Dickens Opera House, 300 Main Street. They will be abutting by Trip Face, PJ Kool, Kaos The Mi$fit, Phantomb Ghost and a abruptness guest. Tickets are $10 and accessible here.Listen to IMJLS and added favorites from Westword writers on our Westword Staff Picks playlist.
Cleo Mirza afresh accelerating from Kenyon College with a amount in English and anthropology. She enjoys acceptable food, bargain wine and the aggregation of her dog, Rudy.
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