Get to know rising artist J Appiah as he shares his brand-new single "Breathe" and chats about his journey so far.
Hackney artist J Appiah has been steadily introducing us to his sound since 2017. Sharing genre-fluid singles, the burgeoning artist refuses to be boxed in, constantly playing with what is possible, melding to the shape of any course he chooses.
Appiah’s brand new single, “Breathe”, features a dark, disjointed beat and vocal harmonies, giving the impression of inner turmoil and unrest. It’s deliberately claustrophobic – we can hear the sonics trying to fragment and split, but Appiah’s smooth vocals hold the beat together.
He explained: “Written out of frustration. We all need to take a chill pill sometimes. ‘Breathe’ is about not allowing all of the noise around you to break you or cause you to lose your identity.”
We caught up with J Appiah to learn more about his journey so far, bucket list goals, and what we can expect from him in the not-too-distant future.
You were a vocalist for most of your musical career, who did you work with and what did you learn from these experiences?
Yeah, I’ve always sung, to be honest, school choirs and then choirs like the London community gospel choir and others. Then I was fortunate enough to work with loads of dope artists and these experiences, besides allowing me to travel to places I’d probably have never seen, continued to open up my tastes in music. All of the artists I worked with in the studio or on tours were so different and not just the lead artists, the other artists, the musicians, the md’s, the tech people. It was good watching people in their element.
How did you realise it was time to step out on your own?
I think I just developed a little more confidence in myself after spending more time with myself.
Lockdown was a catalyst in that sense. I didn’t have the option of going off on tour with another project, I just had this desire to tell my own stories or express myself creatively and with all that time spent alone, plus more life experiences, it felt like a natural progression.
Having worked across a range of genres such as pop, soul and electronic, how did you find your personal artist sound?
I think it was more about going within myself and trying to be authentic with what excited me. I think we all know when we feel excited by something, an idea, a song, whatever.
I have always been drawn to melody and all of these sounds express melody in different ways but it’s all the same it’s about connecting with other humans. Working across all these genres made me realise that genres and boxes are cool, but not the most important thing. What matters is connecting and telling your truth.
Who are some of your biggest influences and inspirations?
Probably some of the people I know. Their stories, my stories too, but they inspire me the most. Good and bad.
Honestly, my inspirations have never come from one genre. I listen to Blur and Radiohead as much as I listen to the soul legends, Isaac Hayes, Roy Ayers, Sam Cooke, etc. I could go on and on. I just love songs.
Your songs are autobiographical, what kind of experiences are you drawing from?
All of them I think in some kind of way. The more I write the more stuff comes up to talk about. So with the new one, Breathe, I was writing about the place somebody can get to in their mind when you feel put in a box, of any sort. When you feel like there’s a lack of opportunity for you or you can’t break through that glass ceiling. Breathe in. I think we can all relate to that feeling.
What’s on your bucket list of goals?
Take my mum to New York.
You’ve got your own record label which you self-release through, 19fify7. What led you to set this up?
I think owning something became important to me but more so building something with friends to create a community of like-minded artists all who have something to say and share. I used to struggle to find many spaces where Black art was celebrated for all its eclecticism and wanted to be a part of that solution.
What’s next for you?
More music more often! Just sharing more visuals and music and more of myself.
Recently I had the chance to get into a larger studio with a live room and 12 musician friends of mine to record some demos written on my guitar during lockdown. It was amazing as I’d always imagined my music being made this way and I’m excited to share some of those songs in the new ye