Flipping the script on how UK rappers blow-up, Jevon knows wagwarn. Taken from Notion 82.
Born and raised in Mozart, west London, twenty-four-year-old singer-rapper-producer Jevon does it all. The self-dubbed former “bad kid” relocated to Coventry at the age of 15, after his hell raising antics in London led to his father sending him off to live with his grandparents out in the sticks. All grown up and now a daddy himself, Jevon is quietly subverting the rules of British rap from his Coventry base, crafting what he calls “music for tomorrow, not just today”.
There was a time when rappers from Britain struggled to make it out of their ends. In the limbo of the late 2000s you had two options as an Brit MC: go pop and try to get some of that Tinie Tempah money, or stay underground, living like a star in your ends while practically unknown in the rest of the world. That time—as you may have noticed if you’ve glanced at the charts—is over.
Jevon was properly introduced to the world via his work on Nines’ 2017 album One Foot Out, and as lead producer on last year’s New Gen, XL Recordings’ UK rap compilation. One of three producers across the album, he helped define a new era of British rap in its early 2017 infancy, one that built from grime and everything that had come before but was also apart from it.
Jevon’s distinctive sound is a mash up grime, hip hop, R&B, jazz, reggae and just about anything else he can get his hands on. After scrapping a project’s worth of material, Jevon’s been focused on recording his debut EP, Judas. Part recorded in his grandfather’s homeland of Brazil, the EP features hooks for days, cameleonic production and firmly cements Jevon as one of the worlds most electric new talents.
Hello Jevon! What’s Coventry like as a city to make music in?
I’ve got a studio in Cov, so I just pattern up there, but Cov‘s cool man. It’s helped me get out of the bubble of London sometimes as well because, sometimes what’s popping in London won’t make it up north, so it’s good to see what actually makes it up.
What music were you into growing up?
A lot of garage music. I’ve been around a lot of music, like a lot of reggae, a lot of hip hop, a lot of Latin music, a lot of R&B as well. I felt like garage combined all the elements of fast rap which I enjoyed and R&B. It has the R&B chords and melodies with the rapping as well so I think that’s why I gravitated towards it.
How old were you when you started making music?
I wrote my first lyric when I was about 12, I can’t remember what it was, but I remember I was rapping to Nas’ “Thief’s Theme”. I got suspended from school, and I was at home for like a week, my dad sent me to my room and took my phone and laptop. I was in my room with nothing to do, and I had this Nas CD with the instrumental on there and basically what I’d do is copy Nas’ rhyme pattern and change the words, and I realised I could say that over another instrumental.
When did you first rap in front of other people?
There was one time where my cousins were spitting lyrics over a beat and I jumped in with those, and they looked at me shocked like ‘you can rap?’ Not long after that, I taught myself to produce. I think the first beat I ever made was some Dizzee Rascal style grime shit. It was sick though.
- Jacket Stylist's Own
Did you have any musical role models when you first started out?
I think Pharrell was probably my role model for music; I liked everything he did. He was a big influence on me.
Since releasing “Man of The Hour” you’ve created this really varied but really distinctive sound. How did that develop?
I think I just kept consistent with my melodies, I have certain styles of melodies, and I incorporate them no matter what the genre is. I’m very honest in my music as well; I talk about things that are very personal. It’s all tied together in terms of how I’m feeling. I’ve been Judased, I’ve felt paranoid because of things that happened.
There are a lot of religious references in your work. Is that deliberate or has it just worked out that way?
When I’m making the song, I don’t realise and after I’ve made it it’s like ‘rah’, and I realise. I’m talking about asking for forgiveness. I called the EP Judas because it’s easier for me to harbour this energy and seek revenge, I’ve been Judased, I’ve been snaked, I’ve been all of that stuff, and I feel like it’s me just letting go. I’m asking for forgiveness because I feel like I’ve retaliated and committed sins.
Where do you think people place your style? A few camps are emerging in the UK at the moment, but you’re kind of all across the board…
I just make music that has elements of everything. Like ”‘Redemption” has elements of grime in it because of the aggression that I’m coming with but then it has a softer approach as well with the chords that I do. Then “Judas” has more of an Afro vibe to it. I make music that sounds good to me, and I don’t feel like making songs in genres. Right now, the game is a free for all; there’s no set way. There’s no rules in this thing. Just express yourself.
On the industry side—have people tried grouping you into something they can market more easily?
Yeah, but I pay no attention to that kind of thing because that’s when you become a product. I get it, it has its benefits. If you know you’re limited as an artist and this road suits you and you know that you can feed your family and move them out of the hood then yo, all respect to you. It took me a minute to understand why people were doing music that weren’t that good but why wouldn’t they? I can only support that. But for me, I steer clear of that, anything that blocks my creativity I kind of shut down.
There’s an international aspect to your career with you doing tunes with Japanese singer Utada Hikaru and recording part of your EP in Brazil.
I was lucky because I got to travel the world. London is a very small place, you know? A lot of people don’t see further than London. I try and think outside of the box when I make music and try and not conform to making it for one area.
The tune with Utada Hikaru was random but I thought it was so cool that someone from Japan hit me up. I was in Brazil at the time and I got hit up by my manager, and he sent me the song, which was in Japanese, and I fucked with it. He got them to translate the song, and I spoke to Utada directly, and she was so nice and explained it all. I loved how she was so specific about the scenario, and then my manager told me who she is, she’s like Japanese Adele, I was like ‘what!?’ I’ve been chatting to her normal like ‘what’s Japan saying? I heard the vending machines are sick’, saying bare weird shit to this woman not knowing who she is. The music still translated to me, and I feel like more artists should be open to collaborating with our foreign brothers and sisters.
Your grandad is Brazilian—are there any Brazilian musicians you’ve been inspired by?
There’s loads man. Marcos Valle, I got to work with him. He’s an incredible musician and composer; he’s a master of music. There’s people that understand music and there’s people that really really get it, I look at him and think ‘you’re the ultimate musician’ he’s like my grandad’s age and has been playing for years, he’s like brazil’s Elton John. I could only just admire him. I really like Seu Jorge, Astrud Gilberto… there’s so many.
I really like the new school stuff as well, TropKillaz are really sick, they’re bringing it worldwide, they just did a song with Diplo and shit. I could go on all day. The Baile Funk and the rap music is crazy, MC Bin Laden’s flow and his pocket is ridiculous, I went to the favelas out there and got to really connect with it. It’s street music. It’s got the same energy of like ragga music when dancehall first started. When I went to the favelas I’m looking at it like ‘this is like the hood in Kingston’ so it’s like ‘ok, I get it, I get why people make music like this’.