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Jovan Landry Uses Music As A Catalyst For Change

Written by on July 5, 2023

Chicago multidisciplinary artist Jovan Landry is back from a nine-month hiatus with a new single and several upcoming performances.

Self-described as “One-third filmmaker, one-third photographer, one-third emcee,” from a young age Jovan Landry has planted seeds in many avenues of creativity. The multi-talent has always been intrigued by art, but got her start as a creative in high school. 

“I took digital photography and broadcast news classes, stage crew after school, and my cousin introduced me to beat-making right around the same time,” Landry recalled.

Jovan Landry by Alex Hazel Studios, courtesy of the artist.

Since 2015, Landry has moved through different parts of Chicago and Minnesota, currently residing on Chicago’s South Side. Landry still sees herself as an “underdog” even as she gains more recognition for her work — explaining she feels she could be further along in her career if she chose to pursue commercial “success” instead of staying true to herself and her journey.

In 2019, Landry released her 11-track album Synergy — working with an all-female team of producers, artists, graphic design artists and engineers. She received a grant from WeWork to complete the album. 

“I knew how important it would be to Chicago and hip-hop culture,” she stressed. “We have such an abundant amount of artists here that I thought it would be possible to work together on an album.”

Landry also exercises her filmmaking skills on all her social media platforms. Her YouTube covers many different aspects of her life, from her loc journey to her series #AskJovan where she addresses questions including “When Did You Fall In Love With Hip-Hop?”

After her latest single “New Beginning” was featured on Vocalo’s “In Rotation” playlist for June, Jovan Landry virtually sat down with Vocalo to discuss her creative process and take listeners behind the scenes of her hard work.

Jovan Landry has multiple performances scheduled around Chicago throughout July, and plans to release her EP Intellectual Frequencies on July 31. More information can be found on her Instagram

Tell us about how you got your start as an artist! 

I’ve always been an artist since I was a child, from drawing and being intrigued with the home video camera, but it wasn’t until my junior year in high school that the multidisciplinary seed was planted. I took digital photography and broadcast news classes, stage crew after school, and my cousin introduced me to beat-making right around the same time! I also had a YouTube channel where I recorded vlogs on my life and loc journey, where I learned video editing and getting comfortable talking to an audience via camera. That is when I knew I wanted to be an artist as a profession.

Where did the name Jovan Landry come from? 

Jovan Landry is my birth name given to me by my mother and father. The spelling of my name Jovan came from the “Jovan Musk” cologne.

Are you from Chicago originally? If not, when did you move here? If so, where in the city did you grow up and where do you live now (if you feel comfortable sharing)? 

I would consider Chicago being the place where I am from, because I lived here the longest. However, I was born in San Jose, California, and spent my formative years between the Minnesota burbs and South Suburbs of Chicago. I’m currently on Chicago’s South Side.

Jovan Landry by Michael Zakkben, courtesy of the artist.

Do you feel being based in Chicago has influenced your sound at all? Please elaborate

Yes and no. Something that I think about constantly is how, though I have lived in Chicago the majority of my life, I am not from this city because I come from all over. Yet, when I lived in Minnesota, I listened to artists like Kanye West, Common, Twista and Shawnna, and I resonated with them because they are from a place where I have roots. I saw myself in them, and they influenced my energy and delivery of how I perform.

What artist’s most influence you and your rhyme scheme?

My hip-hop family tree and origins consist of Eve, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, Busta Rhymes, Missy, Da Brat, Common and Shawnna. These days, I’m inspired by Saba, Joey Bada$$, J.I.D, Little Brother and Tyler, the Creator.

How do you conduct your lyrical breakdowns?

Inspired by the online platform Genius and its lyrical breakdowns, I like to break up the lyrics into sections and dissect them from there. I love being able to break down my lyrics because many people may be able to catch the bars or the rhyme schemes, but not many would know why you wrote what you wrote. So my goal is to continue to create that kind of content for my listeners so that my words can further soak in. I recently did one for my single “New Beginning.”

Why is it important to you that you have an all-women-produced rap album? 

Synergy, my album that was entirely created by women or fem artists based out of Chicago, was important to me because I knew how important it would be to Chicago and hip-hop culture. We have such an abundant amount of artists here that I thought it would be possible to work together on an album. I received a $36,000 grant from WeWork to make it happen, and with me having a background in film, photography, and music, I had a network of people that I wanted to share that big opportunity with. 

Jovan Landry by Golden LYT Photography, courtesy of the artist.

What does it feel like to be recognized and celebrated for your music? 

I feel that it’s long overdue. I’ve been grinding as an artist consistently since 2015. At times I feel like I am the underdog amongst my peers, yet at the same time I know folks are aware of who I am. When I say underdog, I mean that I could be so much further along in my career, but because I don’t follow the typical mold that I may not be as recognized. Again, everyone’s journey to “success” is subjective and it is our own. It feels that the hard work is paying off and I’m finally able to see the fruits of my labor.

The music video for “New Beginning” is so colorful! Is this intentional? 

It was definitely intentional for this video to be colorful. However, originally I only wanted to highlight certain colors. When I was in post-production editing the video, the videographer who shot the video, Brizzy Danks, gave me the idea to change the colors throughout the video. The song is also very animated and colorful, so it was only right to match that feel. I talk more about the behind-the-making process of the “New Beginning” on YouTube! 

What does your process for music videos look like? 

Particularly with my own music videos, I have visions as I’m listening to the music. Based on that vision, I look for locations, call upon one of my videographer friends, and have them shoot. Then I take care of the post-production of the video. I’m someone that has a vision, but I am also open-minded about ideas from the collaborators of my videos.

You have a lot of different creative endeavors. How do you balance all of the hats you wear? 

It can be both a blessing and a curse to have a plethora of talent. It’s challenging, but also rewarding. Sometimes I am like a chicken with its head cut off, always in go mode. I do it out of survival, but I also do it because I love it. Anytime that I have a moment of stillness, I take it in. I had to recognize that I don’t need to fill up every downtime, even if it’s activities that have nothing to do with work. I have to be able to take time for myself.

What does self-expression mean to you? What form of artistic expression do you feel is easiest to express yourself? 

Self-expression is pretty self-explanatory, but it’s what you and only you want to exert from what’s internal into the external. Through the different art forms that I have, music is the best way that I can self-express. When I work as a photographer or a videographer, I am typically working for someone else to achieve their vision. But as a performer and writer, I could truly speak up from behind the camera and share my story. Through my video series Ask Jovan, I allow the viewers to ask me questions and I can answer them through the expression of my voice.

Are there any artists you see yourself working with in the future? 

From the local to the indie, and to the mainstream sphere, I can see myself working with Add-2, LeftJones, SoloSam, Kayo Southside, Tyler, the Creator, Oddisee, Recoechi, Saba, Joey Bada$$, Rapsody, Manneseh, Family Junket, Sahrya J, D Smoke, LaRussel, King Los, Missy Elliott… And the list goes on.

Jovan Landry by Yari Ivette, courtesy of the artist.

What is your dream DJ gig? 

Now let’s be clear here, I don’t consider myself a DJ — not yet, at least — though I do have a turntable. I could see myself doing a set with mashups, it could be my acapella over instrumentals and songs from other artists, doing a beat set where I showcase my productions, or doing a small intimate set for gallery openings. I have an eclectic taste and sound, so I don’t have the desire to do clubs or festivals where you have to have more of a commercial palate of sound. 

Is anything else coming up that fans should know about? 

I’m happy to release my EP Intellectual Frequencies on Monday, July 31! Blurb about Intellectual Frequencies: With her new EP Intellectual Frequencies, Landry explores an array of themes and sonics, encompassing the embrace of new journeys, the creation of personal opportunities, the navigation of breakups, the celebration of self-worth, the importance of personal boundaries, and the confrontation of obsessive stalkers. Jovan presents a six-track album that showcases her full involvement in every aspect, from production and mixing to recording and writing. The project’s title was coined by her peer, Emon Fowler, the title Intellectual Frequencies embraces Landry as “intellectual,” via her lyrical prowess, and “frequencies” represents both a vibe and the essence of sound, highlighting the intricate patterns of vibrations that form sound waves.

After a nine-month hiatus, I will be performing all around Chicago throughout the month of July, at Bae-Steal Day on July 7, Soul Refresh on July 22 and Wicker Park Fest on July 29. 

Keep up with Jovan Landry on Twitter and Instagram

Interview and written introduction by Imani Warren

Answers edited for length and clarity by Morgan Ciocca

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