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Jssan Reintroduces Himself

Written by on November 11, 2021

Jssan has been quiet since dropping his first single in 2019, but the Chicago artist plans to return in a big way with his new single “NoNo”.

Ever since he was four years old, Jssan’s been passionate about music. From early days playing drums to learning to sing in a church choir, Jssan has been honing his craft and using music as an expressive outlet his entire life.

His 2019 single, “Okay,” garnered attention, but he’s held off on releasing anything since. In the meantime, Jssan’s multi-year hiatus has allowed him time to grow into his musical identity. He’s been finding his sound, refining his songwriting, studying music promotion and growing his musical network by fostering human connection. All this work is set to culminate in the release of his new single “NoNo”, which has been added to Vocalo’s Poised To Break Through playlist.

Recently, Vocalo chatted with Jssan about his background in music, community influences and what listeners can hope to hear in the future from him.

Photo courtesy of the artist.

You grew up surrounded by people who love music, and you said in your submission to Vocalo this has inspired you to make music since you were four years old. Could you tell us a little bit about how childhood experiences informed your identity as a musician today?

Growing up in the church has always played a huge role in my musical development. Playing the drums has always been my strong suit. When I was younger, I didn’t really see myself as a recording artist or a singer — I always was drawn to the
drums — but one thing that I couldn’t deny is my love for music as a whole. The way the individual instruments came together to make one uniform sound has always been something that I’ve wanted to be a part of.

My mother, who was the lead vocalist [in the church band], would always wake me up in the morning with cold water to make sure that I was at church on time because I was the lead drummer. Eventually, waking up on time was something that came naturally — because when I didn’t, the choir director would make me sing as punishment. At the time, this was excruciatingly embarrassing, especially as the only male vocalist. But in hindsight, it prepared me for the position I am in today. I love singing and expressing myself through music, and without those painfully embarrassing moments, I wouldn’t be here.

Your track “Okay” has racked up over 300,000 plays on Spotify. Why do you think that track has resonated with people so strongly?

To be honest, in the beginning, I spammed the hell out of that record! It’s so funny looking back now, because I’m now aware and currently learning about proper music promotion. I believe a lot of people resonate with “Okay” because it’s a hype song, you listen to it and are instantly pumped. Lots of people tell me that they have even added the song to their workout playlist. It’s amazing that the song has done so well, especially because it was an impulse drop under my previous stage name, “Almighty J-Rock.” People were inboxing me asking me about the single and congratulating me for making a great record. It felt unreal!

Tell us about “NoNo,” your new single dropping Nov. 11.

“NoNo” is the record I chose to reintroduce myself to the music scene. Its message is one that many people, not only from Chicago, but around the world, will be able to relate to. When writing “NoNo,” I reflected on the struggle of coming across authentic people. There were times where it was hard to figure out who had my best interest and who was just waiting for my downfall. “NoNo” is truly a celebratory record about reaching triumphs despite skeptics and people who want to see you fail.

The concept behind “NoNo” played a huge role in my cover art. I choose the concept of Medusa because the symbol represents warding off negativity, especially from those who are around you when you’re most vulnerable and unaware. The Medusa symbol has a specific strength associated with crippling enemies and turning them into “stone.” This strength prevents people from even thinking of double-crossing, that’s what makes the Medusa so symbolic of the “come-up.”

Cover art for Nono, the Nov. 11 project by Jssan.

You posted that you are coming out of a “multi-year hiatus of me going through the process of artist development and quality refinement.” What did that time look like for you, and how did it help you grow as an artist?

Definitely a lot of days and nights in the studio, finding my sound, how I can express myself and show what makes me different. I did tons of research about musical refinement and the steps that it takes to make a quality and breakthrough record. Making connections played a vital role in my music-making journey. Through talking to some very influential people in the music scene, I learned a lot about myself and what I wanted to bring to the table.

Photo courtesy of the artist.

What’s one thing you love about Chicago?

There are many things I love about Chicago, but I would have to say that the culture is something I truly appreciate. Chicago has birthed many musical greats that still are playing a vital role in the musical realm. Chicago culture is something you can’t get from anywhere else, it’s unique and its history shows up in all of its people. I meet people from Chicago every day and it’s like I get to learn about my city all over again through the eyes of whoever I’m speaking to. It’s amazing!

One thing you wish you could change about Chicago?

One thing I wish I could change about Chicago would be the amount of crime and violence that happens on a daily basis in the city. My peers and I have been numb to the violence for a long time, but it’s such an eye-opener once you step outside the city.
We need to do better. Hopefully, in the future, I’ll be fortunate to provide resources like performing arts programs to keep kids off the street, because kids are truly the future.

Do you prefer interacting and collaborating with other local musicians and creators or working alone? Why?

I love collaborating with other musicians. My decision-making when considering a collaboration doesn’t focus solely on clout or how big their name is, it heavily relies on the musicianship and the artist’s vision. I really want to collaborate with individuals who
take their brands seriously and have an entrepreneurial mindset. This is important to me because I like to be surrounded by like-minded individuals, people who think outside the box and are different. Collaboration has always been an influential part of making dope music and visuals, so I would never be closed off to the possibilities of working with some amazing artists.

Who has had the biggest impact on your musical style, and in what ways?

That’s a really hard question. I’m very diverse in my musical selection and in what I listen to. I would have to choose two people: T-Pain and Drake. How T-Pain used autotune was so revolutionary at the time he was breaking into the music scene, and he doesn’t even need to use it because he has an amazing voice. He received a ton of backlash, but today we can see his impact. Almost every record incorporates some form of autotune, and it’s revolutionized how I see music as an artist. It really makes me realize that my potential in music is limitless and that I should trust my intuition in the music-making process. Drake has impacted my musical style through his incorporation of a diverse range of musical styles in even just one record. This has impacted my musical style when incorporating my African and American roots into my music.

Photo courtesy of the artist.

What do you feel sets your sound apart from other artists coming up in the scene?

My musical background is something that is unique and sets me apart from other sounds, especially coming out of the Chicago scene. I’m fortunate enough to have been surrounded by musical talents, such as my mom, siblings and mentors. Being a
Nigerian-American, there is this certain pressure to pursue a more traditional career in America, but I’m fortunate enough for my parents to support my vision and aspirations. I owe most of my unique sound to God, support and my multicultural upbringing. Those things allowed me to experiment with different genres of music and find the sound that best expresses me and my upbringing. My sound is a reflection of what I’ve been through, and I truly believe that my experiences are unique.

What advice would you give to a musician just starting out in Chicago?

To make sure that they have a passion for music. Music, for some people, is a hobby, and for others it’s a career. The journey takes a lot of time and dedication, and they have to be ready to put in the work. Music takes as much time and dedication as going to school or learning a skill … it actually takes 10,000 hours to truly master that skill. At the same time, you want to make sure that the people you surround yourself with are supportive of your craft and patient during your artist development. If the work is put in and the love is there, they will find that a music career is absolutely rewarding.

Aside from making music, what’s your favorite thing to do in your free time?

I love playing basketball, reading books about acquiring new skills that I can use in my everyday life and listening to music. Basketball is definitely at the top of my list, especially growing up in Chicago.

Anything else you’ve been working on and are particularly excited about?

I don’t want to give away too much … my supporters will just have to wait and see! But I will say that lately I’ve been tapping into different genres of music and working with other musicians. I also plan on traveling soon to work on some upcoming releases. I
plan on working with some very influential people. Chicago has another star!

Follow Jssan on Instagram and stream his music on Spotify, and stream Poised To Break Through now below.

Interview edited for length and clarity by Erik Anderson

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