After a freezing winter that broke low temperature records, Chicago has thawed into a hot summer, which has brought new tension as gun violence threatens the peace in multiple neighborhoods. Today ends another violent summer weekend for Chicago's South Side.
Despite the violence, Warp Records' Jeremiah Jae has just returned to Chicago after a long European tour in support of his dense and refreshing Good Times mixtape that dropped this past April. Jeremiah stays busy, and this particular return to his home city finds him with a heavy workload.
After no fewer than 24 releases at the age of 24, he's set to finish his new LP for Warp, as well as a new Young Black Preachers album titled High Priest for his Black Jungle Squad imprint—not to mention a slew of new remixes and singles, the most recent of which includes Busdriver and Danny Brown.
Photos by Justin Staple and Andreas Brauning
I first met Jeremiah in 2010, around the time Michigan producer SAMIYAM had passed his beat tapes along to Los Angeles producer Flying Lotus, which led to an eventual signing and slew of amazing releases on FlyLo's Brainfeeder Records. Since then we've played shows together, collaborated on music, and put out six music videos and a short film.
This is our seventh music video, which is dedicated and addressed to the hot Chicago summer. It's aptly titled The Heat and co-directed with my Ounce. Films partner Andreas Brauning.
How's Chicago going? You just moved back from Los Angeles.
Yeah I'm living in South Side Chicago, a.k.a. Goonyville.
I said "Goonyville." That's just what I call it. I don't want anyone to know where I am. It's kind of getting crazy. There's a lot of cops out and shit. It's getting hot. I haven't really been going out that much to be honest. I've just been at the house making shit.
What are you working on?
I just did a couple remixes for Killer Mike and El-P, for that Run The Jewels. Hopefully they use it. I'm working on my new album, too, and the Young Black Preachers album. Me and Tre from Young Black Preachers have been working on this record for a year or two. It's the follow up to last year's Gesus album. We're recording at my crib in the South Side pretty much all the time, it's been nice.
It's been about four months since Good Times came out on Warp, can you tell me a little about it?
Yeah, it's a pretty amazing mixtape if I do say so myself. I recommend everybody hear it around the world. It's based off the 1970s sitcom Good Times and uses some of the same themes and lessons. It's kind of about my life growing up in Chicago and also promotes good, positive times. In the show there's a character named J.J., and that's pretty much me. You'll hear it throughout the tape.
It’s a great listen front to back. The reception has been awesome and, judging from the Europe tour, it looks like the sound has made waves overseas. How did this track, "The Heat" come about?
“The Heat” was actually the first track I made for the tape. I found some of the samples from Good Times. The song is about growing up in Chicago, being broke, and just trying to survive the heat of the long summer.
In Chicago the violence increases during the summer. It's the same out here in LA. It was the same in Brooklyn. What is it about the heat that makes people get more violent?
We go through a really brutal winter, and hardly anyone wants to do anything. So when the heat finally comes everybody wants to do shit, and that includes acting crazy and killing people. I don’t know why it's like that. It's okay, but I kind of want to move.
You’re a peaceful guy, ever since I've known you, you've been in touch with your spirituality. I think it shines through in the music and your production.
Yeah my father, Robert Irving III, taught me that. It came to fruition in 2008 after I dropped out of college and came back to Chicago. I started reading a lot about spirituality, and that helped me get in tune with being myself and understanding what I need, as opposed to what I want.
Now I try to follow my heart, and it's led me to all the crazy music stuff that's happening. It's also taught me to humble myself but keep doing what I'm doing. It's still a struggle sometimes. I'm definitely not perfect. I come from a musical family. My sister Sharon Irving is putting together her debut album right now as well. It's incredible.
How did “The Heat” video come about?
I was in New York in the beginning of April and linked up with Andreas Brauning and shot a bunch of it on the roof of his crib in Bushwick. All those shots you see in the video were one take. We just wanted to do something natural.
Then you came to SXSW and we were shooting a lot of stuff at my shows and around Austin. And there's footage of me recording in Chicago with Tre and Beanz Da Poet. I want to put feeling into my music—more than thought—and I think the video embraces that.
You know Andreas and I started this Ounce. thing back in 2010. We were pretty weird back then. How did we all become friends?
I was pretty weird at the same time. I think our weirdness came together. It was when I was putting out the first Young Black Preachers EP and you asked to do the video for "Clockers.” And we just hit it off ever since then.
I lived on 54th and Cottage Grove, and you lived nearby, in Jackson Park Highlands.
Yeah that's where everybody in the Squad started out. At the Smokehouse in Chicago's South Shore neighborhood. That's where me, Oliver The Second, Beanz, Tre, and the late Aaron "Projeck" Butler started, in the basement of Tre's house.
That's where we shot the “Cable” video.
Chicago's been known for their jazz and blues. Then the drill scene took off and got a lot of attention. What was that like?
All the drill stuff is real music to me. It's positive that the kids here are making music. It's better than not making music. But it shouldn't be the only thing that the industry focuses on. There are way more talented artists and different messages you can get out of the city.
I want to make something that I feel first. If I like it, that's all that really matters to me. I keep it simple and do what I like. It's less experimenting and attempting to find my voice, but rather trying to use my voice and do different things with it. I don't really like when people tell me what to do. I always try to find ways around it. That's something I've learned over the years.
Follow Justin on Twitter - @justinstaple
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