There are a lot of people in this world who grow up never knowing what they want to be or where they want to go. For a lucky few, the paths carved out before them come as naturally as breathing. Often, it’s an intersection of talent, determination and environment that get them to where they want to go.
South Melbourne’s Jaal is exactly that. He’s talented but not cocky, and his vision for his future seems to have been determined since he entered the world of music as a teenager.
“I feel like the difference between me and a lot of artists is that I want to be around in 10 years,” he tells VICE.
“I want to be able to keep the art of hip-hop, the lyricism, the word play, all that stuff alive.”
Jaal was first influenced by his older sister and her love of hip-hop and music – as well as old school rappers like Nas, Big L and A Tribe Called Quest (which he refers to as the “golden era of hip-hop”). It spurred a love for storytelling and lyricism.
In 2016, at just 17-years-old, the young artist came onto the scene as NYLTCK - but soon changed his name to Jaal when he realised his music didn’t reflect his “most authentic self”.
“This isn’t two minute noodles. This is a whole meal. It’s fully prepped, marinated, seasoned,” he says of the new project and name.
“I'm a very driven and ambitious guy. So I want to have that message in my music. I'm very big on authenticity and originality. I want to express that as well.”
It’s obvious when speaking to Jaal and listening to his music that the stories of his life act as devices to get these messages across. From songs like “Float” to his latest, “Shinin’’, there’s an overwhelming throughline of positivity, coming-up in the world and community, all bundled into a laid-back hip-hop production.
“I didn’t come from the richest background. My family isn’t super well off. So I’ve always had this drive to better myself and believe that I can do that,” he says.
“I want others to believe that they can do that as well. And by telling my story from my perspective of where I come from, because I know a lot of people around me come from the same kind of environment, same kind of background, I just want to be able to tell people that you can do whatever it is that you put your mind to as long as you put your head down.”
When he speaks of the South Melbourne rap scene it’s with full-body appreciation. Maybe it's a bit slept on, he says, – an underdog to the music coming out of the West – but it's nothing but authentic. He cites artists like Mike Wang and D3JA as people doing good things.
“I think in general the main difference between us and West Melbourne is that we’re really invested in hip-hop culture. Our reputation precedes us too, we have a history down here and we’re known to be some of the rawest and realest to come out of the city and country.”
All in all, Jaal is an extremely talented rapper that’s already found critical acclaim for his artistry. Though he wants to do big things, he has no sense of inflated ego. That probably comes from the fact that he loves what he’s doing and is doing it because he loves it. He doesn’t care about sugary one-hit wonders but instead wants to tell his story throughout a lasting career.
“I've always been passionate about giving back to the world. And I think this is my way, I found my way of doing that. And it's also fucking fun, right?”