This article originally appeared on Noisey UK.
It’s 4 PM and Jahmek Power, aka Jammer, is sitting on a kitchen table-top surrounded by models and billowing clouds of dry ice. In one hand is a cup of what he calls “special tea” and in the other is a cherry-flavored vape stick that he’s been chugging on for a couple of hours. Scattered around the room are speakers that are blaring out beats, while Jammer is spitting bars into a camera, his long dreads swinging from side-to-side. The scene in front of me might look like a low-key after party, but it’s actually the shoot of his latest music video for new track “Wavy House,” the kind of infectious, bleary-eyed club jam you might listen to in the early hours, right before the sun comes up.
The mood in the kitchen is chill—but it hasn’t always been. Earlier that morning, he was pacing up and down the room, stressing about a fur jacket somebody had left in London, which is a two-hour drive from our countryside location. Following that, he spent a while flicking through a rail crammed with clothes—there are pastel-colored leather jackets, jeans drenched in spray paint, tracksuits peppered in patches, and rows and rows of Converse Chuck Taylors in effervescent shades and prints. If you didn’t expect Jammer to be so wrapped up in fashion, then you’re mistaken. It seems like the grime king has tunnel vision when it comes to what everyone’s wearing, and as a result the video bleeds style, from the meticulously picked outfits to the neon pink-dyed braids and scrubbed-up creps.
Notably, at least three of his team are wearing Lord of the Mics bomber jackets, a nod to the pioneering basement clashes that propelled Jammer, and grime itself, to the main stage. It’s now been over a decade since Lord of the Mics pushed names like Wiley, Kano, and Skepta to the forefront, and a lot has changed since then. While Jammer’s early videos (see: “Murkle Man”) were recorded with a grainy-screened flip camera, this one is slicked-back and pumped with colour—more like a classic hip-hop video than something out of the East end circa 2005.
Lord of the Mics famously took place in Jammer’s mum’s basement, and today Jammer’s mum lent her hand by making all the food for the crew. There are stacks of boxes filled with fried chicken, spicy salmon fillets, veggie curry, rice and peas and piles of fresh salad, and after gorging on the whole lot, I sat down with Jammer to speak about his creative process, his new music, and the evolution of grime.
Noisey: Tell me a bit about this video. What were some of the ideas behind it?
Jammer: Music is an influence on fashion and fashion is an influence on music, so with this video, I tried to fuse both of those worlds. Creatives coming together to work on something different, and I’ve had fun experimenting with it. That’s what creativity is about—experimenting, pushing boundaries and shocking yourself. For example, I met this girl on the shoot today. She was supposed to model, but she showed me her art, so I gave her a blank t shirt and told her to create some pieces for the video. Obviously the location is planned, and the people are booked, but what happens on the shoot is all freestyle.
Has fashion, or style, always been integral to what you do?
Yeah, before I was even into music—fashion is the first thing you get into as a kid. Like, when you go to the youth club at your estate—what are you wearing? What are your trainers saying? Fashion is definitely an important thing in my life. If you look at my last video for “Sun City”—the track I did with Chase & Status—that was heavily about the 90s garage era. Fashion determines time, because you always associate times with specific brands.
You’ve got a mammoth Converse collection. What’s that all about?
It was always all about the tracksuit mafia. But if you look at my early pictures—I was one of the first people to wear skinny jeans and Converse. I don’t like to box myself into anything and I don’t feel like I need to. I’ve always felt free and used clothes to express myself. I chose to wear Converse cause the new Chuck II Knit drops are fire and Clara Martin’s clothes fitted in perfectly with my vision. Fashion is all about going against the grain and celebrating it, the Chuck II’s are made for creatives and rebellious culture, which is what I represent.
After watching you today, I feel like you’ve got a lot of creative control over what you do. Is that important to you?
I’ve been doing music for a long time, and as you get bigger, a lot more people get involved. Before, it’s just you and a computer and a beat. And like, it’s cool getting other people involved, but I know what I want. Some people might find it overwhelming or whatever, but this is something that I’ve started from a long time ago, so I know what I’m doing—it’s trialled and tested.
You’ve been around since the early days. How has grime has changed in the past decade?
Everything’s changed. I remember what it was like when nobody understood it. But now, it’s great to see that everyone understands what we’ve been trying to do for all this time. But also, what’s next? It’s always about forward thinking, and that’s why I try to remain to be a leader. If no one knows what’s next, you hit a brick wall. It’s the same for everybody in my crew, and the people that I mix with—they are visionists, not followers.
Why do you think it’s taken so long for the US to catch on to grime?
I’m just going to say this—everybody’s been listening to UK music for a while, but it just took certain individuals from America to just be honest about their influences and say, “Okay, I’m inspired by these guys.” Whether it’s Drake or Kanye or whoever. You’ve also got to have the material, the goods and the vision to make them want to do what you’re doing. I think that’s something the UK always had, but like I said, it just took for certain individuals to acknowledge it.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to set up something like Lord of the Mics?
I would say that if you’ve got an idea, just stick with it. I’ll tell you a story: we did Lord of the Mics 1 and 2, then there was a break for a few years. That was because the internet came into play, and also a lot of people didn’t understand what we were doing. They didn’t want us to promote competitive words, but they would be fine with boxing or other physical competitive violence.
I concentrated on producing and writing for other people. But when we picked it back up, I noticed that it had a positive impact. For example as soon as Kano, Wiley and Skepta separately clashed on Lord of the Mics, they all got offered deals straight after. This demonstrates the power of the platform! I also spent some time working with Chipmunk and was heavily involved with the exchange of tracks between Bugzy Malone and Chip, which took the UK by storm.
My friends used to come to my basement and call me a geek, call me a computer guy. I’m not against them, but they just feared something because they didn’t get it. But if you’re a youth out there, and you believe in yourself and you know what you’re doing—crack on.
Good advice. You haven’t released an album in three years—is there one on its way?
Shorty said to me the other day, “Jammer every time you do a show you’ve got the best stage presence but you need to make a CD,” and I’ve started working on stuff, but I just feel like unless it’s your moment, people don’t want to buy a whole album. I’m just being creative, whether it’s in fashion, music, producing or whatever. I don’t feel like I necessarily have to put all my music into one capsule. But yeah, if it comes together like that, then it’ll come. But for now, I’m just going with the flow and being free.
Yeah, that makes sense. How do you go about writing a track? What’s your process?
I don’t really write it – I just hear the beat and I just say what I’m thinking, and if I don’t like it, I just go back and delete it. I used to write down lyrics, but when I was trying to think of the next thing to say, it was slowing down my creativity. It felt like it was a block. But I had a laptop and I could just record straight up, it happened quicker, so I decided to stop writing.
Is there anything else you want to add?
Shout out HeavyTrackerz and Breakbeat who produced the track. But also, I just want people to understand that it’s a new day and just be free, do what you want, express yourself and just be you. That’s my message.
Jammer is featured in NOISEY London, airing Tuesday, April 19 at 10 PM on VICELAND.
This piece was created in collaboration with Converse. Check out the new Chuck II Knits here.