One of hip hop’s unsung heroes is OurStage‘s own Alternative Hip Hop Channel stand out, Jahi. The Cleveland MC shrugs off the flash and cash that dominate the mainstream scene, using his music as a way to give back to the community. Not surprisingly, Jahi’s incredible, down-to-earth mentality comes as a breath of fresh air. With 10 albums under his belt since 2000, Jahi’s hard work and soulful, old school hip hop style has not gone unnoticed — he’s shared the stage with hip hop all stars such as Jay-Z, Outkast and Missy Elliott. “The Realness” is a track that best illustrates Jahi’s dedication to his roots. On this week’s Liner Notes, he explains the story behind the song.
I decided to write an album called “Motivation Music” because I wanted to create a project that parents and children could listen to at the same time, without worrying about language, content and vulgarity. I’d finished most of the album, and was going through the process of narrowing down my list to select the best 7 songs out of 20. As I was deciding, my Dad mentioned he found a box with some of my old writings and CD’s tucked away. If you are a journeyman like myself in this ever changing world of music, when you open these boxes, they can become a look into the past. Sometimes, you’ll find little jewels, meaning tracks or songs you forgot about. “The Realness” was birthed from a box I had tucked away 5 years ago. I found a disc with a track I had selected for another album, but didn’t use, back in 2005. This became the music bed for “The Realness.”
I relocated from Oakland back to my hometown Cleveland, Ohio this past summer. As I continued my musical path, I also starting teaching Math and Science infused with Hip Hop with Progressive Arts Alliance. So when you hear “teaching at a school not far from my grannie’s house/plug in the mic and I still turn the party out,” it’s all factual. My grandparents (both on my mother and father’s side) lived in the same community where [I] teach for 50+ years. Part of “The Realness” is showing respect for my ancestors by keeping it “Real” by doing good music and good work in the community.
“The Realness” was written in one afternoon after one of my classes. The thought process was part celebration (I’ve been rhyming for 10 years), part explanation of what my definition of “conscious Hip Hop” is (don’t be afraid of that word it’s just awareness), and part unorthodox rhyme patterns and delivery (the first verse is short, and the second verse is much longer and there’s an unique interplay with the DJ cuts). I wrote half of it on the number 50 bus heading home, and the rest after reflecting on how thankful I am to be alive and still striving to write songs that people can vibe to with a higher sense of purpose. (Call this my mellow flow/bask in my inner glow) I went to Ante Up Studios in Cleveland, and within 15 minutes and two takes, “The Realness” just felt right. I made it the first track off the new album because, in essence, this song is the best reflection of my style, energy and passion.