PODCAST | 26 June 2019
Photos, Text & Interview: Martin Hufnagel
JaJa Kisses makes music that leaves you feeling sexy, vulnerable, good, and full of longing. We spent an afternoon in London, the city where she was born and raised, to talk about her hair, smoking weed, Destiny’s Child and, of course, her music.
With the hood of her sweater pulled over her head, JaJa enters the lobby of the hotel where we decided to meet. Her purple hair looks out on each side.
Seven years ago, she decided to dye her hair and went straight to purple.
Even though it has gotten lighter over the years, it’s still an eye-catcher. 'I dyed it when I was straight out of college. I wanted to do something different and purple kind of stuck', JaJa says. 'It’s the only branding key I have', she jokes. A claim, which, after you've listened to her music, you know is not true at all.
JaJa’s music can be described as psychedelic RnB. Together with the brilliant production, her captivating, sensitive voice creates a beautiful soundscape. Sometimes, she uses her voice as an instrument, and then again, she puts it in focus, creating a dense collection of feelings. Together with her lyrics, there’s always a hint of melancholy resonating in her songs.
JaJa Kisses, 'Feelings'
'Growing up, I felt a bit of a misfit, I felt strange. I wasn’t connecting with people the way everyone else was connecting, and I was quite emotional as well. Things really got to me and I didn’t really know how to tackle them. Depression is definitely something that I still have to work on, and there are times where it gets a bit fuzzy.' She smiles, but you can tell by her eyes that this is something that’s been with her most of her life.
Discovering music through her family (her dad used to DJ back in Nigeria), she connected with Michael Jackson ('Stranger in Moscow' being her favourite song) and later Destiny’s Child. Her sister got a keyboard for her birthday and Janet, which is JaJa's real name, started to write 'really awful songs.' Despite the fact that she’s cringing and laughing when she's just thinking about her first steps into making music, they have helped her to deal with her strong emotions. 'I’m so grateful to have something that I’m passionate about. Even on the darkest days it feels like something that’s mine, something that works and doesn’t need to be judged by anyone.'
From her sister’s keyboard, she switched to MagicX Music Maker and Fruity Loops, but the beats were 'still pretty awful', according to her. So, after uploading her songs on MySpace and deleting them a short time later, her first and permanent releases were a handful of acapella songs on Soundcloud in 2012. 'Soundcloud was pretty much the first platform where I left things up and actually directed people to it. They were acapellas because I didn’t know any producers.' This pure introduction to her voice was very well received. 'I was actually quite shocked by how much people appreciated it.'
This step also helped her to establish some contact with different producers, one of them being Flowzart. He’s not only been her boyfriend for 8 years, but was also the main producer of her first mixtape Young Fashioned, which was released in 2016. The release was one of the highlights of that year, and fully displayed JaJa’s instinct of combining different elements and creating something new and exciting. It was quite a while in the making, and is actually a collection of songs that span over 4 years. Most of them had previously been released as singles, but having the urge to put out something solid, she added some more songs and released it. 'I planned to drop it so many times before, but things kind of got in the way. So, it took a while and even when I did it, it was like, "I need to drop this now or I’ll never do it". That’s why I called it Young Fashioned as well, because I felt like I don’t really know what I’m doing, but this is what I’m doing.'
JaJa Kisses, 'Brb'
Her humility and fragility, which are an integral part of her art, seem real.
After the release and a wave of positive responses, she played some concerts in London, but there was no new release by her during the next 2 years. Janet is not only a full-time creative but is also working full-time, which is one of the reasons that it took until the beginning of 2019 for her to release new music. 'Brb' and 'When She Wants' are the logical progression of her sound. They are the output of an artist who’s not afraid to put her desires, fears and emotions out there for everyone to see.
She claims she’s not as self-disciplined as she would like to be, but she has plans for putting out more. 'I reckon I will try to make an EP at the end of the year. Over the last 2 years I’ve wanted to make a 20 track mixtape, because there are so many different genres that I do... or perhaps I have to do a trilogy of EPs because there are so many different corners of sound.'
Does smoking weed help her to be more creative or does it intensify her doubts and procrastination? 'The weed definitely does a bit of both. It’s definitely knowing when to roll up and have a plan for the day. But I do call myself a functional stoner. I feel like I get a lot of shit done considering how much I smoke.' Perhaps it’s also a tool for her to get her mind off things and numb her self-doubts. 'I feel like perfection is something I cannot really make happen. And I think everything is kind of imperfectly perfect.'