We all begin and end. It’s what happens in between that we remember most.
A rocky relationship finds everyone sooner or later. It’s a rite of passage, as common as getting your driver’s license or moving into your first apartment. But unlike getting to drive or finally having a place to call your own, the ending of a relationship always brings about emotions that are difficult to process. Sadness, anger, despair, regret. The list goes on and on, as painful as that may be. Eventually those feelings get replaced with neutral emotions, or even positivity, depending on how well your rebound game is. But there’s nothing like a first breakup, the silver lining being you never have to go through the first heartbreak again.
“Do you really love me or was it all for show?”
That’s the question Jimi, or Just Jimi, if you go by his stage name, asks in his track “Vices”, one of the eight songs on his debut album, Blkheart. “We as human beings always want to save somebody from themselves. That was her,” referring to an old staple of his reality. “She wanted to save me from who I was. But I don’t really want to save myself from who I am. I got vices. You think you like me for them, but you don’t.”
You only have to listen to a few songs before it’s clear Jimi’s vocals are a coping mechanism for a tragic loss, a void in his life he couldn’t yet accept.
“We had been dating for like five years,” explaining the inspiration behind Blkheart. “When I was with her, my ego was always in front of the relationship. Lot of rocky times, and towards the end I realized I want to go further in my music. It was more like a mutual agreement of a breakup, but you don’t really realize how that is going to affect you until after you leave,” the beginning of art imitating life having arrived. “Even though it was mutual there was still not that closure aspect, so that’s where Blkheart all came from. I was a sad dude.”
The first Blkheart chronicled the depths Jimi had plunged to, so for his second release he tried to go a different route, the focus not necessarily positive or negative, just different. “Bkheart II was filler,” a project Jimi began without a compass. “As artists you’re going to create something for the sake of creating because you don’t want people to forget about you.”
The four-track EP lacked direction, a quick listen able to show that Jimi wasn’t in the headspace he needed to be in to produce content on par with his first album.
But he’s planning on bouncing back with the third installment in the Blkheart series. That album will have twelve tracks and follow his recent trend of producing more uptempo music. “With every breakup there is always that toss up. I was sad from the jump, and she wasn’t. But now I feel good, like it was meant to happen,” in noting how the evolution of his music would not happen without the tumultuous course he has navigated.
During his Blkheart projects, Jimi also decided to experiment and branch out. He shed the lonely and depressing thoughts that had bogged him down, getting in touch with another Minnesota-based artist by the name of BC Polo.
“I hadn’t met him before we started doing a project,” Jimi explains. “BC had put on Facebook that he wanted somebody to come out to the studio just to vibe and bounce ideas off. I had heard his music, he had heard mine.”
“A key reason I went to go work with BC was because he was heavily using auto-tune. Around this time, I wasn’t using auto-tune the way I should have. BC was better at it. I wanted to vibe off that and see how he did it to soak up that game. I went to the studio, Can’t Die was the record he showed me,” a BC Polo album that was looking for an infusion of energy.
“I got an open verse for it,” BC told him at the time.
“I’m going to write for this right now,” Jimi responded as they sat in the studio, so he went out to the parking lot and pumped out material right there in his car before coming back in and recording. BC loved it.
“We should do a project,” and just like that the two were on a path to do an entire album together. “A lot of the records on there we didn’t actually sit down to create,” instead doing most of their work together through the internet. “It was more I have this record, you have that record. As artists there are so many things unfinished, in the vault, but you know something is lacking from it,” their connection being the missing link to bring some of these stored songs to life.
This led to the production of an eleven-track album entitled Shifts, apropos to the changes each artist sacrificed for the other. The first two songs, Can’t Die and Wave, embody the rest of the high-energy album that is a far cry from any material Jimi has produced to this point.
And then the Minnesota scene fell in love with the duo and it began their ascent in superstardom, right? Not so much. Other artists I’ve spoken with have detailed their struggles gaining traction in the Minnesota landscape. This has led them to move to larger markets that are more music-oriented.
Jimi too has found the journey to be filled with impediments, so he’s taken a different approach. “I don’t want to do open mics, the long grueling grind because I feel like the music is past that, in all honesty. I can put my stuff next to PARTYNEXTDOOR. It may not be mixed as good, but the subject matter, the context and why I’m doing it is there.”
“Right now all I’m focused on is streaming in other countries because the goal has never been to pop in Minnesota. When I first started off, I didn’t care about having my hometown on my back. Minnesota Nice is the biggest load of crap. It takes you leaving before Minnesota embraces you.” According to Jimi, other cities are different. “Atlanta’s not like that. New York’s not like that. L.A.’s not like that. They embrace what they have right there.”
For this reason Jimi isn’t staying in one lane. Most artists begin their musical ventures insistent they will pump out content forever. The reality is that in many cases music is viewed as an avenue to different pursuits. Jimi is conscious of this, and makes no secret that his plans extend far beyond the confines of a recording studio.
“I don’t want to be Eminem. I don’t want to do music forever,” in noting how long the rap icon has been in the game. “I’m really just the guy that’s meant to have a very crucial, impactful summer of music,” the hope being one of his albums takes off and eventually springboards him to something different. “I hope that I secure the bag [large sum of money], to where now I can just create assets for myself. With music, at some point you just run out of things to say.”
Jimi recognizes that his life might one day not be filled with enough turbulence to inspire future music. Maybe he will meet a nice woman and begin life as a father. Perhaps he will start his own business and become more focused on the foundation of that project. There are no limits, a factor that could be detrimental to any creative pursuit with music.
“Being an artist, you have to constantly engrave yourself in experiences to create the music you want to talk about. Regular people, they want to hear about painful things, sad things. Granted there is some happy music, but 90% of music that is being consumed is music that is painful, has a message, is about the struggles you went through. Right now I have a lot of struggles that I’m going through. But I realize that when I get to that point of success, I do not want to be the guy that’s talking about the success I have. That’s when I just want to go live off it and fade to black.”
Not many artists echo this sentiment. For Jimi, being successful is enough to move onto the next phase of life. He doesn’t need to go platinum seven times before satisfaction sets in.
Personally, I haven’t given much thought to what success looks like. As a writer, I’m guaranteed nothing in an industry that is ever-evolving. I assume I’ll be working until I’m old and gray, true success at the moment a concept I can’t grasp. The barometer isn’t money either. It’s that I don’t believe I’ll have captured the essence of what it is I want to say until I’ve lived those years and been able to articulate a deep understanding of myself and the world. Jimi doesn’t see it that way.
“You create something that’s so great, and that’s the paradox that we as artists get caught up in because now people expect you to be there. That’s why I say I don’t want to be Eminem, because your fans will expect you to always stay there,” mired in a state of mind that an individual artist may no longer feel attached to.
The last few months I’ve felt that way about The Long Road North, a text that captures my feelings at age 24. I’m only on the verge of 27, but that’s how quickly things change. I didn’t imagine this sort of transformation occurring so soon. I figured I’d meet maturity in my early thirties, but it’s here now, and like a frenzied mom that rushes to be hospitable for an unexpected guest, I’ve had to make drastic changes to accommodate the responsibility that has just rung the doorbell.
Some people don’t make that change though, preferring to stick to a narrative that has for so long defined who they are. Jimi cites the very popular Future as an example. “His music is very rooted in lean sipping [more commonly known as purple drank], lean culture, promethazine, drug usage.” Jimi recalls a recent interview of Future’s, in which the artist admits to dropping lean from his life. To combat potentially losing fans, Future went back to referencing the substance in his latest music, a tactic Jimi doesn’t want to employ.
“When you hear music, you’re hearing it when it was created in a certain space in time,” he says, noting how consumers expect an artist’s persona and music to always follow that frame of mind. “I want to live a couple different dreams in my lifetime. I want to show people that love me that music was possible. My story was relatable, and that’s enough.”
“We as artists, we have a responsibility to the people that are listening to our music because they’re paying for our way of life, they’re coming to our shows and supporting us. The same way I don’t want my fans to lock me into a persona, I don’t want to lock my fans into that way of life.”
Jimi’s sentiments certainly won’t win over the casual fan of rap, but his message will reach those that closely follow him. Then again, Jimi’s goal has never been to appease the masses. He’s an introvert, brought to the spotlight only by a desire to channel his experiences through music in a way others can vibe with and find salvation through. He reminds us how trivial the likes, subscribers, and ticket sales are. The satisfaction we receive in life won’t come from random people. It will come from those closest to our hearts, but more importantly, it will come from within.
Quentin Super’s debut book, The Long Road North, is available for purchase here