Photographed by Jenn Garcia
Jamien Pride is an artist I was not familiar with when I was assigned to interview him. After taking a deep dive and finding his music on multiple platforms, I knew this Southern boy from North Carolina deserved a call for attention.
Jamien’s earliest memories of music are rooted in the church. In early childhood, his family frequently attended church, his mother active in ministry and his father in the choir. The idea of being a rapper was not yet a possibility. As Jamien states, “If it didn’t pertain to the church, I wasn’t able to do it.” Outside of the gospel hymns he was surrounded by at church and home, Jamien’s love for rap, R&B and soul music grew with the rise of Walkmans and CD players that he often borrowed from friends.
It wasn’t until later in his youth, when his parents became more open to listening to secular music, that Jamien remembers his mother playing Prince and Earth, Wind & Fire while his father sang songs by artists like Marvin Gaye, Teddy Pendergrass and Stevie Wonder around the house. Jamien would later discover acts like Fleetwood Mac, Bob Dylan, and Bob Marley. This range of exposure to multiple musical genres is an important foundation in his approach to music.
Jamien always knew he was a writer, being captivated at a young age by the way in which rappers could manipulate words. Being from North Carolina, he was greatly influenced by both New York hip-hop and Southern rap—his favorite artist being Andre 3000. It wasn’t until he witnessed his classmates rapping on the bus or around school that he realized if they could do it, he could too. At the early age of nine or ten, he remembers beginning to write bars and leaving them on his cousin’s answering machine as practice.
He recalls, “My first rap was stupid. It went something like ‘I’m seeing people with gold and they’re very, very old, / they think they’re all that, but they’re blind as a bat / I’mma jump on in, and it ain’t no sin to get drunk sometimes / so listen to my rhymes, I got girls with earrings and several other things."
He describes his early raps as mimicking what he heard his favorite rappers say until he got a feel for it. As his peers began to show him love after hearing him rap on the bus, summer camp YMCA clubs, he strived to perfect his writing.
Jamien continued to write and rap about his experiences and feelings throughout high school. At this time, he met a friend from New York whose father had a home studio and was well-connected in the music industry. Jamien was given the opportunity to work in that studio a lot — once with Agallah the Don Bishop, member of the Diplomats affiliated group Purple City, who taught him how to record vocals, work the mixing board and gave Jamien his first taste of production over the course of a couple of weeks. This experience sparked Jamien’s desire to master his craft and become a full-ranged artist, able to create his own music — both in front of and behind the board.
"Learning how to write wasn't enough. I had to learn how to record and put a melody to it so my writing gets heard."
We pivoted the conversation to discuss the social climate in America today. While he would prefer to protest on the front lines, having a daughter prevents him from putting himself in potential harm’s way. He instead allows his music to speak for him and also utilizes other forms of art as his activism. Jamien has contributed an art piece titled, “Shine Black” which is a play on Black people allowing the light in all of us to shine. He wants his music and art to offer something people can relate to and feel good about. Jamien also spoke about letting his daughter listen to his music, consciously teaching her what is going on in the world, and providing his support and love for whatever she wants to be.
We spoke about one of his role models being Malcolm X. The way Malcolm evolved over time is a story that resonates with him as well as Malcolm’s understanding of Blackness. Jamien continued to break down his famous quote “by any means necessary,” stating that Malcolm’s not speaking only of violence, as it’s so often misconstrued, but in doing anything it takes for our advancement as Black people. Jamien also mentioned occasions where others would compare him to Malcolm in physical resemblance and through his articulation of words.
What is your inspiration when making music? My music is always introspective and observant. It pertaining to what I see, what I notice, what I feel and how I articulate those observations.
We then went through and broke down the lyrics to his song “X” where he spoke about how you can exist simultaneously on two sides of culture.
“I’m Malcolm X with a gold chain” This highlights the duality of Blackness. I can be an activist and woke and still be fly. It’s not either/or—Black people are not a monolith.
“I’m the gold rope that killed Hussein” That speaks to American capitalism and exploitation in how we involve ourselves in foreign affairs. What is the real the reason they killed Hussein versus the reason they tell us in the media? America wanted something from his country and removed him to get it. I love my country, but I’m not proud of everything she does.
“I’m young Tamir but the gun is real.” That little boy could have been me, me playing with a toy outside and being shot by an officer. I can identify with Tamir, but my “gun is real” means I’ve evolved into a man who is more aware of my rights, how to defend myself, how to use resources I have available to me, etc.— which ties back to Malcolm X’s stance on “by any means necessary.”
Jamien continues to evolve in his artistry— writing introspectively about the new chapters of his life within the current state of our world. He continues to pour his energy into uplifting Black people, working on music and raising his daughter, a major catalyst in his evolution.
If you’re interested in hearing a song that best represents his journey, check out his song “White Crane [Freestyle],” a remix of Solange’s standout track “Cranes In the Sky.”
Be on the lookout for two new singles being released this Fall— titled “Anything But This” and “Fever,” in collaboration with Brandon Jamall, a longtime friend and producer/songwriter.