Rap Genius interviews Jabari Johnson!

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In the line of work as an internet music writer, blogger, moderator we all have our own way of looking at things. And as this interview displays, up and coming interview specialist for himself and BET.com, Jabari Johnson certainly has an educated view of music today.

Do you think the hip-hop fans have become oblivious to understanding lyrics?

Mainstream Hip-Hop fans today are crazy. I think people not caring about lyrics is at an all time high. Why RapGenius works is because there is a niche market for people who care about lyrics and want to look deeper into the words of hip-hop music. The mainstream fan now would repeat a chorus to jump off a bridge if the beat was hot and a certain artist said it. I hope that lyrics come back around and I think they will, everything goes in and out of style.

What inspired you to start Jabari Presents?

I was never really a blogger, I always wanted to do video and not write posts so when I was at Howard University I began interviewing artists with a small video recorder. I loved hip-hop so much and all these artists were coming to my school or the DC area to perform so I thought if I told them I worked at a website they would let me interview them. I pitched the idea to SmokingSection.com and HipHopGame.com in 2006 and that’s pretty much how I got my start.

How often do you use Rap Genius to help you with an article/ interview etc.?

Yea sometimes, I’m a big research guy so I like to know what people are talking about. RapGenius is like the Wikipedia for hip-hop lyrics so I’m always on there not just before an interview but even when I’m just at home listening to music.

I always ask artists if people on RapGenius get the meaning of their lyrics right or wrong and it’s a mixed response. Most of it is spot on but I like that you guys have started verifying artists and getting the explanations from the source.

Do you find interviewing younger or “less popular” artists is more of a challenge than interviewing older ones?

I’ve always been interviewing people who are “less popular” then mainstream acts. I really like finding out what’s new and getting to talk to an artist before they go big. There is something a little more pure about musicians before they reach huge success that I find interesting. There is a hunger that they have to get to the next level that I find a lot of inspiration in.
(Check his interview on BET with verified artist Brother Ali below)

In the era of internet music, are sites like RG and your site, some of the more important pieces of hip-hop today?

I think what RapGenius provides is more depth to the music. A lot of people can’t ask an artist what certain words mean but now there is a place to find that. It’s amazing and long overdue! I think what I offer in my interviews is a look at what it really takes to be successful. That’s what my series Jabari Presents is all about. I’m really interested in showing youth culture that it’s not as easy as it looks and if you really want something you have to put in serious work to make it happen. Just as there are a lot of opportunities now there are a lot of people trying to take advantage of them so competition is at an all time high. You have to separate yourself from the rest.

Do you think its a true statement when someone says that “underground” rap is more creative than “mainstream” rap?

I understand that statement completely but it’s not always true. It just makes sense though, if something is made for a lot of people (mainstream) then a lot of people need to be able to understand it. They need to be able to hear it, understand it, and most importantly, purchase it. That’s how major labels, major artists, and the mainstream thinks. Adding creativity to that process is difficult because not everyone will understand your creativity and mainstream art is all about getting the most people to “get it”. I love artists like Kendrick Lamar and Kid Cudi because they have somehow found a way to sneak in the mainstream yet still have a lot of depth and creativity within the music.

You can look for Jabari to continue to become a big part of hip-hop in the future and the present. For now, like him on facebook and get on the mailing list for Jabari Presents