The Heart Of It – In Conversation With Jelani Blackman

Mixtape Madness

By Mixtape Madness

Mixtape Madness

30 Nov 2023

Interview by James Woodham

Jelani Blackman is far from unfamiliar. Over the last couple of years his name has been appearing across music, whether it has been a COLORS performance, an appraisal by Fraser T Smith, or a feature alongside the Gorillaz, we have all seen him and heard him, but there’s so much more to know about the South and West London protégé on the wake of his new album. 

The last few years have been a rollercoaster for not just Jelani Blackman but for everyone. The industry has changed, and artists have had more time to present themselves in ways that are wholly individual and are coming out with incredible pieces of work that encapsulate their emotions and experiences in very powerful and original ways. This is at the core of what Jelani Blackman put into The Heart Of It.

So you’ve got the album coming soon. It’s been long awaited.

Yeah. It is, to be honest; I feel like it’s just been a process of working out exactly what it was that I wanted to say during the process. 

What were the creative processes you had to go through? 

I had to work out what I wanted to say to be honest. Like, I think like, obviously, I like a lot of the music before, it had some moments about the kind of social impact and issues and stuff like that kind of weaved in, but it was more just about vibes, and having fun in life. And I think for this, I wanted to just dig a little bit deeper. So I had to really work out how to say those things. So that’s, that’s why it took a little minute.

Obviously growing up in South and West London, what were the things that shaped your sound? 

There’s a disparity between certain ways of life like I grew up alongside, I grew up in a certain place, but I grew up around a lot of wealth. And like, I didn’t really clock it as much until I started going out in other places in London and realising what West London was actually like. And there was a whole section of it that I just had no access to, which was mad. Yeah, that didn’t really click until I went to uni.

You’ve been called one of the greatest voices in UK rap by Fraser T. Smith. So, do you think that even though you’ve been named one of the most original, others have put you in a spot you’re trying to break out, musically?

Not really, I mean, it doesn’t. Doesn’t bother me. I’ve had so much stuff, like, obviously nice stuff. And like, I guess, stuff that sometimes I’m like, I don’t I don’t necessarily. I don’t fight with that. But I didn’t. None of it really ever affects me. I think I’ve always just done my own thing and I’m happy doing it. And whatever comes out of it is what comes out of it. But I’ve never changed based on what people say.

It’s been a few years since you said you were going to do an album. What did you miss most in this time and what were the biggest achievements?

Yeah. Well, part of it was like, it’s kind of changed a lot of the plans that I had, I’m working through that. Yeah, that period of time was, was hard. And but at one point, it was great. And then at another point, it was a bit. Yeah, it was, it became really long, and especially not being able to play live. That was a nightmare, because that’s my favourite thing to do. So not being able to play shows. And that changes the way that you release music as well. And even how you feel about the music that you’re making, because you can’t feel it around people. So yeah, so that changed, it changed. It changed the project that I put out afterwards, and it changed, it changed everything. But I still think that overall, the positives outweigh the negatives. And like, who knows, really, you never know what’s going to happen init. And so, some stuff happened during that period of time. So, obviously, the Gorillaz and COLORS, etc. So you never know what might happen.

Yeah, do you have a favourite song on this album?

I do. It’s called arrival. I think it’s my favourite it’s the last track actually. But yeah it’s my favourite I and the one that made me first be like alright cool like I know the direction of what I want this project to be. 

The Heart Of It is out now on all streaming platforms all while Jelani Blackman is readying a tour in a city near you, this year!

The Heart of It Tour dates:

1st Feb – The Workmans Club, Dublin

2nd Feb – EartH Theatre, London

7th Feb – Thekla, Bristol

9th Feb – The Wardrobe, Leeds

15th Feb – Deaf Institute, Manchester

16th Feb – Bodega, Nottingham

22nd Feb – G2, Glasgow