The Newest Afrobeats Kid on the Block – An Interview with Jamilla

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With Afrobeats dominating the airwaves around the world, it’s unsurprising that new artists are emerging onto the scene every day. And those that can offer something new and unique are sure to find a foothold.

That’s definitely something the Jamilla has been able to do. In less than 12 months, the New York based songstress has managed to grow an Instagram following of over 5,000 fans and release her first three solo singles, with her latest, All To Me featuring Afro-Dancehall artist Vintage Papi.

And she’s not just making a name for herself online. Her showstopping March performance, opening for rapper Kwesi Arthur in New York City, marked her out as a rising talent in the Ghanaian Afrobeats scene. Notably, the influence of the Highlife music that filled her childhood permeates her work. Her debut single, FOOLishh pays particular homage by sampling the Highlife classic Otoolege by Ofori Amponsah.

But what has made Jamilla unique are her freestyles combining soulful, R’n’B vocals and flawless rap flows. There are few vocalists with the versatility to switch between the two disciplines, but Jamilla achieves it with ease. This skill alone makes her one to watch in our book.

With her latest single gaining her new fans by the minute, we spoke to Jamilla about her musical process, balancing her music with her university studies and what her plans are for her debut album.

Firstly, congratulations on the success of your latest single, “All To Me”. What was it like collaborating with Vintage Papi?

Thank you. Working with Vintage Papi was very fun. I’ve known Vintage Papi for years and we always planned to do music together.  We meshed very well musically so it didn’t even feel like work. The whole process was natural and he added a flare that I felt the song needed.

As an artist you’re a singer and a rapper. Who are your musical influences for both of these vocal disciplines?

My musical influences as a singer are definitely Aaliyah and from Ghana Kojo Antwi because their voices were calm and smooth. I believe that’s how my voice is although I do have range, I feel like the smoothness in my voice soothes my audience. I can definitely belt out some crazy notes depending on the theme of a song though. As for rap, Jay-Z and from Ghana Lord Kenya. I love their word play and flow. I grew up listening to these artists constantly and their music played a big role in my life and style of music.

And you’ve recently completed your nursing degree. Why did you choose to study nursing specifically? 

I completed my first degree in nursing last January. I’m currently working on my second degree and I love it. I chose this path because I’m naturally a very caring person. I’ve had personal experiences in the hospital prior to starting school that made me truly respect the profession. And I’ve always been brainy and had a love for healthcare. I attended prominent private schools while growing up and graduated early so I’ve always been extremely book smart. And personally nursing school seemed more impactful to me than medical school.

Juggling your studies and launching your music career must have been a lot of work?

It is very much so a lot of work. But I’ve found a way to balance. I have a special set schedule for studies and another designated to writing music.

You’ve released three singles in the last twelve months. Had you been working on them for a while or had you written them throughout this year?

My first single FOOLishh was actually written, recorded and completed almost 2 years before I actually released it. As for “You Know” and “All to Me” I wrote both songs about 3 months or more before actually releasing them. I’m very big on timing. I like to study the possible outcomes before releasing music. I don’t like to rush releases just because it’s complete. Everything my team and I do is strategic.

We’ve heard rumours that you’re working on a debut album! What statement do you want to make with your first album release?

The statement I plan to make with this upcoming EP/Album is the “Return of Feel Good Music”. My music surrounds matters of the heart and different stages of love, relationships and “situationships”. It’s a relatable topic for anyone regardless of age, status, tax bracket, cultural background, etc. The music is guaranteed to make you feel good.

What are your plans for next year?

My plans for next year are definitely to do more shows hopefully if Covid dies down, delve into more collaborations and turn more of my freestyles in full length songs since people love the rapping with the singing.

FOOLish, You Know and All To Me are out now.

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