JJAX on His New Album and Constant Growth
JJAX breaks down the stories behind his songs and shares some wise words about the importance of being open to new things.
For those who have not heard your music before, how would you describe it to them? How would you finish the sentence “JJAX is ___” or “JJAX’s music is ___”?
“JJAX’s music is continuously evolving and developing.”
Did you consider any other stage names before picking “JJAX”?
When I was a kid, I went by the name of “Hakdobyung,” which is Korean for “student soldier.”
When and how did you first develop a passion for music?
I wanted to start rapping after my first live performance. I was in seventh grade, and I did an Eminem song in front of the whole school during a festival. I loved being on stage and wanted to continue doing this.
What three words or phrases best describe your new album, Can You Hear Me Now? “Elaborative,” “experimental,” [and] “expensive.”
Please share some information about each of the songs on Can You Hear Me Now?.
“Lost” was produced by Nmore and was the first song I worked on for this album. Nmore and I started writing the song together from scratch, trying out different chord progressions and searching for cool drum samples.
“Dopamine” and “ANOP” were produced by Bir$day. The beats were initially just sketches that Bir$day wrote for fun; he didn’t intend to give the beats to an artist. He was just checking out some of his past [work] for references and samples, but when I heard the first couple of seconds, I was like, “Hold up.”
“Not Beautiful” was produced by Kitae Park, a very renowned producer in the K-pop scene. He recently wrote “Fighting” by BSS. I had the title and some of the lyrics in mind before working on the song, and when Kitae played the guitar riff, I immediately knew that this song [was] the one. It’s my favorite song from the album.
“Apology” was produced by Hey Farmer and features Sycho and SANHA. I think the beat is the most experimental out of the entire album, which is why I wanted different rappers to show their own takes on the beat and asked Sycho and SANHA for their verses.
“Pray,” also by Bir$day, is the most honest song on the album. The lyrics may be blunt and even aggressive, but I think the track best represents my struggles and inner demons.
“Can You Hear Me Now?” was also produced by Nmore and features my friend and [the] amazing vocalist HARU. Although we were only acquaintances when I first reached out to her, she said she’d help me without hesitation, so I was really thankful.
Is there a song besides the ones on Can You Hear Me Now? that you are particularly proud of?
“Burn,” from my previous album Spirit. I produced the beat, and the production process was really fun. I tried out different guitar strum patterns and chords with my guitarist friend for about six hours.
How is Can You Hear Me Now? similar to your past releases, and how is it different?
I think it is very different from my past releases, due to the level of work and concentration I put [into it]. I started working on the album last January, but the masters came out this February. It was a pretty long journey. Plus, the album was produced by composers from Prismfilter Music Group, a publishing company that makes music for artists like ZICO [and] SEVENTEEN. Making this album was a humbling and educational experience, something that I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy if I [had] just made the album by myself like in the past.
Did you finish some songs for Can You Hear Me Now? that did not make the final cut? If so, do you plan to release those other songs someday? How did you decide which songs to keep in the final album?
Yeah, there were about three songs that didn’t fit into the vision I had for the album. I hope I can release those songs, because those are dope as well, but we’ll have to see. As for the songs in the album, I chose [them] based on how honest they were and how accurately they reflect the current stage of my life.
Can you share an interesting fact or a “TMI” story from filming the “Not Beautiful” music video?
I wasn’t actually present during the shoot featuring the female and child actors. Jun Lee from Visionary Visual, the director for the music video, carried [me] throughout the video production process. Thanks, Jun!
What are your short-term and long-term career goals?
My short-term goal [is] to release music more frequently. I realized I’m not dropping albums and exposing myself as much as I should, so I decided to set clearer and stricter deadlines for myself. As for long-term goals, I would really like to perform on big stages and make a name for myself as an amazing performer.
Lastly, is there anything else you want to say about yourself or your music?
I am a work in progress. The longer I do music, the more I feel there is to learn. I think that’s why I’m more open to different ideas and trying out various styles - that’s what I [can] offer listeners. Wish me luck, people!
Answers have been edited and condensed for clarity. Photo courtesy of JJAX.