The Beats29 Apr 2016
Melo B Jones And The Birth of Boom Bap Soul
Soulful, sweet, and brutally honest - Melo B Jones’s boom bap soul is speaking to a generation of South Africans looking for more than just music. We caught up with her before her WEHEARTBEAT studio session to talk Jozi, jazz and living the dream.
Growing up, Melo B Jones’ musical influence was like most of ours; she grew up with one ear taking in the sounds of her parent’s generation, in this case her father’s smooth Motown jazz, while with the other ear she listened to a constant stream of raw, undiluted hip-hop. It’s this collision of music tastes that helped Melo B explore a mix of the two worlds, one that she’s calling boom bap soul.
“I studied in Cape Town and I’ve always thought that that influenced a lot of the mood of my music. In Cape Town there’s this big underground hip-hop, jazz and soul scene and it really honed what I was already trying to do. My all-time dream is to be a rapper but I have no rap skills, so I mesh my singing with that kind of style. I love rap – the beats and the rawness of it, so I try and incorporate that into what I do and my music.”
Her singles seem hard to button down as any one specific genre, which is just the sort of freedom a jazz hip hop fusion needs. “I’m just letting my artistry be as fluid as possible,” she explains, “I’ve always been against the idea of being boxed into a genre, so I’m constantly willing to experiment and try new things with my sound. If it feels right, I’ll make it.”
“If it feels right, I’ll make it.”
Listening to her singles, it’s apparent that’s her music is more than just music for music’s sake – it encapsulates emotion, and, as personal as it is, it’s very often something that speaks to people - “I do what I do so that somebody can relate and feel it. And maybe even just enjoy the story.” Songs like ‘You Don’t Love Me’ will send you riding side-car through a relationship, while songs like ‘Black Girl Magic’ sends out a rally cry of social commentary, all with her characteristically soulful voice tying together the journey.
For her live performances with her band, VJTA, she puts entertainment first. “I think as an entertainer it’s important to take your listener on a journey. There’s listening, and then there’s experiencing. It’s not just about the music, it’s about the whole experience.”
“It’s not just about the music, it’s about the whole experience.”
It’s those live performances that have been garnering her attention throughout Johannesburg. “In Joburg a lot of genres moving out of underground and becoming mainstream, like conscious hip-hop and soul. You find these groups, like WEHEARTBEAT, collaborating with big brands. The space has really grown for experimental music, and I think that that’s something that the South African market is very receptive to. I think it’s happening for a reason. If you look at the political climate with things like #blacklivesmatter and the transformation of the local sports scene, it’s very much a conscious movement rather than a trend.”
WEHEARTBEAT is a multi-media music platform celebrating its fourth year, and their Studio Sessions will see Melo B Jones collaborating with Beat Sampras, a local duo with an eclectic electronic style. “It’s going to be really cool to hear what we come up with because I’ve never worked with them before,” she says, “I love collaborating with like-minded artists, and obviously they have a similar feel and sound which really helps to create something authentic. I think it’s going to be fresh, and I’m really excited.”