Creator Series Q&A with Jameka of CROWNTHEM

Hey Jameka! Welcome to our Creator Series Q&A – Tell us a bit about your background, your artistic vision and how you got started with the launch of CROWNTHEM.

My name is Jameka, I’m from Okanogan, Washington (Colville Reservation) – a small country town in North Central Washington… about 30 minutes from the Canadian border and 3 hours west of Idaho. I’ve always been a music head from Hip Hop/Rap to Classic Rock to Country to Grunge, RnB, Jazz, Ranchero, etc – but Hip Hop / Rap always tugged on me a bit more.

I created CROWNTHEM ENT. for myself and keeping track with all the albums, videos, etc. of my favorite artists and new ones I was coming across. It was/is a way to organize my personal vault of contemporary Hip Hop / Rap music. My artistic vision for CROWNTHEM ENT. is to highlight and uplift acts that are often overlooked by major/mainstream platforms to the point that those major platforms are looking towards CROWNTHEM ENT. to truly have a pulse on the state of contemporary Hip Hop / Rap. 

CROWNTHEM has always been this idea of highlighting what isn’t being highlighted but is imperative for the goodness and strength of Hip Hop/Rap culture and evolution.

Q: We love the overall authenticity and artistic brilliance of CROWNTHEM and the uniqueness of your platform within the Hip Hop & Rap community. Can you describe the moment or idea that ignited the concept for this visual playlist and archive?

2016, just finished volunteering for AmeriCorps, CityYear – San Jose and had moved to Oakland for graduate school. I was on YouTube watching different cyphers and I came across an all women cypher out of Chicago, Set It Off (The Cypher) featuring Freddie Old Soul, J Bambi, Brittney Carter, Henri Mayhem, Syd Shaw, Bella Bahhs and DJ Lisa Decibel. I watched it over a million times then went and posted it on Facebook saying, “yo these women are so inspiring // crown them!” – and it’s been on since that moment even though I didn’t put any action towards it until 2018 after I graduated from my MFA program. It was a pivotal moment for me in terms of women in Hip Hop really infiltrating on all levels on all cylinders. My mind was constantly trying to think of a way to support all these new emerging artists who had something important or unique to say.

The concept of the visual playlist really was a more recent idea. I always create playlists of all the videos I watch and enjoy (just for my enjoyment or if friends come over and want some music and visuals in the background.) But there were 7 from the first half of this year that stayed on my mind and I wanted to figure out a way to support them beyond just highlighting an LP or EP type thing. I came up with the editorial design and wasn’t sure if I wanted to write about the videos or not. I rewatched the 7 that moved me and the poetry blurbs just flowed out. I pasted the poetry onto the editorial design and that was that. It was really for me – I always want to share my playlists and make them public but I don’t want to share without context, words/brief editorial piece. Many folks are making playlists nowadays, mostly audio, so I wanted to do something a little different that still highlighted a different aspect of artist craft and delivery.

Q: What do you enjoy most about what you do? Where do you draw inspiration from?

Editorial design – the most enjoyable aspect for me is taking all the content, the artist, albums, reviews, interviews and finding a form for them to live in. Form is exciting for me, I like to see how I can switch things up or make things look like the little drawings on my piece of paper (I write everything out by hand before going to my computer – words, design, etc.) I have yet to actually execute a design like I imagined in my mind so that is a large piece of my inspiration to keep trying until I figure out how to create what’s in my mind’s eye.

Old art and aesthetics magazines like ArtNEWS or The Journal of Art and Aesthetics. The Catalyst, you know this idea of using other arts outside of Hip Hop and Rap to inspire the way I address and support the Hip Hop / Rap realm. I work in the archives/periodicals department at an HBCU so I’m coming across A LOT. I also find inspiration from jazz musicians’ album covers of the 60s and 70s. Aesthetically, I love the mid/late 60s and 70s in the art realm. A lot was created that hadn’t been seen before and also the designs they were able to create without the programs we have today – out of this world!

Additionally, who comes to mind is Chedo! from The Come Up Show really was my main inspiration for doing interviews. I loved the rapport he had with artists, even if he just met them. His interviews helped me figure out how I wanted to create my INNERVIEWS and the type of energy I wanted to have within them.

Q: As an entrepreneur, you must wear many hats. How do you maintain your creativity and vision for CROWNTHEM while managing the business side of things?

It’s quite the challenge but a challenge I invite. A lot of the time I just want to create. I have all these different things I’ve drawn out or wrote about that I want to create and make tangible so a lot of my energy is there. But oftentimes my energy is siphoned from the creative side to the business side like, “okay, so marketing and audience identification… let’s look at the CTR from the last few published posts, etc.” I’m trying to find a way to mesh them so it’s not two separate things. It’s a huge learning experience.

Balance is the key. Recently, I learned about human design and how I’m a manifesting generator and a piece of that looks like creating “shortcuts” and extreme multitasking within the process. Some of my best work comes when I’m multitasking and some of my biggest errors come when I’m multitasking. So, as of late I’ve been leaning into that and solidifying different processes that can be almost automated while I can put energy somewhere else and lessen errors.

Q: Curating content for a platform that promotes both contemporary and groundbreaking Hip Hop & Rap must be challenging. How do you decide what makes the cut, and how do you balance emerging voices with established artists & lyricists?

It’s a part of the process that is still being fine-tuned and might be forever as the landscape continues to change. It’s probably the most difficult aspect of everything I do simply because I have to think outside of what moves me and what could possibly move others as well. Of course, I can pick 10-20 albums each month that I found value in whether that’s lyrical ability, lyrical content, production, collaborative efforts, artwork, videos, etc – but, what I’m going to choose is more than likely holding up a positive, elevated and and growth mindset. That’s what’s important to me – that we are supporting the music that has a positive message and delivers the message in words that aren’t always as familiar to us (that allows us to expand and think of our life and begin using different words, phrases and philosophies.)

I just published INNERVIEW 019 with Houston artist OQ and there’s a part in there where he says, I have that unpopular Hip Hop sound –  meaning he’s speakin’ on real things that aren’t clouted out. There’s a positive message, there’s energy there that can uplift and words that can become your everyday mantras to success. 

You know, but on the other hand… There is music that doesn’t necessarily have a “positive” image or energy but it ends up motivating someone anyway. Sometimes, that’s the music that makes you move your body and that’s just as necessary as moving your mind. What I might find motivational and important to present to those that tune-in and those who care about the artform isn’t always what others will find motivational. (And this ain’t a knock on anyone and their taste of music,) I just want people to analyze and be more critical of what they’re supporting and listening to – that shit has an effect. I mean, another recent example is that part in the film They Cloned Tyrone and the scientists are playing all these different kinds of frequencies/music and they’re watching the ways in which it makes people want to fight, love, use substances, etc. It’s all energy and wavelengths.

Are you allowing someone else to tune your station or are you in control of your frequency? I want to make sure I’m highlighting and supporting the music and artists that can help society heal, move forward, imagine and create new possibilities.

Q: What do you believe has been CROWNTHEM’s most significant contribution to the Hip Hop & Rap culture? How do you envision it evolving over the next five years?

So far, CROWNTHEM ENT.’s most significant contribution is lighting a fire under many curators, platforms, writers/journalists within the contemporary Hip Hop / Rap realm. Several times a week people will say, “Hip Hop is dead,” or “There isn’t any good Hip Hop and Rap anymore” – my response is compiling all this Hip Hop / Rap that is supposedly “dead” and sharing it. I think what CROWNTHEM ENT. has done (so far,) is to influence these other curators, platforms, writers/journalists to do better. To dig more deeper and thoroughly. To innovate their processes and performance. Besides that, CROWNTHEM has helped elevate many artists who were getting overlooked. I have only officially interviewed 20 artists in the last couple years and of those 20 artists over half of them have received more notoriety after those INNERVIEWS released. This is only the beginning though – there’s a lot more to come. 

As far as the next five years… CROWNTHEM ENT.  will have artist shows, cyphers, putting everything into print, a solid team of writers, artists, designers, movers ‘n shakers. Getting a storefront in a city I decide to root in. CROWNTHEM compilation albums. Bringing contemporary Hip Hop & Rap into the school districts as curriculum, classes in colleges – there’s an educational piece that needs to be further established. 

Q: Who are your personal heroes or influences within the Hip Hop & Rap world, and how have they shaped your journey with CROWNTHEM? What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs looking to make a mark in the music industry?

Off top, KRS ONE, spiritually, culturally. He put out a book a while back, The Gospel of Hip Hop and at the same time as watching the Set It Off Cypher I was reading that book. It’s like 1000 pages and full of inspiration and Hip Hop History. There was a section where he speaks on how everyone wants to use Hip Hop as a vehicle to get to where they want to go then often abandon it in some regard – but who is doing the maintenance and upkeep of the Hip Hop vehicle (?) I said to myself, “you love Hip Hop, where would you be without it? How can you help maintain, sustain and evolve it?”

Business mind / motivationally it’s definitely Nipsey Hussle. He was laying a blueprint for independent creatives 10-15 years ago that now a lot of creatives are realizing the brilliance behind the P2P model and how we can make it our own.

Not within the Hip Hop / Rap realm, but Octavia Butler, world-builder. Being able to step outside of the society or self imposed paradigms and perceptions to genuinely and authentically create and build and express.

Also, not within the Hip Hop / Rap realm, Paris Review is a huge one – I spend hours just reading through their different interviews with various poets and writers. Their format and getting to the nutrients of a conversation with an artist is something that inspires me. It’s so easy to interview anyone about anything but to take the time to let their work sit with you and create questions that bring out inspiration and ideas.

I’m sure many people think I’m inspired by Source or Vibe or Word Up or whatever Hip Hop / Rap magazines were prevalent but the truth is I didn’t grow up reading those – I didn’t have access unless I traveled 4.5 hours West to Seattle to even have stores that held magazines like that. So, it wasn’t the Hip Hop magazines and platforms that inspired me, I never looked towards them because I’ve always heard better music and artists from what I was able to find myself.

For aspiring entrepreneurs – Stay true to you and your vision(s) – many won’t see it until you’re collaborating or receiving sponsorships from prominent people and brands, BUT what matters is that you don’t allow others’ perceptions of you to dim your light or capabilities. My aunt posted this quote earlier in the week, “if it was their calling or vision then they would’ve received it too.” Do the proper research and work and allow yourself to grow and evolve.

Q: We appreciate you visiting with us on Creator Series! Before you go, tell us your favorite quote or mantra and why.

I actually have it tattooed on my inner arm: “unfamiliar with impossible.” It’s been my mantra since about 7th/8th grade and at first it was how I made it through soccer, basketball and track but as I’ve aged it’s changed meaning every year. Everyday of my life since I arrived here on Earth has been defeating the “impossible,” what had been told to me that I could do and achieve from a small age I have conquered and prevailed. It’s a similar thing today – everyday I prevail against some of the toughest realities and hurdles. I’m unfamiliar with the impossible because what’s familiar is how I make things possible for myself and others.

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