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Leveling Up Your Music Brand

The CAB Portal blog provides articles on tricks of the trade and best practices, as well as news, interviews, artist showcases and recommended products/services, that emerging artists can utilize to take their music brand to the next level of success.

Interview: JMacDonough

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Straight out of Brooklyn comes rap artist JMacDonough who we've connected with for an exclusive interview to discuss how he stands out in NYC, his track that we've featured, "On The Roll", the importance of education and much more.

After reading our interview with JMacDonough, stream his recently released EP "It's Mac" on Soundcloud and follow him on IG and Twitter. Salute to JMacDonough for rocking with us.

You come from the mecca of Hip-Hop in Brooklyn, NYC. What's it like being from the stomping grounds that birthed so many legends, whether it be Notorious BIG, Jay-Z, Smif and Wesson, Big Daddy Kane, etc?

First of all, it's an honor to be from Brooklyn as it's one of the waviest places in the world. It shaped who I am as an individual, mentally and affects how I move out on a day-by-day basis. The culture is unparalleled to anywhere else and every day is another chance for inspiration.

Being an artist from Brooklyn is an honor as well. I'm following the path of many GREATS, so I know I have big shoes to fill. B.I.G was always an idol to me, even before I started making music. He was killed on my first birthday and I've always felt a connection and drive to make the best of my situation. He was an example of anything being possible. When it comes to the music, his wordplay and imagery created is something I've always admired. Once I began making music, his brand of creativity as well as a lot of artist in the 90s inspired me to use alternate methods to convey messages. The best artists to touch this planet, ensures that you have to read between the lines. As some of their messages may be straight forward, they also make you think. I believe art is supposed to inspire thought, and that's what separates artists from entertainers.

Yasiin Bey (Mos Def) and Talib Kweli were two of the most influential artists when referring to my start up. Black Star is one of the best albums of all time and it was like the Bible to me when I began. I would listen to it on repeat when I had writer's block and really take in the messages conveyed. I am blessed to be a Brooklyn artist, and with that being said, "ALL HEADS REALIZE 'WREKONIZE' REAL HEADS ON THE RISE!

With so much talent around you in NYC in general, how do you stand out from the crowd?

NYC is home to many talented individuals, but there are a couple of ways I stand out from the crowd. I proud myself on lyrical ability, not just being able to rhyme or make words sound good in a song, but also to have a message. I like to make music for your mind and I drop plenty of gems in the process. I found a happy medium between catchiness and knowledge. I bring the energy, but I also bring the facts. I speak about my experiences and things I've picked up just through everyday life. I like to speak on how the world works and the mindset you have to parade to get ahead in life. I can speak from the viewpoint of somebody who lives in the hood but also has the experience of higher learning. It's a unique perspective I can offer because it's like living two separate lives. It kind of messes with you but it also makes you stronger. Plenty of people talk about the struggles of everyday life, but I like to look at the ramifications of such and possible avenues of ascension. 

Tell us about the song "On The Roll". How did you connect with Penacho X DJ, the producers of the track?

DJ is like a brother to me, whom I met while pursuing my Bachelor's in Sport Management at Xavier University. So, "On The Roll" was originally supposed to be on one of his beats. At the time, I only had the chorus and he didn't like it on the beat so I scrapped it for the time being.

Probably less than a week later, I was freestyling to beats on YouTube and came across Penacho's. The chorus automatically fit, so I was like, this is the one. DJ felt like the part of the beat where the verses are, needed a little something extra. So he added a slight touch of his flavor to it and that's how the song came to be. 

"On The Roll" appears on your newest release "It's Mac"; what can listeners of the EP expect from the experience?

"It's Mac" is an experience. The production is imMACulate. It's really an intro to who I am as an artist, as I've got comfortable with my sound and how I pursue a track. I speak my mind and literally just blow off steam sometimes. I drop gems about life and how things I've been through/ witnessed shaped me. This tape will inspire you to chase after your dreams and grab it by any means possible. You have to be fearless in your takeover, that's the only way it'll happen. You have to grind when you don't want to. You have to put in the hours other people won't. At the end of the day, you decide what happens with your life, as long as you have the will. Replace Mac with whatever your name is and use it as motivation.  Hear these songs as you speaking to yourself, and make it happen. It's Mac. 

After this song and EP, what's next for you musically?

I'm working on my first album "Potluck". It's going to be a really introspective album and talk about my experience juggling two different lifestyles. It's still in the early stages of development, but it feels like the right time for me to put out a body of work like this. It will be produced entirely by ThatBoyNOM whom I met though the extremely talented videographer MontelVisuals, both from Cincinnati.

How can your experience as a former student and recent graduate from Xavier University be beneficial to you as an artist?

First off, attending Xavier was a pretty good experience in which I've learned things that will last a lifetime. I also met people whose wisdom and friendship helped shape my thinking and understanding of life. Honestly, I'd have to say some of my most important lessons came from outside of the classroom. One day as I was going to class at 8am and I'm looking at everybody proceed in the same direction like zombies. In my head, I'm like, what separates me from everyone else? We're all doing the same thing at the same time. At that point it became clear to me, if you do what everyone else does, you'll only get what everyone else got. It was evident for me, from that moment on that I needed to forge my own path.

Xavier also provided me with an alternative lifestyle. I was literally living in a way that was so unfamiliar to me. The main thing I had to worry about is schoolwork. Yes, there was the constant struggle of figuring out how tuition was going to get paid, but money problems was something I was accustomed to. For the most part, life was pretty good on campus. The strain on your mental occurs when things go to hell back home and there's nothing you can do about it. The feeling of helplessness is almost unbearable and one of the worst things I've ever felt. You feel like you don't deserve to live better, when your family isn't and the people you grew up with are in the same situation. However, at Xavier I've come in contact with many people from all walks of life. Therefore, I'm well rounded and I got an understanding of life as a whole and how it really works.

Why was it important for you to seek a college education, though you're an aspiring artist? 

I became inspired to make music the day before I left for my senior year. At this point, I was in the last leg of the race and I'm a finisher. My inspiration came at the perfect time because that year was a mental typhoon for me. I got a call 4 days into me being back in Cincinnati that threw my whole life off course. Music was my way to cope and express how I felt, also helping me keep my sanity. However, it's important to seek as much knowledge in this life as possible. Whatever your means of doing so is, just make sure you're learning often. Nobody can take it from you, and with knowledge is power.

Education has always been a huge force in my life, because of my mom. She wanted to ensure that my brother and I got the best education possible and made it happen by any means possible. She is the reason I'm where I am today and was able to pursue higher education. She made many sacrifices early on and currently, that led to me skipping 1st and 3rd grade, therefore, starting college at 16. At 22 years of age, I'm a year away from getting my Masters in Sport Administration from Xavier University. Before making music, I had already promised my mom that I would go to grad school and I keep my promises. I also owe it to her because of all the sacrifices she made to get me where I am. Lastly, I'd just like everyone to remember, your brain can harness an endless amount of information, don't waste it.

Stream "It's Mac" EP on Soundcloud

Connect with JMacDonough: Instagram | Twitter