By Emily Barnes
Assistant Features Editor
With your eyes closed, imagine leisurely driving down your favorite road – the one with subtle curves and giant trees that almost touch the sky on either side. It’s the peak of golden hour and you have a soothing playlist on shuffle.
This universal ethereal feeling embodies the ambient sounds of sophomore public relations major and singer-songwriter Jazmin “Jazz” Graham.
“Music has always been a part of my life,” Graham said. “I started out singing in church and in [gospel] competitions at Madison Square Garden and PNC Arts Center.”
Graham – who produces music on SoundCloud under the name “darketherealwave baddie” as an ode to Atlanta-based R&B singer, ABRA – believes she was living a double life growing up when it came to music.
“I was this cute little girl [performing on TV] and singing gospel music because I love it, and then when I wasn’t doing that I was writing these sad songs and wearing black eyeliner and crying,” she said.
Dabbling in genres of both soft acoustic and trip hop, Graham’s artistry has evolved into nothing short of eclectic in terms of sound and style.
“I have ‘TV Yellow,’ which is my band with [my friend] Will; it’s more acoustic, singer-songwriter kind of thing. And then my other stuff is me experimenting by myself and with my friend Josh that makes [trip hop] beats on SoundCloud,” she said regarding her range of music projects.
Trip hop, described by Graham as a “chill, kind of jazzy” style of otherwise traditional hip hop, fuses soulful, psychedelic rhythms with electronica and R&B.
Art is an undeniably subjective concept – whether it is shown through music or any other creative medium. Graham believes it’s ultimately “up to the artist” what type of content they choose to address in their music. In her song “Nothing to Lose,” she gestures towards notions of equality for same-sex couples.
“If I can think of clever ways to express my opinion on things, I will. [In the song] it’s my quick kind of jab to say, ‘This is okay. This is normal. Guys love each other sometimes and that’s fine,’” she said.
With hopes of working inside the A&R department of a record label or as an image consultant for other artists developing a brand for themselves, Graham says she still intends on keeping her own music a priority.
“If the music thing takes off one day somehow, that would be cool. I think I still need to pursue it just for my own mental stability.”
On Friday, Nov. 3, finalists performed in Hofstra’s Music and Entertainment Industry Student Association’s first annual Songwriting Contest for a chance to win one professional-quality recording of their song done in a studio. Though it was only the second time she had performed her original music in a live setting, Graham says the experience as a whole reassured her of her writing style, being that it is not so clear cut or easy to understand.
“It’s a different experience to be in a vocal competition and be judged on how you sing, how to better turn your note, how you enunciate your words, where better areas are in the song to take breaths … I’m not sure that anyone has a right to judge a person creatively on how they expose their life through a song,” she said.
Acknowledging the unconventional construction and je ne sais quoi elements of Graham’s music seem to set it apart from other artists in similar genres.
“I want [my lyrics] to be interesting and smart. I want my music to make people think and interpret what I’m saying to their own lives. I’m never going to stop making smart music,” Graham said confidently in response to lyrics in particular having every right to be as structured or unstructured as the artist envisions. “You can do whatever you want because at the end of the day it’s your art; it’s your therapy and you should be doing it for yourself.”