Walking west on Sprague Avenue toward Washington Street, you can’t miss it.
On a billboard, in giant red letters, is the name Jango. Below that, in black, the billboard reads “Live at the Bartlett/July 22nd/Jangolives.com.”
Next to the text is a picture of the man himself, 21-year-old Spokane rapper Jango (neé Elijah Kilborn).
When he shared a picture of himself and his manager standing under the billboard on social media, Jango captioned the photo “This is what running the city looks like.”
The billboard, and the Saturday show at the Bartlett, is just one step in Jango’s plan to show Spokane who he is, a plan to rise while bringing the city with him.
A military brat, Jango settled in Spokane after stops in Connecticut, Georgia, South Kuwait and Bremerton.
Growing up, Jango listened to artists that blended elements of R&B and rap, like the Roots and the Fugees. Jay-Z and Beyoncé were also in heavy rotation, as was jazz and a little country.
Though he was surrounded by music, Jango focused his artistic energy on poetry. It wasn’t until he graduated from Central Valley High School that he began to seriously consider working on his own music.
“Graduation, that was my first step, I believe, to becoming a man and making my own decisions,” he said.
Jango chose his stage name to represent his pride for his black culture, as well as to represent “the Lost Tribe,” what Jango calls his fans.
“ ‘Jango’ to me represented this leader for the people. For not just my culture but all cultures …,” he said. “It could be looked at as a leader because a leader could be any color, it could be any person, it could be anything.”
After releasing a compilation of tracks last year, Jango made his official debut with a mixtape called “Alone By Choice,” which he released in March.
This project came after several months of grief due to the suicide of one of Jango’s close friends.
“When he died, there was no inspiration,” he said. “He died back in September and this project came out in March so for a long time, it was just complete pain.”
To work through that pain, at the suggestion of his manager, Jango began writing music as a way to say goodbye to his friend.
Once the ball got rolling, Jango took it upon himself to use the mixtape as a way to help more than just himself.
“It’s not only my goodbye, it’s my way of helping my people in this region who I know have that seasonal depression and depression in themselves,” he said. “Letting them know ‘I know your darkest days are when you’re alone, but you need to find happiness in those struggles and in your own problems’ because that’s what I’ve been able to do with this music. I’m completely happy now.”
Jango wasn’t concerned that the heavy nature of the mixtape would turn off listeners, as he knew that reaching even just one person with his message – it’s OK to be alone – would be worth it.
“If you think about it in the way of my friend dying didn’t just impact me, it impacted thousands of people,” he said. “If I save one person, I’m saving thousands, and that alone to me is enough.”
With positive feedback rolling in, Jango, who recently became local clothing brand the Great PNW’s first sponsored artist, is looking for ways to spread that message even further.
Future plans include performances at Spokane’s Tinnabulation Music Festival in September and Moscow’s Modest Music Fest in October.
He’s also planning on having another big local show before the end of the year and has a few out-of-town shows in the works.
These events will expand his profile, sure, but Jango knows they will also go a long way for the Spokane hip-hop scene.
“Essentially what’s being created is a lane and as we do more things, that lane’s going to be open to people here in Spokane, the hip-hop community, to recognize it, be a part of it and join it,” he said. “The hip-hop scene today is more alive than, I believe, it’s ever been … If we can embody this area and show the great parts of it and be the great parts of it, this scene will flourish more than ever.”
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