If you don’t know who Jango is at this point, you should. The artist behind 2017’s “Alone by Choice” is intent on bringing to Spokane – and, more largely, the PNW and still more largely the country – something that it has never heard before, something that will rock local stages to their foundations and bring audiences to the tips of their toes.
Frontman for the growing local hip-hop scene, the self-proclaimed King of the Nine has found a whole new gear to propel him on his journey with his latest single, “Merchandise.” It’s a stomping, eerie, genre-bending track – and the flag-bearer for his upcoming project.
The song features Seattle artist Sam Lachow, whose verse calls back to summer 2020 with images of prowling police. “I was like, let’s get political. Let’s talk about what’s going on in our city,” Jango said. “This song is talking to our region, and that’s why it’s coming out before the project drops. Me and Sam want to talk to our region.”
Not just about police violence but about the music industry, too. The track is political in all kinds of ways, Jango rapping on the chorus, “Keep your hands off the merchandise / this here is reserved for the working mind.”
“I’m talking about merchandise, as in your music, as in your compositions, as in your artists integrity,” he said with animation, explaining the common problem of major labels fronting money in exchange for exclusive rights. “Me being an independent artist, it was important for me to speak out against that.”
“I’m going to make it big on my own two feet with my own team. And with our own belief.” And with his own sound, too. Part of Jango’s mission is to fight the tides of derivative hip-hop, to innovate. For the past four years, his main goal has been to tune into his own style and put together the team to help him communicate it.
For “Merchandise” and the project to follow, the addition of producer Benn Suede proved to be the defining step. “He is the catalyst to this genre-bending style. I spit, but he is giving me the mood, the sound, the frequencies to create this energy.”
The single calls to mind musical taste-breakers like Kendrick Lamar and Travis Scott, known for their sonic innovations and irresistible flow. Jango’s right there with them. “One big thing that I really wanted to hit home with this sound was it’s not just hip-hop, it’s not just rock, but it also has these EDM elements.”
He and Suede truly take advantage of the musical breakthroughs of the past decade, drawing on EDM influences to achieve a round, full sound. It’s all about “the high energy, the wild side that I’m trying to push out to the world.”
As much as Jango’s sights are set on the world, his roots are laid firmly in the “Upper Left” soil and the culture out of which he came. “Funny thing about touching all these genres – the rock, the EDM, the hip-hop – is that we already have all that in the Northwest. That’s already our culture.”
As is storytelling, a point he emphasized heavily. “In the storytelling lane, I wanted to address certain elements for the 509 or things that are important right now. I think we’re getting to a spot now where we’re seeing a lot of progression, which makes me hopeful.
“Cuz I still think about when we put up that Black Lives Matter mural, and it got splattered on. That hit me in such a personal way. I think it was around that time we started writing this song. I think I have a responsibility.
“I consider myself not just a hip-hop artist who’s living out here in Spokane. I consider myself a Black leader. And, in that sense, I know it’s important for me to spread that knowledge, spread awareness of us being here, the culture that we have and how we’re trying to grow.”
Through his work and presence in the region, Jango is serving as an arbiter of the future. He’s so much more than what Spokane is now: He’s what Spokane can become musically and otherwise.
His upcoming project is one step toward that future. “This project is bigger; this focus is bigger than the Upper Left. It’s gonna go so many places. And back. It’s always gonna represent a place.” In his music and his life, Jango can hold his locale and the scope of the world in the palm of his hand.
“You can be from anywhere; you can make it happen. I truly believe that, I truly believe art comes from the mind, body and soul,” he said. “I think if I could tell anybody anything, it would simply be don’t allow your story to be told by anybody else besides you.”
Julien A. Luebbers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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