Emerging From His Cocoon, Ajani Jones Is Ready To Fly

Photos by Julien Carr

Photos by Julien Carr

2019 may have just started, but Ajani Jones is already living in the future. After a successful 2018 that included the drop of his Cocoons EP, performing on his song ‘Bloom’ on Good Day Chicago, and co-headlining Ruby Hornet’s first sponsored event in years along with BoatHouse, Jones is on his way to an even bigger 2019. Much of this growth is stylistically: drawing inspiration from classic sci-fi based anime shows, Jones is evolving his art to reflect a more futuristic sound as he ventures  into new territories as an artist.

“Working in the studio with Boat, we have a big screen that we would always throw anime on, like Gundam, Akira, Afro Samurai, and Aeon Flux. The anime really inspired us to do something innovative to the point where it sounds futuristic, but also gives you a grimey feel, and also a fun feel that doesn’t take itself to seriously. That’s what I wanted to come across. Let’s just have fun and be creative and imaginative with what we’re doing.”

Those anime sessions with BoatHouse eventually led to the creation of the upcoming One Punch EP, an allusion to the One Punch Man anime series that follows a disaffected superhero in a familiar yet futuristic society who can defeat any challenger with minimal effort. The first of the songs to come directly from those anime-studio sessions with BoatHouse was “Futurama,” which dropped last November. The blazingly paced track is a refreshing new sound differing from Ajani’s smooth, melodic stylings Jones was  previously known for. This commitment to change and growth has led Ajani Jones to discovering new ways to improve his music.

“I’ve begun to sink my teeth in producing now, thanks to the help of Kweku Collins. I’m still just trying to master it, but once I get cold at it, everything is just gonna be more explosive. Before, I would just be like ‘oh, I like this or I don’t like this.’ Now I can be like, ‘oh, well turn this up a little bit, and adjust this.’ I think that’s just the evolution of the music we make.”

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The musician he is today is a far cry from student-athlete he was just three years ago at the University of Iowa. As a practitioner of metaphysics, Ajani believes in the power of karma, self-love and constant self-examination. He describes Cocoons as him coming to terms of who he is, and embracing the person he has been up to that point life. Prior to Cocoons, he had a lot of growing pains, including being arrested for marijuana possession while in school at Iowa- an instant felony in the state. This led him to moving back to Chicago to go to school at Columbia, but contemplated leaving after his first year. He decided to stick it out, and after moving into the dorms, he began to meet his friends who eventually became members of his team, joined AEMMP Records and began to take his first major steps in pursuing music full-time. His name even stems from a Yoruba saying, “Ajani Ajani,” that his mother often used to tell him growing up that meant “he who conquers the struggle.” It was a source of determination for him to get through the struggles.

If Cocoons represented the stage of his life where he was just beginning to form his own identity, then Dragonfly will represent his evolution. 2018 marked the year that Ajani Jones was just beginning to metamorphosize. 2019 will be there year that he grows his wings and is set to soar toward new heights. “My new music is a lot more theatric and has more energy. Content has always been prevalent in my music, but now is more so focused on a theme that goes along the entire process of what I’ve been trying to get across. Cocoons was me being like ‘okay, this me in my form, this what I’ve been working on for the last few years,’ but I wanted to take it the next level. I learned how to sing and incorporated melodies into my sound. Now I want to add a lot more cadence, I want to  add a lot more of what that feeling is when you hear something that is undeniable. That’s what I’ve been chasing and trying to achieve, and I want to evolve into an artist that can do everything.”

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Jones is working toward becoming a modern day Renaissance Man. Never content with being just good in one thing, behind the scenes he has been consistently grinding toward elevating his craft. Ajani is shedding self-doubt into becoming a person with all the self-confidence in the world, hoping to lead by example for his community as well. Even within his own family, he was determined to become the first member of his family to go to college and graduate. Breaking vicious generational cycles is a high order, but Ajani speaks on doing just that with such charisma that it’s hard not to believe he can’t do it.

“I plan on also exploring more political themes in my new music as well. I used to do that, but I fell back from it because I would get so enthralled in that, I would start to preach. But my music is so centered around coming together as a people and evolving. Now I want to do that in a way where I can tell you what I’m feeling without sounding like a pastor or some shit. All of my ideologies and what I believe in in politics will be talked about in my next project, along with how I came up and the realizations I made while becoming a man coming up in a Chicago. People don’t really wanna listen to politics unless you’re offering some type of solution or enlightening people, and I want to enlighten people in the right way.”

Jones speaks of all his future plans with such a fervor that it is hard not get as excited as he is. He’s meticulously planned every step in his musical career so far, and now he is just ready to let it all go. If patience is indeed a virtue, then Jones is surely set to be rewarded as an artist, and reward his fans as well for being so patient with him. The dominoes have been set in place, and now it is a matter of time before they all fall in a wonderful display.

“I believe a complete artist can do a bunch of things. You’re able to write, you’re to rap, you’re able to sing a little bit and hold a note, you can produce. I want to bring you my story as well, like I’m here, this is me. The next project after this will be more in-depth of who I am as a person, but this upcoming project is more so just where my life has been going to he last two years. It’s just me coming to the world and giving everything I have really, and I’m excited to give it to you as ‘Here it is, here I am: Ajani Jones.”