Jean Deaux, Weathering a Storm for Brighter Days


Words by Franky Dono • Photos by Michael Salisbury


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When it comes to success, an artist knows no greater battle than the fight for relevance. With the exception of artists that have truly conquered their lane, such as a Drake or a SZA, an artist is only as relevant as the rate of their releases. It’s as simple as supply and demand: if an artist’s supply can’t meet the demand for their music, fans will move elsewhere. To understand that dynamic is to understand the importance of time management, a skill singer-songwriter Jean Deaux has been developing since her debut to the Chicago scene over five years ago. 

Since 2012, Jean Deaux has demonstrated nothing short of musical prowess, especially as a songwriter. She has been leaving her mark with flawless rhymes alongside her Pivot Gang family since their early days with songs like “Bring It On”, and “One More Time”. Although she was primarily known as a rapper, it didn’t take long for Jean to begin showcasing her versatility, branching into singing. As time went on, “I just got tired of feeling like I was making the same sound. I feel like now it’s easier for people to say, ‘Oh I only hear you on this type of song or this type of genre,’ and I don’t feel like I’ve ever been that type of artist. I just think that’s what people have been receiving.” Although Jean’s early work has certainly set a precedent for her audience, her ability to grow sonically has been clear in every release.


...something bright and fun- that’s what I think about when I’m creating a song that I love.

 
 

Along with a steady stream of collaborations, loosies, and music videos, Jean Deaux has released two official projects, Soular System Vol. I: Dark Matter[s] (2014), and the OUTER BODY EP (2016). Though her EP release capped 2016 on a high note, Jean lost her cousin Walter Long Jr., also known as John Walt, on February 8th of 2017. John’s loss deeply impacted Jean, her Pivot Gang family, and the rest of the Chicago music scene. Jean also felt her artistry take a substantial blow without John’s encouragement in times of need. In his absence, she was forced to adapt creatively without her beloved cousin cheering her on. “He was always pushing me to be better. So now that he’s gone, I just try to be there for myself in that way.” Armed with perseverance and a support system of friends and family, Jean championed 2017 with the release of a new song, “Wikipedia”. 

A sharp and splendid contrast to her previous streams of work, Jean Deaux’s “Wikipedia” served as a bright melodic introduction to her current creative headspace. Differing from the darker introspections of tracks like “Motel 6” from Soular System Vol. I, “Wikipedia” rings with an essence of growth and maturity. Through “Wikipedia”, Jean gives us a colorful look at where she’s been. “It shows how I’ve got in touch with myself. How I’ve moved on to no longer caring what people think about me.” Unveiling her new sense of musical expression is a large part of Jean’s current motivation, and by taking her time with releases, Jean’s given herself the necessary space to evolve and create a supply for her inevitable demand. Over months of making music with little to no artistic feedback since the release of “Wikipedia”, Jean’s quiet transformation is just over the horizon. 


 
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“Because I understand that there were people who needed that music...

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...people who were hurting, because of that I’ll always be proud of it.”

 

Delving back into her previous works, Jean admires the lengths she went to create them. Soular System, her debut project, stands out especially. Soular System was a raw and deeply introspective project outlining a complicated relationship between Jean and her mother, as well as Jean’s traumas of sexual assault. “Because I understand that there were people who needed that music, people who were hurting, because of that I’ll always be proud of it.” Now, Jean’s looking toward a new direction, “I feel like I’m at a place now where I’m like, ‘man, I could keep making sad, moody music, I could make that my sound or I could make music that shows how you could be in this place and be in a totally different place a few years later.’” 

Jean’s not concerned with confining herself to a particular sound or style. It’s true that the past six months have been her largest metamorphosis so far but in all actuality, Jean has been evolving since the inception of Pivot Gang, growing impressively with every year. She was sure to remind us all where she came from via Frsh Waters’ Saba produced “Piss Po’” just four months ago. “When I did my verse for ‘Piss Po’’, I was like, ‘This is cool,’ you know, I wasn’t sure if I liked it.” Contrary to what she may have thought, Jean’s verse on “Piss Po’” turned many a head, “When it came out people were just like, ‘Oh my god you were going in I need to hear more of this from you.’ And I’m just like, ‘What?...this is like, literally nothing compared to what I’ve been working on.’” 


 
 
...it was like crashing and burning a bunch of different cars until I find the strongest one, it was very difficult for me.

These days, Jean is focused on being the best she can be, a grind she’s exploring beyond music alone. Whether it be, “singing, writing, rapping, directing, visual art, performance art, performing, I’m just always trying to be better.” We got a chance to witness her capability in the field of visual direction via Smino’s latest video “Wild Irish Roses” a few weeks ago. It’s not her first time sitting in the director’s chair, however In fact, Jean’s directed the majority of her visuals so far- a skill she’s anxious to showcase in her new music.

Hoping to release a new EP sometime in the summer, Jean Deaux finds herself nearing the finish line of the process—an exhausting milestone to say the least. “It’s been like trial and error basically. I made a lot of songs I hated before I got to this good stuff. Just from a visual standpoint it was like crashing and burning a bunch of different cars until I find the strongest one, it was very difficult for me.” As draining as the creative process can be, Jean couldn’t be more excited to share everything she’s been working on.

Although Jean hasn’t quite settled on a title for her next collection of work, the anticipation of performing her new music to a live audience is nothing short of thrilling. “Coming from this dark, moody energy, to something bright and fun- that’s what I think about when I’m creating a song that I love. Like, ‘I can’t wait to perform this onstage and dance to this,’ you know, make people feel good.” From the looks of her most recent single “Due To Me”, Jean’s newfound vibes shine from the warm upbeat tempo to the depths of her songwriting. “Due To Me”, a fresh take on her career, is the official precursor to an upcoming project. After a year of both distress and growth, Jean Deaux’s next chapter looks to be a symbol of courage Chicago can lean on.