Photo Credit: Micah Viccinelli
New music from Jony Shelby just dropped last week. He experiments with hip-hop in a way that breathes vitality into the hip-hop scene. As does his new EP. Mango is as satisfying as the natural treat that shares its name. Jony was nice enough to take the time to discuss not only his own music but the state and future of hip-hop as a whole. See where he thinks the scene will be in a decade, and what he has planned for 2019.
Kendra: Like with many genres, hip-hop is always evolving with each passing year. With teaming electronic and hip-hop, you’re helping to take the genre to the next level. While this is the present state of hip-hop, where do you feel like the genre will be in 10 years time?
Jony Shelby: Oof, 10 years is a long time. It’s hard to accurately predict what the hip-hop scene will look like that far into the future. I do believe something will at least have to fill the massive void left by trap music. That’s one extension of hip-hop which I don’t believe will be as prominent then as it is now. The need for turn-up bangers will be replaced by beats/instrumentals which promote creativity and challenge the listener, backed by MC’s who prioritize thoughtful lyricism.
Guys like Kendrick and Cole are already leading that charge. So it’s not too much of a stretch to suggest that. And I think the electronic aspect will have even more precedence in the future. I’m driven by the desire to challenge the genre on the creative front, attempting to create sounds that you’ve never heard of before. I believe that’s the direction it’s going in the future, to prevent the genre from becoming too stale.
Kendra: With that, do you feel artists need to change with the times in order to stay relevant or can artists who want to do gangster rap or ’00s pop-rap have healthy careers just the same as the new innovators?
Jony Shelby: Not necessarily, the market always has room for guys who don’t cater to the current trends. Just like how it is today, you’re always gonna have exceptions to the rule. I.E. – not everyone is making trap music. There are so many people who consume music these days that any niche should still have a sizable presence. Even more so in 10 years assuming music accessibility becomes even easier than it already is today.
Generally speaking though, yes. The mass majority of artists will feel the pressure to maybe push boundaries a little more and try new things. Which I can only see as a good thing as a whole for hip-hop.
Kendra: I ask because you’re not only an artist but a producer too. So you have to keep in touch with what’s out there. When you step into the studio to create your own music – do you wear both hats equally or does the artist stand more prominently than the producer in your, or vice-versa?
Jony Shelby: Because I’m originally a producer at heart, I think that side of me tends to showcase more. The instrumental starts first, then everything else follows. The challenge I’ve placed upon myself is to work on building up the artist/lyricism side a bit more to make it come more naturally. The eventual goal (in my mind) is the fusion of my voice and the beat, where the beat is a living thing almost that continuously reacts to my input, creating this unique relationship where you think of the two parts as a WHOLE, as opposed to two separate entities (the beat & the rapper). A symbiotic partnership where both sides enhance each other.
Kendra: Right now we can hear your lead single, “I’m Not Ken,” from your upcoming debut release. You’ve noted it’s about how people perceive you. In it, you repeat this line, “I don’t need you to figure me out.” In a world where we’re always on display via social media, do you feel like we’re presenting ourselves in that way – to be figured out?
Jony Shelby: Definitely, we as people are constantly longing for validation and acceptance/approval. Especially from people who we’ve literally never met before or will ever even meet! It’s nonsensical. But I’m guilty of it as well. A big problem I suffer with personally is the constant need and desire to want to please others. Sometimes even to the detriment of my own desires. In “Ken,” that idea is expressed with the eventual frustration of it all, and a coming-to-terms with myself that I wasn’t going to let others who could care less about my path determine its outcome. And even towards those who do generally want the best for you, though THEIR ideal version of you may be different than YOURS.
Kendra: “I’m Not Ken” was just the beginning, but how does it represent your debut, mango, as a whole?
Jony Shelby: “Ken” is a teaser of what to expect from me in the future, which is to continue pushing boundaries and a desire for experimentation, all while attempting not to make it too inaccessible.
With mango – EP I’m testing the waters of this concept and still trying to figure out my true sound, with hopes to really push it into overdrive if people enjoy it. For me, it’s all about setting the initial foundation upon which potential growth can be built upon. It was never really about “Ken’ or mango, but the follow-ups and what is yet to come. So 2019 will be a HUGE year for me and my journey, please stay tuned!
Kendra: How has the Austin scene treated you? Do you ever think you’ll trade it in for LA or NYC?
Jony Shelby: I’ve only been here for a couple months but Austin is definitely the liveliest place I’ve ever been in. The people here are great, and the music scene is young but really dope. As much as I’ve enjoyed Austin so far though, an unfortunate truth of this industry I’ve chosen to pursue is that you can have a considerably more difficult time finding true mainstream success if you don’t relocate to one of those bigger markets, namely LA. So we’ll see what the future holds, though I hear California is expensive as hell!
Kendra: What’s coming for you in 2019?
Jony Shelby: More EP’s, more singles, live performances, and hopefully creative music videos. The whole nine yards lol. 2019 is gonna be turnt for sure.