Back in March, when Jah Jr. (formerly Johnny Jr.) released his newest single "Front Porch," it was a noticeable departure from his earlier music. Sure, there were trap inflections floating around his 2016 LP Jah, but not on the level that's hinted at by the latest song. Jah didn't shake hands with his love for old-school trap on "Front Porch," but clung to it tightly with a hard, underground mixtape sound. "It's country vibes," says Jah. "It's more so me being from a country town, riding around with my friends, bumping trap-era music like old T.I., Gucci Mane, Young Jeezy. It's that type of vibe from a perspective of sound. It's a country brother telling his story and his truth over heavy bass."
The song, which is also a single from his upcoming untitled LP, due out in September, was inspired by a phone call Jah had with his cousin. "He was just like, 'Man, you don't talk about your hometown enough — you don't talk about your upbringing enough, and what we used to do,'" says Jah. "Once we got off the phone, I started listening to beats. When I heard the beat, I was like, 'It's on now.'" From there, the dam was broken and the inspiration came in like a drum-and-bass flood.
The next song to be released, titled "245," will drop May 21. The tune continues the theme of life stories from the town of Dublin, this time giving the details on Jah and his father's efforts to make extra cash. "'245' is essentially about when my pops and I used to burn and sell mixed CDs when I was in high school. Every so often we would have a special where we sold two CDs for five dollars," says Jah. "2:45 was the time I would meet up with classmates and/or friends to sell the CDs. The ironic part of all of this is throughout my four years in high school, I weighed 245 pounds."
The tune is reminiscent of the vibes found in the lead single. The refrain-heavy lyrics Jah energetically kicks lay on, and complement, the subwoofer rattling beat. "You do what you want when you're conscious/ It's nothing, I'm being honest/ I'm on my God shit," he raps over the song's muffled keys.
The music that the public will listen to in the coming months is the product of Jah contemplating his future as an artist. "From a musical standpoint and a songwriting standpoint, there ain't nothing I can't write about, like I legit do it all," he says. "But, in the midst of that, you tend to just be a jack of all trades and a master of none."
Thanks to some coaxing from his friend and DJ, DJ Scrib (who he released the fun-as-hell '90s film throwback album JahScrib with), the rapper began searching for his own lane. Upon returning to his hometown of Dublin, Ga., Jah reflected on what he wanted to do as an artist, who he was as an artist. "Being around my family and the nostalgia of being home, in that moment it was just like 'I know exactly what my next project will be about,'" says Jah.
That imagery of a young Jah cruising with his buddies through a small town, bumping their favorite rap tunes, selling mixtapes and CDs dwells in the aura of "245" and "Front Porch." Jah is very literally getting in touch with his past, trying to describe the world around him during his upbringing. And from the way he talks about it, that same atmosphere will be present in the spirit of his next project. "I go home at least once a month, now, since I shot that video ['Front Porch']," says Jah. "So, I'm able to get back to my roots, and it's inspired me so much. It's been steering me on the right track to getting my album done."
Of course, any conversation about Jah Jr. isn't complete without a reference to that 2016 John Lennon Songwriting Award he netted for Best Hip-Hop Artist. Jah hopes to use the momentum of the accolade to push himself farther than he thought possible. "I take these awards in stride. I'm thankful for them, but they've never changed who I am as an artist," he says humbly. "It's more so like, 'OK, I'm getting the recognition. It's time to go even harder.' It's been more so of an inspiration, like, 'Look what you can do. You can go even further.' I would say if anything it's helped me look within myself and figure out what we can do to level up and build off of these awards." Hopefully, we'll hear all of that come September.