photo creds: Bailey Melancon
(This is the final installment of a six-piece series on the one-year anniversary of the release of the Bike Rack Records’ Summer Mixtape in 2019 (sponsored by Bike Rack Brewing). This interview features Dallas-based musician and rapper Lawrence Jamal.)
The move from NWA to Big D…
I’ve done a lot in the past year. Man, I can’t believe it’s been a year! I had long hair at the time (last summer). I’ve been to another country. I’ve been stranded in another country because I lost my passport and I didn’t have access to my banking information. I dropped a single, and then started working on an album, and then COVID hit. I moved to Dallas for employment opportunities where I’m planting roots with my little brother in a major city and planning to release an album. The major cities make things a little more accessible and makes for more opportunities to do business. Northwest Arkansas is home, but it just doesn’t have those connections yet.
Dallas is a great place to go corporate, make connections, and build resources, and when the world opens back up, then (I’ll) execute on what I’ve been working on. The reason I’m working so hard on this album is so that I can put a solid product in my hands and then I can go focus on something else. I don’t want to be torn when it’s time to do the next thing. The COVID summer break is coming to an end.
The Hot 16…
“The Hot 16” is a series I’ve been doing to keep content in front of people. To break it down in hip-hop, there’s no rules to music, but there are 16 bars to each verse. I just branded it in a way to make it seem exclusive but really it’s not. There’s been a lot of “Hot 16 challenges” but the way I make it look, I make it look like a broadcast from a radio station. I want it to be like a broadcast because what’s going to happen is as I evolve as a person and as an artist, the content itself will evolve in quality and I’ll have more money to invest in the future for production. I’m looking forward to where this goes from grass roots.
Carrying on right now…
The way I see it – I’m carrying on as if nothing has happened. It’s been all about the music. What you have to understand right now what’s happening in the world is almost normal especially for people of color if that makes sense. There are a lot of people calling minorities in general and letting them know that ‘I love you’ and ‘I support you,’ and we see what’s going on and I do receive that, but the reality is that people have been dealing with this for years.
You gotta understand I was frisk searched by a cop when I was 18 in a parking lot next to a park, and was so scared I almost fainted. I’ve been slammed up against a car by the police because I answered a question when he asked me if I had anything to drink and I said I had one beer and I asked him if he had any, and he slammed me up against the car – this big swole up former Marine.
I learned to respect authority, but I can’t allow those events and watching George Floyd have a knee to his neck til he dies. That brought a lot of emotions that I don’t think a lot of people are ready to deal with that we need to talk about and that we are talking about – anger, betrayal, confusion, sadness.
Being in the ATL recently…
I was in Atlanta four days after Rayshard Brooks was killed and I was riding in a car listening to one of the hottest radio stations in Atlanta 107.9 , and it was almost like I was in the mix. It was different being in Atlanta, because Atlanta is predominantly black. You get to see it from a different lens. We’re almost in our own little bubbles across the world.
I was at an Atlanta church playing (a show), and I had lunch with the pastor and we talked about Christian hip-hop and what that means, and it’s not what it seems. I’m too real. I’m not about being fake today. We’ll see what happens. My message is not changing. I’m still going to be positive. You’re not going to have to bleep out any of my words right now. I’m good. I’ve got to find other ways to build the kingdom. I don’t know if my music lives up to that if you feel me? It’s hard to manufacture that. I’m taking care of my heart and keeping my heart healthy and everything else will flow from it.
photo creds: Bailey Melancon
Breaking down the walls…
What I see as a black man is the white evangelical church tearing each other apart because they’re not responding the way one person says is necessary. It’s a lot. I feel weird going to the church I came up in. I don’t even want to be around certain environments right now.
So all this going on, I called a minister I know and I asked him how should I be thinking about all of this because I need wisdom, and he said that on the other side of this what people are going to be looking for is that example and that changed man. That black man that kept his head up and kept his integrity up because there is a lot of people putting in their afro pick right now with their fist high.
I’m hoping to break down the four walls. Don’t take this the wrong way, but I don’t want to entertain church people the rest of my life. I don’t want to put on display how righteous I am because I know it’s ‘bs,’ and I’m not relatable at that point. People can call me whatever but I’m just trying to reach people. So “Everything Freedom” is still a mission. It’s still a label. But the way I see it, and the name of my album coming out August 1st is called “Don’t Play This at Church,” because I don’t want people to think I’m giving them another church album because I’m putting things in there that shouldn’t be played at church.
We have to hang onto unity, because unity commands blessing. So, we have to stay unified across colors, across borders. It’s not about black or white. It’s about the human race at this point. I’ve experienced it, but ultimately I’m hopeful there will be change, but I’m also not excited to jump on the bandwagon on social media posts either.
I’m actually moved by the support that the black community is getting from the outside. I think the reason I’m so torn about people being at each other’s throats about not being anti-racist enough is not to give any of my friends a pat on the back like you did enough, but I think I really get to see people’s hearts through all this. I get to see people that are about bringing a change in their community. It’s almost like seeing a child walk and then run. I guess what I’m saying is I’m encouraged to see how much support has been put together just through people unifying because if we can unify about this than anything is possible.