Check out more photos from Rolling Loud below.
Stay informed on our latest news!
Check out more photos from Rolling Loud below.
But you can breathe a sigh of relief. Whatever’s happening now must be good. I just met Jakob, so I don’t know if he’s always like this, but he has the soft spoken ease and the starstruck look of someone in love.
Maybe it’s a natural high, or maybe it’s just one of those serendipitous periods where you find two dollar bills on the sidewalk and meet new people at just the right place and the right time. Jakob seems to be experiencing something close to that these days.
Do you feel like you’re a spiritual person?
Ogawa: Sure. I think you attract what you want to attract. If you’re in a good space, you usually attract good people. If you’re in a needy space, you might attract people that are needy too. Lately I’ve just been feeling good. It’s a nice thing. Of course there’s ups and downs, life is what it is, and you can’t be happy all the time, but you shouldn’t be sad all the time. Balance is important, and there’s a big difference between being present and not being present.
What are you up to now?
I’ve got some ideas about a lot of stuff. There’s a lot of things going on, and I’m releasing a lot of new stuff. I have an EP coming out Friday, so that’s pretty cool. Next year I’m releasing an album, and I’ve been trying to make things that are fresh for me.
More ‘me’ than your old stuff?
Yeah, sort of. I feel like I’m in a better place now from back when I made all those bedroom songs. I feel more creative, more sure of my own sound. It’s just a new thing for me. I feel like I’m always outdoing myself, trying to push the boundaries of what I do as a musician. So it’s coming together quite lovely.
That’s an exciting place to be at. What kind of things are influencing you right now?
A lot of different stuff. I read a lot of poetry at the moment. There’s that poet Nikki Giovanni that I’m really fond of, she was a Black Panther and she’s written a lot of great books and poetry, so that’s my inspiration lately. Also I read James Baldwin, he’s a big influence in my life right now. I think poetry is probably my main interest these days. Also taking photos. I bought a Contax camera a few months ago and I’ve been taking a lot of photos with it. That’s a great way to expand your creativity, to make another thing other than just music. Because it’s nice to not only make music but to make other things.
I was going to ask you about the role that visual work plays in your music. You have great album covers and music videos.
I really enjoy watching movies. I used to watch a lot of movies before. Lately it hasn’t been that much, but I’d say it’s definitely affected my music. I feel like when I make music it’s a lot of colors and soundscapes, so I think that’s something I’ll be experimenting with a lot in the future, trying to get a new color to my music.
What music are you listening to right now?
Blood Orange. Also a lot of old soul music. There’s a lot of old stuff that’s coming out now that hasn’t been released before, a lot of unreleased beautiful stuff. I like it.
There’s this album called On the Rise by the artist Barbara Howard and it’s such a beautiful album, there’s especially one song called “My Song” that I’ve been listening to a lot. Also an artist called Kelly Finnigan who has a song called “Catch Me I’m Falling,” and that’s also slow music that’s really, really beautiful. I listen to classical, jazz, whatever makes me feel something. Also some punk.
Anything you don’t listen to?
Heavy metal. But that’s probably the only thing.
What’s your creative process like?
I usually just make the songs and add the piano or guitar, just play around with it and experiment from then on. Put a bass line on it, write some lyrics, find a melody.
But Georg and I also play together. I can be playing the drums, he can be playing the guitar, or the bass, you know, and it’s a process where we’re still young, we’re still trying to figure out things we’re able to do. We’ve come here to experience new things. Coming to the states has been game changing for me. So many beautiful human beings, so much love, so much soul and ambition.
Versus, like, for example, Norway we have sort of like an unwritten law that’s called janteloven, and it’s this thing where you’re not supposed to think highly of yourself. It’s this weird thing. Here it’s the total opposite, I feel like people are just, a lot of people are standing up, there’s more of a drive to make something of yourself.
It’s very individualistic, for sure.
It’s so nice.
A lot of your music is very nostalgic.
It is definitely. I’ve always been very fond of the past, coming back and thinking about moments, just small fragments of experiences. So that’s definitely been a big inspiration for me. Lately it’s been more now, in the moment, and what’s going on right now. I think it’s fun to change a bit.
I used to want to live in the seventies or the sixties, that was everything I wanted was to just get back there to that time. Now I’m happy where I’m at. Now I think life is such a trip, strange but also beautiful. It’s just so interesting, especially if you’re doing something that you love, and it takes you places, then it’s a journey. But I’d say that a lot of the new stuff that we’re coming out with next year is more direct, more focused.
Do you have any advice for your younger self?
Reading, now that’s a good thing to do. Get in touch with something high, that’s what I’ve been doing lately. Make your own space, be comfortable in that space, and don’t lean on others. Be more open, take more chances. Be more direct, be honest. Don’t fool yourself. And love yourself.
That’s the thing though. You need to experience that to get stronger. You’re faced with a lot of difficulties, but be strong. Go through it, be strong, but be happy that you’re alive.
Why does New York inspire you?
New York is home and is what molded me into who I am. I love the abrasive environment, the hustle, and the diversity - you can walk down one block and it'll be a Dominican neighborhood, then turn to the left and find yourself immersed in Arab culture. It’s beautiful. NYC also gave me tough skin. In New York, you see the drastic spectrums of income. Being from the hood, I grew up on food stamps, and a hard way of life—but I went to school with people with different lifestyles and incomes. It was a culture shock because, before high school, I thought everyone was living in the projects. I thought I was the majority. Then I went to my high school and became a “low-income minority.” Seeing the different ways of lifestyles inspired me to work harder on whatever dream I had because my family and I are deserving of the world. If my parents came here to the US for a better life, I’m sure as hell not going to die in the hood.
What has been the hardest part of your journey as an artist?
The hardest part is standing out and having people take you seriously. The industry is oversaturated with so many talents, and all of the biggest artists are backed by major labels or have access to a plethora of money. My entire life, I’ve never had money, so it’s been harder to get my music out there. However, I have supportive fans and peers that will go hard for me so that one day I can be positioned right next to the artists that have a backing. I mean, it's already happening. When I dropped my third project last week, I charted for the first time. I was #1 on the R&B album charts, amongst all these artists I looked up to. So that right there just shows you what you can do if you work hard.
Who inspired you growing up?
...My [mother] inspired me as a kid. She always said, no matter what your zip code is, or your financial situation, you need to go after whatever makes you happy. I knew the one thing that kept me sane and was always there for me was music. My sister also played a vital role in my life. I always loved how loved she was. She could walk into a room and everyone would just gravitate towards her. She’s the most beautifully abrasive, ambitious, and confident person I know—and she taught me not to care about what anyone has to say. People will doubt you (whether in school, work, etc…) because they're projecting their fears onto you. Most haters are upset with themselves that they don’t have the courage to do whatever your doing.
How do you find confidence and motivation in a competitive and often exclusive industry?
I found confidence when I learned that I AM deserving of everything that is coming my way. No one is better than me, smarter than me, more talented than me, more creative, etc. We are all humans, just some give up, and others don't. Some work hard, and others don’t. I’m from the projects, so “survival of the fittest” is naturally ingrained in me.
I have new projects to create, more music to drop, more shows to perform at—and more people to inspire.