“I Want To Be An Entire Brand.” An Interview With Rapper Jade Amar

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Everybody wants to be a rapper.

But not everyone actually has the dedication to treat it like a full time job. Jade Amar does.

Back in high school, I knew Jade as Kyrie Chalmers, her birth name which she rapped under until she recently adopted a new moniker. We both attented Carver Center For Arts and Technology, an arts school in Baltimore. Fast forward to a few years later, we reconnected when we both moved to LA.

Jade’s work ethic has always been cranked up to 11. Back in 2017 we were on our way to a party and she was the DD, when I entered her car a dog-eared book rested on her passenger seat. As she casually propelled the book to the backseat I saw the title was “All You Need To Know About The Music Business.”

Jade doesn’t just create music, she researches it. When we’d geek out about hip-hop together she was eons more knowledgable than me, I felt like a 6 year old kid with an Etch-A-Sketch trying to talk to Bill Gates about supercomputers. Her studious approach to rap has gotten her into Berklee College of Music, and landed her in writing sessions for Nicki Minaj, Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion.

To kill time during the horrendous Black Mirror episode known as 2020, I reached out to Jade for a phone interview to catch up on her career. The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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DREW:

What’s going on?

JADE AMAR:

Not too much, LITERALLY just finished a song before you called. I was like “perfect timing!”

Oh really? Damn, just in time.

How you been, man?

I’m okay. How long has it been? At least a year, right?

Oh easily. You would always invite me to go out and get drunk with the crew or to one of your comedy shows.. and I always in such a shitty place in my life so I always had to say no. But NOW we’re good... so if you’re gonna go party this weekend or have any shows this week…

Perfect timing, just when a pandemic happens..

(laughs) There’s a pandemic right now? Awwww shit.

One thing I’ve been wondering since you mentioned it- you changed your rap name. From Kyrie to Jade Amar. Was there was a specific reason for that?

Yeah! So, the obvious part- Kyrie Irving was an issue. Couldn’t Google myself. I was debating a name change, but I was coming up with shit that made no sense, just terrible names. Eventually, I said “I want it to be meaningful. So let me dig deep.” I got into my spiritual mode, I went and did my numerological chart. My “soul urge number” is 11. And I was like “I wonder if names can be associated with numbers? Which names are associated with 11?” These lists came up and Jade was the first one that stuck. I was like “yo, that’s fire. I can drop gems. But we can’t leave it by itself. So what’s a lucky number when paired with 11?” And that number was 2, so I found names associated with 2, and that ended up being Amar. It meant immortal. So I was like “That’s perfect. I’m dropping gems and I ain’t going nowhere. Jade Amar.”

That’s awesome. I’m not gonna lie, I wasn’t expecting such a cool, deep explanation.

Yeah, most people thought it was just random as fuck, like I put Kyrie Chalmers in a rap name generator or something.

One thing I recently remembered, is one time we were on our way to a party in your car, and you had a book in your passenger seat about the music business…

Yo, you have GREAT memory, damn. I do remember that. I try to study the business side of things as much as I can. I still have that book. It’s in my windowsill right now, “All You Need To Know About The Music Business” by Donald S. Passman. I study it all.

The business side is like 50% of it, right?

It really is. And the people who take the time to learn that are better off. Otherwise, you get screwed or taken advantage of, and you wanna fix it but now you’re racking up all these legal fees and stress.

It seems like you’re always thinkin 10 steps ahead.

I always try to.

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I remember you were rapping in high school. How long have you been rapping?

Since I was 7.

Whoa, that’s young. What sparked that?

I was really into R&B as a kid. I still am. My favorite album at the time was Tatyana Ali’s Kiss The Sky. And I was listening to a lot of rap but it wasn’t the first thing that came to mind. But one day, me and my dad were just playing around, walking to the store, and he gave me my first rap. I still remember it to this day.

What was the rap?

“Not quite 5 feet tall, but you bop your head to this, now close your eyes and I’ll grant your first wish/ I’m the prettiest little mama that you’ll ever see, like the dog said, you can put the house on me/ Pretty brown skin, dancing smile, give me the mic and I’mma drive you wild”

I’m impressed. That’s complex for a kid. I was expecting a Dr. Seuss type rhyme, like “my name is Kyrie and I’m here to say...”

I know, right? My dad loves music a lot, he’s a poet.

Do you think your dad played a role in your affinity for lyricism?

Yeah, it definitely started with him. I gravitated to words. I love to read, I love to write stories. But I didn’t really start studying rap until I was about 11. My uncle put me onto King Los, who’s also from Baltimore, and he has this thing called pattern rap that I was obsessed with. He’ll find multiple ways to say one word, and have multiple meanings, double and triple entendres.

Define “studying.” Were you listening and taking note of the flow patterns?

Yeah, it was a bunch of listening, and testing it out for myself. Figuring out different definitions of words, and ways I can say things differently. I mean.. it was crap in the beginning, I was terrible.

Yeah, but everyone is terrible when they first start at anything.

That’s very true.

With every type of art form, I think it’s ideal to start young. You’re getting your crappy years out of the way, and you’re too young to know you’re crappy, so you’re invincible.

Exactly! You’re fearless at that age.

All the stuff you’re talking about, the studying of double entendres, that sounds complex for a kid.

I didn’t really get into the double entendres until about 14, that’s when I got into that zone of trying to say things multiple ways. Then I turned 15 and I was like “I’m ready for a mixtape.” My uncle took me down to this studio, he actually paid for the session, I did like 5 songs. It was pre-written before I got there, so we didn’t waste money or time. We got in, got out. I felt it was done after the first take. I was recording so differently back then. The process has changed drastically from 15 to now.

How did the process change?

Before I was just doing run-on sentences, trying to rap it through and do it all in one take. I didn’t learn about stacking and heavy layers. And I didn’t know that you could change the inflection in your voice when you stack, you could add harmonies. Now when I record, sometimes I come up with a melody first, and then I’ll put words to it.

I remember that last EP you dropped in 2017.

Yeah. Under The Influence. I deleted it off of all my platforms.

Wait.. really? Why’d you delete it?

I hated it.

Really?

I hated it so much.

Did you hate it when you first put it out?

Nah, I loved it when it first came out, I thought it was so dope. I went to a professional engineer who used to work at Atlantic Records. And he was an expert, he was great… but he can’t make me great, he can only adjust certain things and make suggestions. So, the songs were cool, but they were overly aggressive. And my style just started to change. I’d re-listen and go “I should have changed the flow here.” I started nitpicking it.

It’s a double edged sword, because that means you’ve grown as an artist, but you also become your own worst critic. I think the best artists nitpick their old work so they can keep leveling up.

That is so true. I’m sure you do the exact same thing with your comedy.

Absolutely. I’ll look back on jokes I did that I thought were brilliant 5 years ago, and now I’m like “why the hell did I ever think this was funny?!”

Exactly. I think every talented person does that.

So how has your style changed since the last EP?

I’ve just grown more into the adult side of me. Being able to be edgy. Being able to be sexy. And doing it without being over the top. That added to it. I started to grow into myself. And when I grew into myself, my music grew with me.

Other than King Los, who are some other artists that inspire you?

Anyone. Drake inspires me. Meek Mill. I get inspired by J. Cole’s storytelling. So many others. Honestly, I get inspired by knowing what works in Top 40. If that shit works, I wanna find a new way to make it so it doesn’t sound like everybody else. I want my version of Top 40. I listen to what works, and then fuse it with what I like to do.

So Top 40 is the endgame?

Absolutely. It’s not necessarily that that’s the goal, it’s just where I imagine myself being.

The song you recorded right before I called you, tell me about that one.

It was a very Kendrick “Humble” vibe- not that I wanna compare, ’cause thats a huge song, but its just something that’s so hype that it’s undeniable, but then you listen to the verse and its actually conscious in some crazy way.

Kendrick is great at that.

He’s my version of Top 40. That’s the guy who makes you think and then still gets you hyped at the same time.

It makes me think of “Swimming Pools (Drank)”, how it sounds like a party song but then you pay closer attention to the lyrics and realize it’s deep and actually kind of depressing.

He did that perfectly. Outkast did that very well, too. Like “Ms. Jackson” is about a divorce. A whole divorce and a custody battle, and we was singing that shit at parties. And “Hey Ya”... I forget what that one’s about, but if I remember right.. it’s got “nothing is forever.” Shit, is that about divorce, too?

I hope not. That’s like the happiest sounding song of all time.

….(*reading “Hey Ya” lyrics on phone*) “You think you got it, oh you think you got it/ But got it just don’t get it when it’s nothing at all.” Oh shit, yeah. I think this song is about separation.

…..you just shattered my entire universe.

I know, right?!

How often are you recording lately?

Pretty much every day.

Aiming to make another EP?

Yeah, I’m working on a project.

Hopefully not a project you’ll hate in 3 years?

Hopefully not at this point. I hope.

That’s so funny. I remember hearing that EP and being like “Kyrie killed this!” and had no idea you hated it.

Thank you for that, I appreciate it. But yeah. everyone is like “why did you get rid of it? I loved it.” And I was like “I can’t sing!” And now I sing

So you developed more of an ear for singing since then?

I went back to studying. I was studying a lot of Khelani, a lot of alto singers at that point, and listening to house songs for stack and how harmonies were added in the background. It was really me just listening to a bunch of people.

So do you feel like you found your sound, or do you think you’re still in the process of finding it?

I think it’s there, but it can always be better. I think my whole career will be finding a new sound. Drake said that’s why he takes so many different sounds. Because he knows that we’ll get bored if he keeps doing the same shit. And he knows he’d get bored, too.

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So what’s the goal right now?

The ultimate goal is to be the best brand I can be. I definitely see myself in a mainstream way. I see myself diving into other arts. It’s not just music. I want to be an entire brand. To the point where when you say my name, you know what that is, and it could mean multiple things. I want to be a complete artist.

That’s one thing I’ve noticed about you since high school. I see you as a musician, but I also see you as a filmmaker, a photographer, etc.

Yeah. In high school I was doing visual arts. Then I came out to LA for film, rapping on the side. But music eventually became the main focus.

If you could tell your high school self anything, what would it be?

I’d tell her to stop being such a tight ass. Really. I felt like I always got in my own way. I felt awkward. And people always said that I talk too much. That got to me. I was like “am I really that annoying to people?” That’s how I took it. So I started to annoy myself, because I couldn’t fix it. And I was just getting embarrassed and flustered all the time, I was eating lunch with the damn teachers. Not ’cause I didn’t have friends, I just felt weird. And I looked at things very rigidly. I was the kid who didn’t get in trouble, I did everything I was told, and that’s a good thing.. but I would have had more fun and learned about myself quicker if I had just let go. So that’s what I’d tell my high school self. I’d tell her to relax and to let go. That’s it. Just let go. Watch, it’s gonna be okay.

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