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KCRW Presents Lockdown Listening: Lyric Jones

Lyric Jones is a classically-trained hip-hop emcee.
John Benneche
Lyric Jones is a classically-trained hip-hop emcee.

Nearly a decade into her career, MC, vocalist and multi-instrumentalistLyric Jonesis hitting her stride. Raised in the Boston area, Jones decamped to Atlanta and built an early following there before arriving in LA in 2012. She spent the intervening years collaborating and making guest appearances, including a 2016 single with Rah Digga, "Ski Mask Way." A chance meeting with Phonte Coleman (Little Brother) in early 2020 quickly led to Jones's new album, Closer Than They Appear.Along the way, she cleared another landmark in June by appearing on Sesame Street as arapping hamburger, swapping bars with Phonte, also in character as a hiking boot. For the Lockdown Listening series, Jones spoke with KCRW and offered up the music that makes her hit rewind.

Normally, when I drop new music, I'm usually planning a show, or on the road, or getting ready to celebrate it on stage. Right now, I'm in more of a pensive, real leisure mood. And that's definitely given me a bit of freedom to check out new things, now that I was able to get my baby out. It's different, because we're not in a situation where we're out and about, and that's usually the soundtrack to music. So we have to find different ways to enjoy music, whether it's cooking, cleaning, showering, or making a designated time to sit still and listen.


The funny thing is, I don't really listen to a lot of hip hop leisurely. I have to intentionally make it a point to listen to my peers. But I'm really feeling Benny The Butcher's recent album. He put out Burden of Proofa few weeks ago. It was a breath of fresh air because we've been used to Benny and his collective — Griselda, Westside Gunn and Conway the Machine — more so doing drumless production and sinister-type beats. This is definitely way more polished, but it doesn't feel like it's trying to catapult him into a mainstream lane. And he was more vulnerable on this record too. I've been following Benny, and have been a fan and a peer of his for some time, so it's dope to see the growth, and it's not jarring. The progression is just like, "Yeah, this is it." It's a common bond, as a listener and a creative, where you can go, "Ah, this is right on time." That's how I feel about Burden of Proof;it's a right on time project.


On a more musical level, I'm enjoying my friend . He dropped a project called SATURDAY MORNINGthat is just gorgeous. And I love the curating. I'm a big fan of not chasing after big names and big features, but finding the right people and the right tone, whether somebody is going to rap on it or sing on it. And I love discovering new people that I haven't heard of before, and CARRTOONS has that on here.


I revisited some gospel music, because I wanted to tap back into where I was when I first started making music. So I've been revisiting Purpose By Design by Fred Hammond. I started getting exposed to musicianship on a deeper level and learning about it at the church. You know, a lot of us African-American singers, and if we play an instrument, we were exposed to it either in the household or at church. I started singing in the choir, and I picked up bass at one point and saxophone lessons at another point, but I really stuck with drums. So the gospel lane of my come-up really triggers a beautiful nostalgia of falling in love with music and hits and chord changes, and just going deep like that. The whole album is jamming from beginning to end. That was the era where you could do that; you can just play albums from beginning to end, and run it back and run it back and run it back. So I think I pull from that too: What are those emotions that make you hit rewind? How can I apply that to my records and my music too? So, I see a lot of where I get that from, and that innate nature to have rewindable records.


Georgia Anne Muldrow's first album, Olesi: Fragments of an Earth, changed my life. It's so audacious for her to make an album like that. And the production, and the daring aspect of being a rapper and a singer and a producer, you see that influence in me. That album shaped me artistically so much, because it gave me the confidence to do whatever I wanted to do. Because I feel like that was her attitude when she made that album: "I'm going to do jazz. I'mma holler. I'm gonna make these weird, [suspended] chord melodies." Like, unorthodox melodies, out-of-here melodies, for choruses and vamps and stuff like that. I got a lot of that freedom from listening to Georgia.

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