The Vixen Q&A: Jasmine Solano Lets Loose About Her Favorite Elements of Hip-Hop and Growing Up on Soul Music
She’s undoubtedly the definition and balance of a sweet, sour and spicy chick craving human interaction, the rawness of lyricism and the energy of electric punanny. Not intriqued yet?
Well, my Jasmine Solano experience began at the Machine Gun Kelly show at NYC’s Gramercy Theatre on a recent Sunday. The Brooklyn-based artist began her DJ set spinning off major club anthems by Rick Ross, Lil Wayne, Waka and Travis Porter then proceeded to hype the crowd and kickoff the performances with her new single “Turn It Up” followed by fan-favorite “That’s Not It,” a humorous Salt-N-Pepa-inspired shot at men who believe material things and weak lines wow women. She’s spunky, fun and full of this energy I can’t quite put my finger on. I just know that she’s someone to know and be around.
An even better chance of figuring out why I was so captivated by this long-haired female rocker came in the form of her “Turn It Up” video release party. Hundreds of fans, friends and those she’d consider family came to support this 5-foot-something raptress who has the ability to create an equally innocent and boisterous presence. But even with the intimate setting of the Red Bull Space crowded with The Colors Of Benetton (as she says), there was much more to be learned. How does she reach all these different types of peope? Why do people love her this intensely? Where does lie on the spectrum of feminity? Has she always been a rapper?
VIBE Vixen grabbed a late lunch with Miss Solano to really find out who the lady was behind the 1’s and 2’s. Her childhood, her journey from textbooks to worldwide countries and Beyoncé were all topics served (no pun intended). The bottom line: Cool peoples run with cool peoples! Without further ado, get to know this Vixen running wild in a male-dominated kingdom. -Niki McGloster
VIXEN: Who is Jasmine Solano?
JASMINE: I’m a workaholic who likes to eat a lot [laughs]. Jasmine Solano is a multi-tasker and a humanitarian. I like to control a lot of the aspects of my brand and of my artistic expression, so that means I like to direct my own videos when I can, I like to be hands-on with the artwork, I like to DJ my own sets when I rap and I love putting together the entire package from top to bottom. And so I’m always multitasking, and I’m also always thinking about my interactions with people whether that’s the crowd, whether that’s relationships in general, whether that’s industry folk or whether that’s the fans. My personal relationships [and] my interaction with people is pretty much the most important thing to me.
When you speak about your relations with people, it’s clear that it’s important to you from the way you interact with people. You had people come out and support you and kick it with you from several different backgrounds.
The Colors of Benetton [laughs]!
[Laughs] Your fan base spans crazy. My question is: What’s your nationality?
My racial ambiguity really is a testament to how I’m a chameleon in a lot of different environments, so I try to keep that ambiguity from a marketing standpoint. But I will say this, though: I am mixed. My parents come from two totally different cultures, and I’ve traveled around the world studying cultures and music. I think that has a lot to do with why I have friends from all walks of life. I also find a lot of beauty in people, and it really doesn’t matter where they come from, how much material objects they have [or] how they were brought up. I, normally, try to see the good in everyone, so it’s just in my blood. Like, my dad comes from a very hot island [laughs], and my mom is straight northeast.
When did your love for music start?
Five years old. My mom recorded me singing James Brown into my Fisher Price recording machine. She’s like a classic soul Nazi; She made sure that I grew up to Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin, Sam and Dave… all her. Then my dad, he used to play a couple instruments, he’s an incredible dancer, so it’s in the blood. From a young age I was always dancing and singing, then when I got to my young teenage years, that’s when it really hit. Especially in Philly, I was really obsessed with the Okayplayer movement, and I was 14 or 15 sneaking into the shows and the clubs! I started doing open mics and spoken word. I was a really big hip-hop activist in my latter high school years, so I would get my one friend who played drums and another friend who beatboxed and we would just have cyphers for hours. Then I started putting on hip-hop political events at like 15 and 16 [laughs]. I had this one guy who was really like my hip-hop mentor. He showed me how to work turntable, I was a little backpacker, and just a little hip-hop nerd.
That was your addiction.
Hell yeah. My addiction! Then, I went to school in Boston, and I wanted to major in music activism [laughs], so I designed my own major. The title of it was like The Hip-Hop Activism Quest; that was the title of my major at 17! I started deejaying on the radio.This was at Emerson in Boston. For three years, I deejayed underground hip-hop and then I traveled the world, grew up a little bit and made my major a little more professional. It became music production and social marketing. Then, my final year that I deejayed, I started an R&B and Soul show called “The Secret Spot,” and that show won a bunch of awards. That was a big deal.
I’m sure it was. You’ve done so much and been to many places. What place has influenced you the most or feels the most apart of you?
New York. I can’t remember the very first time I had been to New York, but it was always about New York. I love Philly, but I was always trying to be in the center of the city. I like to find new things all the time, constantly stimulated, and New York is just it. I thought I would move to New York after high school, but I went to Emerson. Even after Boston, I already knew it would be New York.
Now, what came first? Rapping or deejaying?
Rapping, actually. Hands down.
So your love for music, sparked your love for rhyming and it developed into deejaying, but what made you take the professional DJ avenue first?
It kind of took me because I started deejaying first before I told anyone that I made music. No one knew. At the time, I was managing a small production company and a small record label. That’s where I met my managers, so they knew about my work ethic. They didn’t even know I made music, and then I had a revelation. I was like, all the effort I put into these two companies, what if I put it into myself. So in late 2008, I just made the decision to go ham, to go all the way in. I had already been known as a DJ, then the rapping started. Really it was Ninjasonik, who are like my brothers, who have been supporting me since the jump. They didn’t need me to be cosigned by anyone or anything.
And in late 2008 is when you dropped “That’s Not It?”
Now, what’s the message in your message in your music?
I’m a big, big fan of love. I’ve always been fascinated and very affected by love, so a lot of my songs are about love.
Well “That’s Not It” is really sassy!
[Laughs] I think at one point, I was just laughing at the radio. They had the same message and same formula of how a guy should get a girl. And to the rest of the world, it’s so ridiculous. It’s hilarious, and I’m not even a sarcastic person until I rap. I’m really gullible and I think being sarcastic is mean [laughs]. But it’s just me making a really sarcastic song, me making fun of it. It’s like, yo, there are ladies out here who are truly not impressed by this bullshit. Get outta here!
Okay, so let’s get to the fun questions. First up: What DJ’s music crate would you most likely peruse?
Max Glazer. I actually have to figure out how to break into his apartment and steal his hard drive [laughs]. He is a legendary dancehall DJ. He deejayed for Rihanna, Baby Cham, Sean Paul, and he is one of the most humble guys I’ve ever known. He has supported me since jump and he has so many exclusive dub play… Man, his reggae library? One of the best in the world.
Wow, that’s nuts! Now, I’ve been trying to decipher your style since the Machine Gun Kelly show. I felt like I was in the South because you were killing the heavy bass records. What would you say is your DJ style?
Well, it’s funny because I really learned about dirty south [music] when I was deejaying for Wiz Khalifa last year for the Deal Or No Deal tour. I’m used to playing New York hip-hop, and he was the one that was like, ‘Yo, we gotta play dirty south hip-hop.’ Even Pittsburgh has that Midwest and Southern [sound]. And that’s when I really got into the southern stuff. I love the way people get buck. But the same way I relate to different people is the same way I can relate to different music styles. I’ve deejayed the grimiest reggae dancehall parties, and obscure electronic music with no vocals, fashion shows, major clubs in other cities and it really just depends. But my favorite to spin is reggae!
How have your experiences been in a male-dominated industry? Have you had an bad experiences with the dudes in this biz?
It’s humorous. First of all, I don’t play games. If I walk into a venue, I’m like, ‘Where’s the turntables; I gotta do soundcheck.’ Women, when you take yourself seriously, other people are forced to take seriously as well. Men or women, but especially women. When you go into a situation and you’re there to flirt, they’re going to be receptive to that and have that interaction off the bat. Now, I’ve always been friends with mad dudes, but they all treat me like a sister. Like, I haven’t had any problems, but even if dudes holla, I make really light of it [laughs]. Like, ‘Oh, I wrote a song about you!’ [Laughs]
No love life at the moment?
Well, I keep that private. It’s like Jay and Bey. Did you see that Billboard performance? She was like, ‘I love me some Jay-Z!’ [Laughs]
Hell yes! It’s funny that you bring that up! Do you think Beyoncé is the MJ of our time? What’s your take on that?
The thing that’s always been dope about her is that she always puts the ladies first. Aaliyah was getting there. On Aaliyah’s last album, it was like, we were really getting to the real specifics of how crazy and complex relationships are, right? Beyoncé is the first girl in R&B to really take certain situations and spin them and be like, ‘No, be proud of who you are.’ A lot of the lyrics are tongue-in-cheek and a little pop, but in terms of late 90’s R&B, she was flipping it like a dude. She kept it respectable and wholesome the whole way. That’s why the message was never tainted. And the fact that she sings while dances and in 5-inch heels, get the fuck outta here! She’s our new Tina Turner! When I think of MJ, I think of Stevie Wonder, [artists that are] super wholesome music. I feel like Justin Bieber is getting there in terms of a young wholesome artist who is a true musician, but Beyoncé? No.
That’s dope. I mean, you’ve got this self-fueled machine and you’re making things happen. It definitely seems like things are taking off for you, so what’s your end goal? Where do you want to see all of this go?
I want to create a new standard. I want to break all stereotypes, and it’s happening. I’m watching it happen. It’s like, okay, here’s a chick, she’s a female, she’s not showing her ass, she’s not hoeing around and she can actually deejay, she can actually spit. I want to represent females who are like me, who are kind of in between scenes, in between cultures, in between being a tomboy and a girly girl… the alternative. The skaters, the punks, the kids who haven’t really found a place yet, kids that have passions that they can’t even walk away from and whatever happens from that will happen, but that’s really the dream.
Be on the lookout for Jasmine’s EP and her Married To The Mob campaign both dropping this summer!