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?”