INTERVIEW: Music isn’t the Answer for Jetpack Jones, it’s Step One of the Pyramid

Jetpack Jones doesn’t look at music as the be-all and end-all of his artistic journey. In fact, Jetpack Jones doesn’t look at any specific medium as the be-all and end-all of his artistic journey. Instead, he sees the connections between the various forms and aims to use each as a tool to craft a creative juggernaut, tall enough to rival the most enduring of the Seven Wonders of the World.

“If creativity is a pyramid, the bottom foundation is music, because it builds into everything else,” he said. “Say the next level is visual arts; whatever falls into that category, that’s going to be in everything that follows after that. Then let’s say you do fashion design, interior design… it all builds on each other. To the point where you get to this apex, and you have this full blown creative idea that encompasses everything. I don’t know what the fuck that is yet because I haven’t got there, but I know that it exists, because there’s a lot more that I want to create than just music.”

That ambitious spirit is instantly apparent upon meeting the distinctive artist out of Lakewood, evident from the conviction in his voice and the ideas buzzing around his head. For him, the creative process is not something to be thought out and pored over, but rather brought to life as effortlessly and naturally as possible. His latest foray: writing an anime, the script to which popped into his head one day while recording new music in Oakland.

“I was at a studio in oakland, waiting outside for someone to finish recording, and the story just came to me,” he said. “At first it was coming as a song, so whatever song I was about to record, I was like “fuck that, I have this other idea.” It was this samurai story. After I recorded the song I went home and wrote the story, but it was already fully in my head. It was as if somebody airdropped it into my brain, it was just a matter of me writing it out.”

Although he’s busy branching out into new fields, that’s not to say his music should simply be glossed over in the meantime. Jetpack first got his foot in the door with music because he felt it was the easiest for him to create at the time, and nearly a decade later he’s still putting out projects on a ferocious tear. The month of August saw him release two new albums in Up All Summer and Jetpack Handbook, linking entirely with Trackaholics for production on the former and Handbook for the latter. He’s had both projects sitting on the shelves for quite some time — the earliest songs from Jetpack Handbook were created back in 2013 — but only now thought it was time to release them, and opted to trust his instincts.

“There’s a lot of shit didn’t make it because of that, I was like ‘nah, I don’t sound or think like this anymore,’” he said. “But a lot of those older records stayed on because if I felt that way at one point, it’s a valid perspective. Somebody can gain something from it . But beyond that, the music just sounds good. Even if the words don’t necessarily resonate with me as much, the sound is still there.”  

Connecting with a single beatmaker for the whole project is nothing new to Jetpack; his 2017 album DRAGONFLY was produced entirely by Don DiestrO, while nearly all of his albums in the past five years have followed the same format. For him, it’s the easiest way to lock into the vibe he’s looking for, and ensure that his listeners enjoy a cohesive experience.

“There’s a certain level of like, “okay, this track is clearly different, or could go on a different wave,” he said about joining beats from different producers onto a single project. “When I first did a project with one producer, it was 2013, I worked with Brock Berrigan on The Third Eye Initiative,” he said. “It just had such a cohesion to it where it really flowed, I was like ‘wow, this sounds like an album and not a mixtape.’”

It allows him to explore new textures on each project as well, thanks to the unique experience he receives from working with each of his go-to producers. Those experiences were night-and-day on the recent Up All Summer and Jetpack Handbook albums, helping him craft two bodies of work that showcased the full range of his talents.

“I’ve been working with Handbook since 2011, before I was even Jetpack,” he said. “It’s easy to lock in and create some shit with him, it’s a true hip-hop sound without too much out-the-box. Trackaholics is the exact opposite, you can do wild shit you’ve never tried before. That’s what I did with Up All Summer, and it’s why I put out Jetpack Handbook second. I didn’t want the people who have been fans for a minute to be like ‘ah, he’s not doing certain shit anymore,’ it’s like ‘chill, I still got that.’ But I’m going to experiment too, don’t ever think you’ll hear the same album from me twice.”

As expansive as Jetpack’s artistic vision is, there isn’t a tangible goal or status level he feels he’s chasing. Rather, his definition of success in intrinsic, finding fulfillment in his own journey rather than basing his value on achievements.

“Success is not something I have to obtain, it’s something i have to accept,” he said. “In my world, I’m constantly working anyway, so if i set a certain milestone as success, i’ll never get there, because I’ll always have another thing after that to get to. ‘Pursuit of Happiness’ used to be one of my favorite Kid Cudi songs, but then I realized that it’s a very flawed way of thinking. You don’t have to pursue happiness like it’s outside of you, you’re never going to catch it! All you gotta do is sit still and be it.”