Interview: Janset talks shaking off ‘good for a girl’ label, spitting in Turkish and motive for new EP
Following a solid 8 years in the game grafting hard as a progressive MC and artist, the London born and raised Janset is here with her new EP ‘Keep it Humble‘. Which follows last year’s release on Fatback Records. Check this revealing interview we held where she discusses her ethnic heritage and how it has influences her lyrics. Her approach to spitting over bass heavy beats, and how she deals with people shocked to see she’s a girl that can actually spit!
How would you describe the lane within the musical landscape which you’re operating in?
I feel like you either create your own lane or the lane you’re in creates you. I’ve found that a lot of people find it difficult to classify the music I make, I think the process of doing that is pretty useless anyway.. Why must everyone fit into a designated category or a box? That’s just marketing tactics. I don’t make music to be marketed, therefore, I’m trying to paint my own musical landscape where there is rawness and realness, where my observations and experiences can be understood through humorous flows and melodies.
Music that is sometimes full of bass, sometimes full of space. I make piano symphonies and rap over them with no beat sometimes, or dubstep, grime, hip hop, sometimes drum and bass, reggae (even more so with my live band now) and also make soundtrack music which is very spacey, unsettling/dark and ambient.. So I don’t know how to answer this really but what I do know is. Humans are layered souls and as an artist I like to focus on the layers. So I guess my musical landscape is vast, real and ever changing (Just like life.)
On ‘dropping them bombs’ you drop some foreign lyrics – what was the language you incorporated and were those significantly controversial to be translated?
That’s Turkish… my family were born and raised there however I’m originally half Chechnyan and half Circassion (which is basically in the same region, just different mountains) but speak Turkish rather than our own native language because my parents were raised there. So last year I was sitting around in my studio one day and writing bars (as you do) and, as I was writing for a producer/friend who lives in Istanbul, I thought it would be cool to include some Turkish words so the listeners could relate if they couldn’t understand anything else.
Then it dawned on me that If I wrote the whole sentence in one language and I could just keep rhyming the word at the end in another language (Turkish) and it would make sense to someone who is bilingual and also it changes the flow of the track so much. I love writing like this as it challenges and stimulates my mind so much. That’s how the bilingual rap came about.
I’m currently working on a collaborative EP with another producer/rapper/close friend (Sarkopenya) from Turkey where you will be able to hear A LOT more examples of this. I’m currently in Istanbul and we’ve just shot a video for ‘Kandiramazlar’ so keep ya eyes peeled for that one. And just to touch on controversy… no, it’s nothing to do with that, more just the fun of making a track more interesting by using two languages in a quirky way.
What initially inspired you to jump on more electronic focused tracks as opposed other genres/styles?
This started from early. I started to write lyrics around 2001 where the likes of So Solid Crew, Eve, Missy Elliot, ‘Puff Daddy’, Mystique, Lady Dynamite etc etc… were really big. I enjoyed the beats so much and all of their flows, plus hip hop stars like Common, Talib Kweli, Immortal Technique, Lowkey, Skinnyman, Taskforce, Jehst and lots more When I discovered ‘rap’ I was writing poetry, I was about 12 or 13, and realised how much I could play with words to express myself and, even better, over a beat too.
I remember listening to Ruff Sqwad (Heat FM days… a lot of people from my school would go down to radio to spit bars). I used to write but didn’t tell anyone. I found it fun and proper energetic, a jokes environment full of passion, productivity and banter. Girls wouldn’t have much hobbies and this confused the hell out of me. I’ve always been drawn to the energy of hip hop and bass music – I liked witty flows, so I started writing and here we are.
The electronic route kinda happened through Stinkahbell too (the duo I used to be in) as we discovered dubstep around 2008 or so we fell in love straight away and that’s the type of music we knew we could meditate and free our minds with – but outside of that things were always happening. I also wanna bring more of my ambient sounds (my production without lyrics) to the forefront a bit next year. Do some live piano/rap shows – because acoustic music takes you away too, but with a totally different vibe to electronic music. My love for both the electronic and acoustic world is absolute.
Is there a narrative or running theme which listeners can pick up from your music, if they listened back thru your discography?
I like to talk about what I’ve been through and what I need to release/understand… observations from everyday interactions, gestures, thought patterns focusing on human nature, the idea of good and bad (which doesn’t really exist) and just personal experiences which have taught me something I guess.
I like to tell the truth in jest, as laughing is the secret to life and to remind people to not take things too seriously (especially when it comes to my faster 140 dubstep stuff) and the deeper vibes is all about realness, being vulnerable and complete untailored, unscripted rawness. The running theme would be human perception and my obsession with it haha. It’s going to sound selfish but I don’t write for anyone else but myself. Writing is something I do to feel balanced, to feel normal and be me in the best way possible so I’m not an artist who ‘writes what people wanna hear’. Nah, if I’m loved at all by a few hundred people or many – they get it and it’s because they know I write what is true to me, and once you know how a writer connects you won’t need to ‘try to understand’ their mentality – you just do and you are touched.
Is it hard to shake off the ‘good for a girl’ label of being a female MC, and if so how did you do it? If not how do you challenge those labels?
Good question this is a funny one for me. I’ve ALWAYS had people say, ‘Awww, do you rap? How sweet’ or ‘You look like a singer, you sing right?’. When I got to Sian Anderson’s Grime Orchestra performance at Maida Vale for example, I was with the other MCs, all men and I’m the only female and I got asked more than a few times ‘What are you here to do? spit?’, haha. I just replied, ‘It’s a grime orchestra what do you think I’m here to do? Sing a ballad?’
It just makes me laugh, you have to laugh really. To see the shock in someone’s face, when they realise you can actually spit words like fire out your mouth, total dragon mode (which I sure can) and the so-called ‘cute/sweet’ person, who they were smiling at a second ago is now able to do this and it blows their mind and you can clearly see that. Unfortunately it’s something that stems from society and the norms we have created, this way of thinking makes people identify females as ‘sweet and polite and calm and ladylike’ but if I want to talk passionately about how I feel or talk about anything – an experience, a memory, a situation – like a guy might do?
If I want to shout or have a bit of aggression to my performance? And jump around? Or have a good time by letting loose and being energetic/physically potent? That’s weird is it? It’s never made sense to me so I’ve never adopted that kinda thought pattern. However society works differently. I shook off the labels a long time ago when I stopped caring what people thought of me. I genuinely couldn’t care less about gender separation as it is. Be who you want to be, do what you feel, live and let live is my motto therefore I challenge the labels by spreading love and light to every place I go and not conforming as a person or within my musical talents, always expressing myself in the way I want to express myself through my craft and way of being.
What’s the motive on the new EP and how did you link up with DLTM to release it?
Self-releasing is definitely the way I wanted to go with this package. It’s not easy. A lot of sleepless nights in terms of promo, making sure everything is correctly done and obviously delivering the goods (content that is going to make you proud as the creator and the listeners proud, too).
Trying to get this release to iTunes has been a challenging journey with obstacles and delays however it is finally out! With a three day delay because it didn’t fit the distributor’s restrictions for what defines an ‘EP’. However for me it’s certainly not an ‘LP’ either… why can’t it just be seven songs that I love and put together as an auditory journey? Self-releasing has made me realise more than ever how much I dislike restrictions, definitions, guidelines, rules and regulations because its an attempt to draw the life out of the package and this is something I will always fight against. However I am truly grateful and humbled that I had the help of DLTM (Marcus Barnes) without him and his brilliant PR skills this wouldn’t of come to fruition in the same way.
The motive for this EP is basically me marking the end of a long chapter, with many new levels and musical dimensions that I want to reveal now this is out. The EP’s title which is my aim from now on ‘til the end of time is – ‘KEEP IT HUMBLE’ and the main track from the release is ‘GOODBYE’ (Official video is out it’s mad go see it so from now on it’s about saying goodbye to things that held me back up until now and to new beginnings new musical adventures. Cheers
You can buy Janset’s new EP via iTunes here https://itun.es/gb/iuvSfb