Photo of Kintaro taken by Ural Garrett for Okayplayer.
We called it, Okayplayers! At the top of the new year, we shared Jameel Bruner's "Don't Mind A Label," and said that the former The Internet keyboardist was poised to have an extremely "dope-as-fuck" 2017. It seems that it has come true, as the youngest of the world-renowned Bruner clan has bubbled to the top of audiophile's playlists with new work and a burgeoning live show.
For those not familiar with the act better known as Kintaro, the Los Angeles native is the baby brother to Grammy Award-winning siblings, Ronald Bruner Jr. and Stephen "Thundercat" Bruner. A Grammy nominated act himself, Kintaro has been building up a slate of hits on his Soundcloud that is sure to be harder-than-adamantium coming out of your speakers. If you weren't #TeamPejondis before, don't worry, here is your late pass and your ticket of entry to become a fan.
We were able to speak with the young Super Saiyan singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist about how his family life inspired his creativity, how many cups of alcohol does it take to overcome stage anxiety and why collaborations with anyone is not in Kintaro's immediate future.
Okayplayer: Most people know you as a member of the illustrious, Grammy Award-winning Bruner Family, but what they might not know is how you got your start in music?
Jameel Bruner: I've been playing music virtually all of my life. It came naturally to me. My parents put me in the Yamaha School of Music at one point, but even before then I was playing the accordion and taking lessons as a kid.
OKP: What would you say the rest of the world is just now catching up on when it comes to your sound, style and skill?
JB: Whatever the world is supposed to be catching onto, I guess it would be my production and the artist that I have been working on within myself.
OKP: Who are some of your most cherished influences that inspire you to do the artistry that you do?
JB: There are a lot of people and nuances in my life that really inspire me. I can say that the biggest influence would be my brothers, really. Just looking up to them and being around them as a kid [was great]. Then, of course, the musical influences of George Duke, Tyler, The Creator, and even Michael Jackson to everything else that musically matters to people. I'd even go as far as to say the approach that architects have to architecture inspires me on my melodies. Small things like trees, leaves and plants inspire the simplistically of beauty. Breathing, being alive as a human is an inspiration as well. It all kind of influences the music that I make. Even in my current situation—from being broke to having a little bit of money—I think everything about life influences my music.
OKP: Speaking of your brother, we just ran an interview with Ronald [Bruner Jr.] on the site. I wanted to get an insight view of what it was like to grow up in that household, surrounded by all that talent and developing into the forces that redefined the West Coast sound.
Photo of Kintaro taken by Ural Garrett for Okayplayer.
JB: I'm the youngest brother, so growing up with them was a little bit different than them growing up with me because there was a certain point where they were out of the house and I was still in at the time. I was like 10 or something, maybe from between nine-years-old or 13 when they had moved into their own apartments and stuff. It was really a developmental part of my life. I'm not saying that it was developed without them, but it developed with them scarcely because they were already touring, doing major shows and moving as adults in the world and I'm just a kid, a teenager. Growing up with them was pretty normal [laughs], well I mean our version of normal.
My crazy mom is always ready to knock everybody out all the time. We have the regular sibling rivalries and good days as brothers. It wasn't like The Jacksons where the dad just immediately took advantage of everyone's talents and put them in the greatest situations of all time, but it's not a cookie-cutter relationship either. Even with our development as a musical family, it was the songs and the melodies that played a huge part in the relationships between all of us.
OKP: Can you talk about your own development as an artist and your reactions to the first bit of press you received?
JB: Well, I am still developing. It never ends. It may sound a little funny how I feel about it, but at the same time those small cracks of light in the details, it matters to me to a certain extent. After seeing it, it is like almost I need more of it to really, not necessarily be happy, but to know that even being nominated for a Grammy [is a sign of affirmation]. At this point [in my career] I am a little competitive with my brothers.
I want to be where they are just because they're actually one of the biggest influences musically that I have. Even when it comes to playing drums... when I sit down at a set, I try to figure out how Ronald would play that lick. Or, if I'm singing, I'm trying to make it sound cool so my brothers would like it. Being nominated for a Grammy, well, my brothers already have their own. Me being a part of a band that got nominated and didn't win, it felt like a loss.
Most people would say that just being nomination is something a million steps ahead of the percentage of people who make great music and never see the light of a Grammy nomination, but that's not what it felt like to me.
OKP: Can you talk about some of the obstacles in your life or career that you've overcome thus far?
JB: I think I have an interesting answer for that because I don't really look at obstacles as obstacles. I honestly feel that the things that have been presented as obstacles have already been knocked down because, like I said, my brothers are trailblazing a path for me to be able to present myself as myself. When it comes down to an obstacle, I think the biggest one is getting over the things that gives me doubt with myself. There's plenty of room for doubt and I want to be at a certain place, of course, but I believe that doubt is the biggest obstacle I still battle with so far. It really boils down to believing in myself and allowing myself to fully be. I guess that's an endearing battle, but I can't think of any other obstacle that really has stopped me from doing anything else.
OKP: When did you lose your songwriting virginity? What was the first song that you ever wrote?
JB: [Laughs] That's a good question. My mom tells me this story about a time when I was a kid. I remember the song barely, but I had a guitar—I gotta ask my mom again—and I found this chord change. Or was it on a piano? See, that's me not remembering it [laughs]. I was either on a guitar or on a piano when I was a kid and I had found some cool chords. I started singing a melody and came up with a little song. It made my mom really happy, I guess, but that was a song when I was a kid that I had just randomly came up with.
My first real song, like the first heartfelt song I had wrote and wanted it to make sense to me, was random. It was when Tyler, the Creator came out as this crazy rapper and he made it an interesting air for artists to say anything they want. He did that. He's a huge influence on rap and Tyler's approach was like this black kid literally saying anything he wants. If you ask me that opened up a lane for people like me to do the same. So, when that happened, I made a few random songs that didn't mean anything but was saying stupid crap.
There was also a time when we got the Grammy nomination that inspired me to actually write a song. It was over a Steve Lacy beat that he had made a long time ago and I sent it to him and everything. It never scratched the surface. I never finished it. I didn't really think that song was going to be anything. In fact, I don't know where that song is. I lost the file, but that kind of song made me realize that I'm really down to be an artist now.
OKP: Speaking of artistry, what are some things that you've learned about yourself that comes out in your music?
JB: [Laughs] That I am crazy... That's the most that I can gather from my music is that I'm genuinely crazy and fun. At the same time the music reflects it. I gotta be real, man, I'm doing this music for fame and money. That's the other thing I realize about myself is that now I really want fame and money.
OKP: Now that we have Trump in office, it seems like the crazy times are just ramping up. How can your music resonate with those who are looking to find some truth within them?
Photo of Kintaro taken by Ural Garrett for Okayplayer.
JB: That's a good question, that's a good one. When it comes to my music, specifically, the one thing I noticed about the pattern of the reality is that a lot of things are here. A lot of content is produced on a mass scale daily. I'm not saying that I want my music to be a distraction but it kind of naturally ends up being that. We kind of naturally want to get away from problems that exist. So, there's already job there.
I almost want to say that my music serves as something for people to get away from reality and be happy. All we listen to, I mean we're not all we listen to, but like a lot of rap music and a lot of music nowadays is trying to put people in the zone of either making money, getting women or being a boss. And then, of course, the culture of gang banging. They speak for the culture. We all are speaking for the culture in one way or the other, but when it comes to what I want my music to represent, at the end of the day, I'm a fun loving guy.
Everybody who makes music is usually a fun loving person—from Roy Ayers to Freddie Mercury—they all want their sound to put a smile on somebody's face.
OKP: Who are some artists that you would want to work with this year and why?
JB: At this point in my life musically, I don't really endeavor to work with anybody. I am able to create everything that it takes to make a song, when it comes to the beat and when it comes the lyrics. The most I want to work with is with mixing, so they can make the music sound better. At the same time, I almost want the music to literally speak for itself. I don't want a feature to make my song sound better.
Now, here's the thing: features are absolutely necessary. If Lil' Yachty or Drake walked up to me right now like, 'Yo, bro, I want to work with you,' I would say, 'Man, what an opportunity to work with [you].' If Michael Jackson's ghost came back and was like, 'Yo man, we gotta make a song,' I would be like, 'What? That's crazy. I'm down.' At the end of the day, I don't necessarily endeavor to collaborate right now because I'm still developing everything that it takes to be create to the point where it's almost like I should be the feature.
OKP: Break down an inspiration behind a song that you created but never put out.
JB: I can talk about my album. My approach to music is that I will put it out eventually, but when it comes down to the nitty gritty, man, everything is inspired by making money and being famous. Everything. Every ounce of it is to get nowhere but up. As a young kid who is having a good time on planet earth, that's all I really want.
OKP: How do you get over any anxiety before heading to the stage to perform live?
JB: Lately, that's been alcohol [laughs]. I really do want to achieve being on stage and embracing the nervous energy because sometimes it takes that to make magic happen. It's like you're about to get into a fight with the school bully and you set the day and the place. That whole time you're wondering if you're going to win that fight or lose it in front of everybody. That's the closest thing I can relate it to when it comes to going on stage in front of a mass amount of people.
I haven't really performed my own personal music that much. I had a show at Leimert Park at this event called "Bananas," shout out to Verbs by the way. He's held down this spot for years. There's been many great artists that have played there maybe because of him. It was the first time I had performed my music. The anxiety was... well, being from Los Angeles, this is one of the most critical cities when it comes to artistry in the world.
When you get L.A. jumping and dancing to your music, that's how you know you're doing something good. Los Angeles is one of the places that is oversaturated in creativity, but when it comes to anxiety, the way I get over it is to drink about five cups of alcohol.
OKP: If the reader who reads this First Look Friday piece has learned on thing about Jameel "Kintaro" Bruner — what would it be?
JB: If the reader wanted to learn something about me it would be that everybody has an opportunity to be themselves the best way that they can be. I am not exempt from that quality of life and I'm still working with the opportunities that present themselves to make me a better me. If that is my personality or if it is the food I make, I am always striving to be somebody with a positive approach and the attitude towards different obstacles in life or different things that happen they're probably negative or positive. I want to be a great adaptor.
Be sure to keep your eyes and ears open for more from Kintaro (and us!) by following him on Twitter @Pejondis.