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First Look Friday: The Young & Talented Ebony Joi Is A Name To Remember

Lenny Kravitz, Grace Jones, Lauryn Hill, Lion Babe, Thundercat, SZA & More Rock The Afropunk Festival 2015 in Brooklyn, NY. Source: Ebony Joi

Since the age of two, Ebony Joi has wanted to be a singer-songwriter, and as you’ll read in this interview—she has the chops to have a solid career in music.

When you have a person who has helped Nicki Minaj, Maroon 5 and Jay-Z crack into the upper echelons of music and pop culture calling you “unbelievable,” “amazing” and “limitless” — you’re on the way to becoming a major wave. These attributes describe this week’s First Look Friday subject, Ebony Joi. Wanting to be a part of this music thing since the ripe old age of two, Joi has brought audiophiles exactly that with her talented range, vivid lyricism and determined work ethic.

Cultivated from her mother, who raised her to know the benefits of hard work and dedication, Ebony Joi was focused on achieving her goals. Strong and curious at the same damn time, Ebony worked her way through adversity, obstacles, successes and shortcomings to hone her craft and create opportunities to excel in her career. A top performer throughout her education, Ebony obtained her college degree in professional music from the esteemed Berklee College of Music and has performed on bills featuring some of the best in the business: The Roots, Bruno Mars, Lauryn Hill.

With demolishing stages across the world as her goal for 2018, Ebony Joi is staking her claim as one of R&B’s newest stars to watch. To prove that, we’re sharing her video "Solo" for you to check out below. And with all that in mind, we were fortunate to get some time with Ebony Joi as we talk about her musical influences, why obstacles never hold her down and who does she want to work with in the future.

Okayplayer: To music snobs the world over, you are making an impact. What is it that those in the music game are seeing and hearing that the rest of the world has yet to discover?

Ebony Joi: Honestly… it’s the honesty. I spent a long time making music I thought people wanted to hear. With my latest project, Young & Reckless, you hear me, who I really am, how I really think. It’s unfiltered and true. I think that comes across when you listen.

OKP: For those who have a passion for music, they honed their skills and practiced their craft. Who are your most cherished influences in music and why?

EJ:Prince! I love Prince. Not just because he was a musical genius. Honestly, that is secondary for me. I love Prince because he was always unapologetically him in every way. That spoke to me and encouraged me in a way that I had never experienced before.

OKP: Can you talk about how your life was while developing as an artist? How did you react to your first bits of press?

EJ: Deciding to become an artist was such a process for me. I wasn’t always as confident as I am now. I always sang, but fully committing to artistry was a huge step for me. I think one of the most amazing feelings was getting overseas buzz! To know that this little girl from North Philly’s voice was being heard in other continents was indescribable.

OKP: With incidents involving people of color, police and racists occurring almost on a daily basis around the globe — how can your music help to relieve the trauma that is being experienced by the masses?

EJ: The state of our country right now is heartbreaking and stressful. While a majority of Young & Reckless may not address heavy subject matter, it gives people a safe space to unwind and focus on themselves. In my inner circle, self-care is a necessity and a huge part of being able to stand and fight for others.

OKP: What have been the most definitive obstacles that you’ve overcome in your career thus far?

EJ: I don’t know that I would call it an obstacle but the biggest lesson I learned was “know who you are.” Like I mentioned earlier, in the beginning of my career I wanted to be what people wanted me to be. I finally got to the point where I realized I had to be true to myself in order to truly succeed and be happy.

OKP: Can you also talk about the importance of the music industry scene as how you’ve experienced it? How do you see it evolving in the next five years?

EJ: The music industry scene is an interesting place! Doing so much background vocal work I’ve seen a lot and from a different perspective. I learned very early that so much of it is not just who you know but how you make people feel. With the rapid changes in the industry I think that the way music is released is really going to take a huge turn very, very soon.

OKP: What are some things that you’ve learned about yourself that comes out in your music?

EJ: I’ve learned that I’m pretty crazy! [Laughs] No seriously I’ve learned that I am very layered and complex. When I write, I don’t stop to consider how it may come off I just let the thoughts pour out. By doing that I really get to communicate and understand myself on a different level.

OKP: What were some moments from your recent travels that will forever stick with you? Why?

EJ: There have been so many amazing trips in the last year or so. Most recently I went to Switzerland with The Roots and Usher. It was my first time there and it was literally one of the most beautiful countries I’ve ever been to.

Lenny Kravitz, Grace Jones, Lauryn Hill, Lion Babe, Thundercat, SZA & More Rock The Afropunk Festival 2015 in Brooklyn, NY. Source: Ebony Joi

OKP: What was the first song that you ever wrote entitled? Can you talk about what it has come to symbolize since you’ve entered into the professional life?

EJ: The first song I ever wrote was in maybe fourth grade called “Home Again”. It was contemporary gospel with a rap in it [laughs]. I remember we had a group and they sat me down to kick me out of the group because they said I was taking it too seriously and I was being too bossy. I was so heartbroken but looking back at it now it’s hilarious!

OKP: How can your music speak truth to power in an age where people are so quickly digesting sounds and disposing of artists in a nanosecond?

EJ: I believe my music has content that hits people in a very real way. Any song that you connect with on a personal level will always stay with you no matter the genre or the delivery method.

OKP: Collaboration is uniquely a key to the success of certain creative individuals who wish to change the game. Who would you want to work with this year going into the next and why?

EJ: I would love to work with Missy Elliott. My love and respect for her is unmatched. I think we would really make magic together. Rico Love as well! His energy and grind are awesome!

OKP: What is the overall message that Ebony Joi is trying to present in her music?

EJ: Freedom! Be you and love you!

OKP: Can you break down the inspiration behind a song that you created but never put out?

EJ: An unreleased song? Let’s see… I wrote a song called “One Helluva Night”. It was inspired by the relationship I was in at the time. The moral of the story was that no matter how much we would get into it something about him kept me there. When I wrote it I thought it was cute and perfectly fitting to us. Listening to it now it’s pretty sad. I don’t know that I’ll ever release it because that’s not the kind of behavior I want to encourage in women.

OKP: How do you get over any anxiety before hitting the stage to perform live? What are some lessons or tips that you’ve learned from others about doing a stage show?

EJ: I sang my first solo at two years old so it’s been a while since I’ve been nervous. I’m sure it will come as the stages get bigger. I think what I’ve learned the most is give your all and don’t hold back anytime you have the chance.

OKP: If the reader’s learned one thing from this First Look Friday chat with Ebony Joi — what would it be?

EJ: I would love for people to take away the love and freedom of self that I have. For a long time in my life I mainly saw myself as someone’s something. Someone’s daughter, someone’s friend, someone’s girlfriend. I made most of my decisions based on my relationships and how I would make people feel. It took me a long time to get to this place where I am living for myself and putting my happiness as a priority. I hope that other people can see that light in me and realize that the only way to truly be happy is to love and be yourself!


Be sure to keep your eyes and ears open for more from Ebony Joi (and us!) by following her on Twitter @EboniJoiMusic.