With the release of his debut album Cope earlier this year, 24-year-old “Shuless” Joe Jackson may be a fresh face in the Omaha hip hop scene, but people are already taking notice. Jackson was recently announced as one of six Best New Artist nominees for the 2015 Omaha Entertainment and Arts Awards, and is the only hip hop artist in the category.
A deep thinker who decided to start using writing as a personal release after getting his start beatboxing outside after hip hop shows, Jackson is a genuine music lover with a taste for conscious, quality hip hop. When we caught his set at the summer showcase, we were magnetically drawn to his underground sound and lyrical prowess. Check out our interview with the emcee below and make sure to cop yourself a free download of his album.
Say Hey There: If you could sum up your Wikipedia bio in one minute, what would it say?
Jackson: Born in Omaha Nebraska, raised by older parents. I have a spirituality connection that, since I was born, I didn’t really understand, and then as I got older and matured and looked into different things I started expanding on it and my understanding, so I’m kind of a deeper person in general. I’ve always been huge into music. When I was three years old, I started playing piano in my grandpa’s basement. My mom tells this story that she came over one day on her lunch and I played her a little song that was all composed and she thought it was going to be all choppy and broken up. I went from beatboxing on corners of streets after hip hop shows to finally writing down lyrics a few years ago. I’ve always been a big hip hop head; it collaborates all genres of music into one, and you can use your voice as an instrument itself.
I have a spirituality connection that, since I was born, I didn’t really understand, and then as I got older and matured and looked into different things I started expanding on it and my understanding, so I’m kind of a deeper person in general.
Say Hey There: How did you get into beatboxing and writing?
Jackson: I’ve always made a lot of noises and sounds (laughs). When I was younger I used to get in trouble for being disruptive in class and making people laugh with a weird sound or something. I’ve always been really into music. I don’t know what it is — I can’t read music, I don’t count bars when I rap. I just write and somehow it always fits. It’s just always been a natural thing for me. I’ve played trumpet, I’ve played clarinet, I played guitar for a little bit, and I played piano. I was never great at any of those, but I was okay at all of them. I’ve had some buddies tell me that I needed to get serious about bass, because I have a good cadence with the bass line. It kind of helped me with beatboxing. I get freestylers and I can read where they’re going with their lyrics or how they want to flow it, so I change up the beat at the right time.
I can’t read music, I don’t count bars when I rap. I just write and somehow it always fits. It’s just always been a natural thing for me.
I’m kind of a person who keeps his emotions to himself, and I’m glad I started writing because it’s been an outlet for me. It’s like self-therapy almost. A lot of people can relate to what I say and it’s something I feel really passionate about.
What started me writing is kind of what we talk about…the mainstream thing. When we have all these kids growing up listening to 2 Chainz rap about shooting and stealing and doing drugs every day and then as freshmen in high school they’re looking at all their friends and listen to this music together, what are they going to do? They’re going to emulate what they’re hearing. I think music is a very powerful thing, I think it changes the courses of events for people who listen to it. That’s what got me to finally put down my foot on a certain music.
I think music is a very powerful thing, I think it changes the courses of events for people who listen to it.
Say Hey There: How did you come up with “Shuless?”
Jackson: Joe Jackson is my full name, and there’s a baseball player, “Shoeless Joe” Jackson. I used to play baseball when I was younger, and all the baseball coaches would say “Shoeless Joe,” so I’ve always been called that.
Say Hey There: Which producers do you work with?
Jackson: All my official drops are with Andy Boonstra. I did this one track with a producer from Spain on “Dreamer.” I found his music and hit him up and was like, “Your beats are dope, do you mind if I spit over this track?” So I wrote over it and sent it to him and he thought it was awesome and shared it and it had all these listens from Spain and Europe.
Say Hey There: What projects are on your mind?
Jackson: My record Cope is my first original music release, it’s all original from the production to every lyric. I’m working on a few other tracks right now, one of them is with an artist from Lincoln, Sleep Sinatra. You should look him up, he goes pretty deep with his lyrics. Andy’s on the production as well.
Cope was a concept album, essentially related to the word cope or coping. It was kind of an outlet to get a lot of different emotions out of me. When I write music I try to think of how another person would perceive this or understand it so I try to write in double meanings that people can shape to them. It may be completely different than what I think when I’m writing it, and that’s kind of how I want it to be because I’ve noticed some of the most successful artists write like that.
When I write music I try to think of how another person would perceive this or understand it so I try to write in double meanings that people can shape to them.
Say Hey There: Why do you love hip hop?
Jackson: I love hip hop because hip hop is a collaboration and recreation of every form of music that’s out there. You sample blues, you sample jazz from thirty years ago, and we’re rapping over it today. It’s a universal language. It’s the grandmaster of law. It’s everything combined into one, recreated, made differently, and people love it.
It’s a universal language. It’s the grandmaster of law. It’s everything combined into one, recreated, made differently, and people love it.
There you have it, fam. Make sure to clicky click on everything Shuless below, including a free download of his debut record “Cope.”
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