the vulnerability of Black Artistry, a dialogue with JAZE URIES

How did you come into music?

I was born into it. My mom sang, so it’s in my blood. When I was three I gravitated to drums- banging on pots and pans, just kinda keeping rhythm. But when I was five, I started drum sets. I wasn’t formally trained really. I would just watch people, which taught me listening and built a foundation for me around music. And yeah, I just stuck with it.

What does vulnerability mean to you?

I’ve always been very emotional, and as I got older- specifically through the past five, six years going through some toxic relationships- being vulnerable has become a power tool. I feel like it creates space for solutions, or progress. I equate vulnerability with transparency- and being as honest, and as healthy a person I can be for myself so that I can reflect that back to others. It makes my interactions easier, and with songwriting, it makes that process very interesting for me too.

How were you impacted by societal conditioning/narratives around being a man?

For the most part, my mom raised me to be respectful, and kind. And she imparted so much dope stuff into me. I think what I picked up from being a guy was mainly from school- and these ideas about having to be tough. And I never learned the process of actually feeling my feelings. As I got older, I realized how important it is to work backwards from your reactions, and ask yourself questions.

How do you practice courage?

I think as of late, my music has really pushed me to find inner strength – to support myself, truly believe in what I’m doing. Singing is so vulnerable because it’s a different use of your voice, in such a visceral way. And when it comes to lyrics, I have to dig through my emotions for the content- it forces me to bravely revisit past stuff that I maybe didn’t want to think about.

Sometimes though I’m just acting, and leaping into that position of being courageous. Which I think comes from my childhood- being the older brother in a single parent household, there were a lot of moments I had to be brave as a kid.

But I try to practice courage every day, you know- by challenging myself to speak on behalf of others, be grateful, lift someone up.

How have your personal experiences shaped your relationship to your art?

I have a fairly extensive career, with how many people I’ve performed with and the different genres I’m exposed to. Because of those opportunities I’ve become really good at hearing my inner voice. So when I was moving through some hard times- I think about being in love with someone who wasn’t right for me, and how intense that became for not just us, but everyone else around us. I was being refined through that experience. I felt the pressure of it. Which strangely isn’t uncomfortable or foreign to me, cause pressure just means something is happening. Pressure can be positive- and for me, it really contributes to being more free and childlike with my art.

When you think of art as an act of generosity, how does that apply to your art? What do you feel you’re sharing with the world?

Being able to produce music, and have a space to do it has helped me have gratitude for the process- the process of where you think you’re going, and where you actually end up.

You know, giving my art does feel like generosity, because I’ve gotten to this place now where I’m in a stable and beautiful relationship with someone I didn’t even see myself dating (just cause it was so unexpected). Being in love is a very beautiful thing. I love people, I love interacting with people. My art as of late, has been around relationships. Some of it good, some of it bad. And I’m okay with that being my message, like all of my experiences have led me to this place.

I think for me, the things I want to speak on are the things I feel the most deeply. We’re computers in a sense, cause we’re constantly taking in information and processing it through. And then music triggers this output, that’s a product of all these experiences. Which is why I love listening to people’s art, and seeing how they feel things. It’s so vulnerable to craft, shape, edit this thing to give out to the world.

What legacy would you like to leave behind?

I think about this a lot, because I have a 10 year old kid and I love him so much. He’s a little me, and I wonder “what would little me want?” I think about him singularly, but also generally, about Black males and what our role models tend to be.

I want to leave behind something timeless, and tangible- like loving yourself. And this idea that if you can love yourself, want the best for yourself then that’s what you’ll have. I try to drive that point home with my kid. And hopefully he’ll take that and share with other people, and it’s a snowball.

What do you wish you would have heard as a child trying to navigate the world?

Know yourself, feel who you are and embrace it.

I talk to my kid how I wish my dad talked to me- and anytime he presents something to me, I wonder what would I want my dad to say to me, and how would I want to feel in this moment. And my thought is, I probably can’t figure this out for you but I can help you feel your feelings around it, and at least we can talk about that.

I think collectively, there would be an elevation of some sort, if we all looked inward and took care of ourselves- cause our selves are important. Which I didn’t do that, very much. So when I started figuring out that a lot of my decision making wasn’t the healthiest, or best for the outcomes I wanted in life- things really shifted for me. If I would’ve known better I probably would’ve been living my life this way a lot sooner. But, I guess it takes things to get you to places- so all in due time.

What do you celebrate in your process?

Watching my friend Ted really inspired me- he’s a great mixer, engineer, producer. When I first came in to the studio, I had to learn not look at the negative side of things. Like, when I listen back to something I made a year ago- instead of criticizing my work, I’ll try to think, “that’s cool what I did there”. It’s important to celebrate every little step cause it’s a step I hadn’t taken before.

I’ve been listening to this book about habits, and the Author talks about how one degree of change can impact your entire trajectory. It makes me approach the beginning of my day differently, and I ask myself “what’s one degree of change I can implement right now?” And it’s a ripple, we do it for now but it affects something later.

How can this community support you?

I have a few different things going on right now, and I feel some momentum going- but I’d love a push from the community. I can say that my tight community is really good at that, and I think it’s amazing, and commendable, and at times surprising. But yeah, I think one of the ways I could feel the most supported, is by being amplified.

Thank you JAZE! You are a force, and inspiration come to reckon!

Follow JAZE here, and check out his website here!

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