MindPeaceLove With Jonathan Emile
The Jamaican Canadian Grammy long-list nominated musician and entrepreneur from Montreal, Quebec shares with DTK his thoughts behind his recently released single 'Heaven Help Dem' (in collaboration with Kendrick Lamar) and living life with the MindPeaceLove perspective.
DTK: Who are you as a person and how is that similar or different to who you are as an artist?
Jonathan Emile: On the real, I’m the same person on stage or in the booth that I am in life. I tend to be more emotional and more expressive when performing, but I have no persona. I think we all have different parts of our souls or emotions pulling us in different directions. I just let one emotion conquer the other to reach the level of expression I need on stage.
DTK: The ancient proverb “there’s nothing new under the sun” from Ecclesiastes 1:9 has a major emphasis on the work you produce. how have you incorporated that philosophical thought into the verses you compose?
Jonathan Emile: Everything you could ever feel is nothing new — but your perception is unique. I think it’s amazing that we all have the capacity to feel the same things as human beings: love, passion, fear, hate, lust… we all deal with those things differently. Nothing is new but you can be endlessly creative - and always challenge that ancient proverb. I guess I take that proverb as a challenge. Yeah, it's amazing how creative you can be with the same human ingredients that have been around for ages.
DTK: As an artist you get people to question the truths behind the idea that everything is pretty much the same generation after generation. how do you view the standing of the conscious hip hop music in the midst of today’s pop culture driven age?
Jonathan Emile: Well I mean, I really do think that people are beginning to value thoughtful music more and more. Material things can never really make us feel fulfilled. In fact when you buy something material (that is not a necessity), it's just a means to make you feel something. We strive for the outcome of the process. The thing about "conscious" hip-hop is that the process is completely active. You’re taking part in the music, not just just feeling it, but constructing and deconstructing it, while feeling it.
DTK: Mindpeacelove Enterprises was founded 2005, how did that name come about and what made you want to start your own label?
Jonathan Emile: That's a long answer. Well, at the time I came up with the company and concept, I came up with the idea at a very difficult time in my life. I was battling a very rare form of cancer. I had a very low chance of survival. I guess you could say it’s a philosophy, a code, a mantra. I came up with it to help me organize my feelings of peril during surgeries, chemotherapy & radiation while being so close to death. I tried to break things down logically and analytically. Then I tried to bring balance between my thoughts and emotions. The highest emotion being love and the lowest being hate or fear. That’s Mindpeacelove, and now in most situations I use those three words to keep my composure and put things into perspective. Not much scares you after you’ve faced death. Everything is Mindpeacelove.
I wanted to have a label where I would have control of my art. It was also out of necessity because I needed an environment where I could have full artistic control so I taught myself how to produce, compose, play some instruments and it has been a continual path of growth since.
DTK: The Lover/Fighter EP you released made it on the 2011 Grammy long-list nomination. Have you had further music collaborative opportunities that were made possible due to that event?
Jonathan Emile: I’m not sure. It’s an honor to be selected from thousands of applicants to appear on that list of 100 or so, and that's significant being an unsigned and fully independent artist, but I wasn’t a finalist, like a top 5 finalist that you see on TV or anything.
DTK: The release of your most recent song in collaboration with Kendrick Lamar titled “Heaven Help Dem” drew a lot of attention from the comments on the internet. What kind of response were you hoping for from the people that have listened to the track?
Jonathan Emile: I honestly got the exact response I wanted. Many people articulated that the lyrics and vibe of the song were what they were really feeling about the whole police brutality situation. The vast majority of journalists, bloggers, commenters and downloaders that listen, are really feeling the song. They are sharing it, and singing it, quoting my verse next to Kendrick’s verse. When I did "Heaven Help Dem" Kendrick decided to speak on the experience in his hood. The beauty about his verse is it can be interpreted as describing urban violence or police violence. Some people seemed skeptical that he was addressing the police violence at all — but that’s what’s so brilliant — I didn’t even receive his raw isolated vocals, so the song was set that way from the get-go. My verse never changed and his verse never changed - but the tragedies surrounding police brutalities accumulated. People felt that the song, like the struggle, was old and new. It’s unfortunately an extremely relevant song to this day.
DTK: You’ve done some acting in the Broadway musical “Aint Misbehavin” and played minor roles in television and film. What lead you to take that path into acting and what are your thoughts of the experience?
Jonathan Emile: I truly enjoy acting. Especially when you get to meet people like Orlando Jones and Jay Baruchel on set, both hilarious people. The live theatre stage was one of the most difficult mental, vocal and physical challenges I’ve ever undertaken. It truly helped me train my voice. And I had never done choreographed dance before or anything like it before. It was wild. I honestly jumped into acting because I said to myself — why the hell not?
DTK: Jonathan, you’re known for frequently participating in raising funds for adolescent and pediatric oncology while offering mentorship and workshops to the urban youth as well as performing and participating in Black History Month events. What drives the motivation behind your activism and philanthropical work?
Jonathan Emile: I don’t know. Hahaha. Well, I guess it’s selfish, it feels good to genuinely help people whether through artistic expression or direct action. It makes me feel more human, like my life is worth something to the world. I feel like I’m making a positive difference; healing the world in some microscopic way somehow.
DTK: Share with us a little insight into your music development process. Are there any ongoing projects that you’re working on at the moment and/or future projects you would like to pursue?
Jonathan Emile: I’m working on many projects. But my album “The Lover/Fighter Document LP” is the only one I can talk about now. My process is slow, methodical and deliberate. Composing, recording, writing performing and arranging… well you can see how it would take a while to get my album completed. But I’m always thinking ahead. I have enough material for numerous albums… I like to listen to my own stuff over and over picking it apart until I am left with something that I could perform a million times without it driving me crazy. I stack layers of lyrical content over layers of musical foundation. I've grown to the point that now, if it’s not just right to my ears, you’ll never hear it.