“I prefer to be formless, like water,” JM says. “I once heard a quote from Bruce Lee that said ‘If you put water in a vase, it becomes the vase,’ so put me in any music genre, and I become the genre, like water.”
Much like his genre-melding yet fluid ‘formless’ musical creations, Jesus Muhammed as an artist is a bit of an enigma. Music – for JM – comes to his mind in mental waves and flashes of colors, shapes and patterns. Whether he has a mild form of the fascinatingly weird disorder known as synesthesia or it’s just the way his musical brain works – whatever the source of his genius, it’s a mesmerizing mix of electronica, hip hop rhythms, other-worldly vocals and street-style rhyming that he creates.
Born in Brooklyn and raised in Saint Albans, Queens, JM took music lessons from a former James Brown guitarist, and was surrounded by 1950s pop and 70s reggae played by his music-loving parents. They bought JM and his brother a full set-up of instruments as they were growing up, but while his mother hoped he’d learn to play classic pop songs, JM instead wanted to bring to life the music he heard in his head.
“When I first started making music, I was excited and anxious – I wanted to create more than I wanted to chase tale,” he says. “Creating music keeps me alive.”
A self-described loner and artsy brooding character as a teen, JM’s life revolved around his Walkman and a ton of cds in his book bag. He wrote lyrics as a child, but it was a friend in high school that spurred him on to compete in rap battles – he would battle rappers and spoken-word artists from other neighborhoods, then go home and write more scathing rhymes to be ready for the next day’s battle. His musical passion turned serious as he started a group called tha Villianz Gang. They played some shows and had a great time, but massive egos and internal strife tore the group apart. JM’s rap-battle talent and reputation quickly exceeded his competition, so he decided to ratchet his music career up another level with a music manager. He’d go on to perform in small New York City venues, paying his music dues (as they call it) and learning the ropes of the music business and performing. JM used this time to begin reinventing himself as an artist and knew that he was going to start making his own rules for his music and career.
JM came out of his reinvention musically reborn, focusing intently on the visual aspect of his music, and the mystery. “This is music I can see,” he says. “The art is a response to my existence.”
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