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Afro-Kitty Jones Q+A: Get To Know This New Chicago Artist

Afro-Kitty Jones Q+A: Get To Know This New Chicago Artist

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Gaining a strong footing on the Chicago hip hop scene can be challenging when you didn’t grow up in the city, but Afro-Kitty Jones has shown it’s definitely possible. The Ohio to Chicago artist has quickly proved to be a musical force with the talent to really make a name for herself in the Windy City. From connecting with artists such as Joseph Chilliams, SiSi Dior and L i n u s to dropping an excellent tape with Supa X,  Jones has been making all the right moves.  Her smooth R&B inspired sound is full of emotion and thoughtful songwriting as well as some solid instrumentation. We got the chance to ask her about what it’s like being in Chicago, how she got so musical and what to expect from her going forward. Check it out below.


You are a multi-talented artist who plays a variety of instruments. How did you first get into music? What made you want to learn so many different instruments?
I’m a songwriter, that’s what I want to do! So in order to compose and diversify my sound, I’ve had to pick up several instruments  Once you learn one, the rest are easy to pick up. Yea, as a songwriter I play a lot of instruments efficiently, but I would say I play trumpet well. Lol! Like most band kids, my first instrument was piano. I took about 6 lessons before I ran out of one of my lessons kicking and screaming, vowing how I’d never come back. Luckily, though, I got the basics down and am able to incorporate piano licks into song I write now. Like in ‘My Llama,’ the last track on my EP, I played the piano parts in the background, But, really, I am a trumpet player through and through. I started playing trumpet in the 6th grade (about 11 years old), and took private lessons and all of that. I am classically trained, but also spent a lot of time learning jazz. I was in all the bands…and yes, that means I was a band kid. I say band kid, and not band dork because at my school band was kind of a big deal, and it was cool to have talent and know how to play an instrument. I learned guitar in college. Which, in an interesting story because of how I got my first guitar…lol, which I won’t get into, but in college I started experimenting with rock influences and was in a little rock band called “Fingers,” in Columbus, OH. I played trumpet in Fingers, but was able to pick up guitar tricks and things from my band members. The band worked out well, till I Yoko Ono’d it, then also moved to Chicago for grad school. Anyway, Chicago  is where I learned my final instrument, my voice.

There was a diverse range of sounds on your new tape Supa X, highlighting just how talented you are. What/who were some of your inspirations that lead to such variety?
Well, thank you. Um, yea, so as a songwriter, I try to have an artist in mind when I write, so that I can practice my craft and create something an artist would want to buy. For my tape, I wanted to showcase my writing versatility.. I did have some influences…like in “Rearview Love” it was influenced by a combination of artists including one of my favorite songwriters, Sia as well as Daniel Caesar. If you listen carefully, you’ll hear a melodic ‘bite’ from Caesar’s “Get you” in the hook and lyrical bite from Sia’s “Chandelier” in the first verse. But if I’m doing my job right as a songwriter, then you couldn’t really tell the first time you heard it. Other tracks, like “My Llama” remind me of Rihanna, “Worm Ass Niggaz” was influenced in part, by Chance, especially the second verse. My biggest influence, though, is Erykah Badu.I grew up on  her stuff, and any time I’m in a writing block, I just play one of her songs and it gets me on track. 
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You are not only an artist but are also pursuing a doctorate in clinical psychology. How has that experience impacted your art?
Interesting question. Well, music is about the human experience, and in my training, I’ve seen about 130 patients and they all have a unique story and piece of life to share. Sometimes their story is filled with joy and love…other times its filled with sorrow and loss. Those are the things I try to capture in my music, real life people and real life experiences, I think that comes through on the tape, and what makes music popular and relatable. I actually wrote some of Rearview love at the clinic where I work. 
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You’re originally from Ohio but have been in Chicago for a few years. How has Chicago affected your music? How has Ohio?
Ohio is the land! But, I don’t miss it too bad, only when I feel like doing country girl things like camping or shooting…I love Chicago. Chicago is the new land and definitely where I call home (sorry, mom!) Chicago influenced my music a lot, before I came here I did a lot of folk music, acoustic sets and all that. When I came here I stayed in the north side, and spent time with a lot of school friends. I was really unhappy then, it wasn’t until I made local friends and got acquainted with the city music scene, and spent some time acculturating myself in the south and west side of Chicago that I began to really understand the sound and culture of Chicago. That’s sort of when I started to pursue music in a more professional  manner. I met a lot of dope artists at first by shear chance and luck—it was crazy how I met the people I did, but once I met the right folks, I was able to explore the real Chicago, you know, what was happening in the streets and in the homes of those who have lived here their whole lives. That, in turn, influenced my sound. Chicago has this avant garde quality about it—a unique style that is hard to predict. I fed into that and felt confident in developing my own sound. 

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What is your favorite song on Supa X? Why is it your favorite/what was it like recording it?
My favorite song!? Jeez! I don’t know, they’re all so so good! Lol, but really it’s hard to pick cause I have a ton of different sounds on the tape, and not any repeating genres really. “Limitless” with Joseph Chilliams and SiSi Dior is probably up there on the list of favorites. It was cool because the way the song came together was so atypical. First I laid the trumpet, then my producer, L i n u s is so dope, he’s got a crazy ear for things, so he chopped up the trumpet to create the sound on the hook that you hear. I then played over a drum beat for the trumpet solo in the middle. King Syed helped arrange the track. I love Limitless because it showcases my trumpet playing a lot, and I was actually the last person to write my verse for the song. It was crazy, Joseph was on tour when he recorded his verse, but it all worked out. Rearview Love is probably my favorite favorite though. It’s my favorite because its so real, it means a lot to me personally, and the background music is so simple (guitar, cello, and trumpet), it’s just so beautiful. The most fun to make was “My Llama,” because I didn’t really come into the studio with that written already and wrote all the lyrics freestyle, which is not typically how I approach my music. 
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You’ve managed to work with some great Chicago artists like Joseph Chilliams, Sisi Dior, Qari, and Na$im Williams. How did you link with those artists? Was it difficult to network at first?
So, this all happened by chance. At the time that I met this pretty important guy named DJ. I had just gone through some personal stuff and was spending a lot of my time praying. I used to ask God for help in music, to help me get my sound out there, cause I was having a hard time finding a studio or musicians. Then one spring day in 2017, I sat  next to some guy [DJ] and said “Hey, can I ask you a weird question?” Then I proceeded to ask him to tell me which instagram picture to post. Lol, Anyway, long story short, he was affiliated with 406, a music garage based studio where I met OnGaud, the producer well known in Chicago, especially for his role with Mick Jenkins. Through OnGaud and DJ I was able to make acquaintance with Qari, Lucki, Plu20 Nash, Slime, Cangelosi, and Mulatto Beats, just a bunch of cool, “on” folks. I didn’t really realize it at the time, though. I was just there to kick it and vibe mostly. I was known as the “weird” Ohio girl, but it was fine. It was cool when I met Mick Jenkins he said “oh, I’ve heard of you,” which I thought was pretty funny. Anyway, after that I ended up meeting my producer, L i n u s, who has one of the most unique sounds in Chicago; he is classically trained like me, except on like five instruments! He works closely with artists like Monster Mike and Na$im Williams. Through L i n u s I met Sisi Dior and Musa and folks. His studio, “Big Wet Studios” is growing, and I could see it becoming a major thing for Chicago, a really important platform for artists. Overall, I’m grateful of DJ, and grateful that something lead me to him. I’m grateful for the homies at 406. This is the beginning of a lot of cool stuff I think.
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What can we expect from you in the future?
You can expect me to finish my doctorate (one more year!) and more great music! I have some things already in the works, and you can expect more from Sisi Dior and I. I’m trying to work on some collabs with Show you suck, so hopefully that works out. I’ve been wanting to work with Alex Wiley for a minute, and I’ve been seeing him around a lot lately, so who knows! 

 


Thanks for reading this Q+A! Hopefully you learned a little more about Afro-Kitty Jones and how she is gearing up to be a staple on the Chicago scene. Give her a follow on Twitter here and watch out for more from Jones.


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