Jahshua Smith releases ‘The Final Season’
By Steve Furay
Special to the Michigan Citizen
DETROIT — Jahshua Smith works daily to balance his two professional passions, making hip hop music and working with youth as a teacher and mentor. The Detroit native now makes his home in Lansing, but with his new album, “The Final Season,” he hopes to reach Detroit and beyond with a positive message.
“The Final Season” is the first full album from the 27-year-old educator/rap artist, who has previously released shorter projects under his former rap name, JYoung the General. The songs on the album represent a transition in his own life, which ultimately led to him using his full name.
Smith recorded 17 songs for the album, with guest appearances from his BLAT! Pack artist collective, including P.H.I.L.T.H.Y., Red Pill, Chell, Jae Musick, Hir-O and Yellokake. BLAT! Pack serves to help the hip hop artists and media creators involved develop and promote their careers.
Smith released a music video for the song “Censored” from the new album, which features a guest appearance by Mic Write of the Detroit hip hop group Cold Men Young. The song is a statement about messaging in media, where strong ideas are now regularly being censored either by corporations or the artists themselves who are afraid of upsetting listeners.
“You have all of these shows on (television) where Black people aren’t really saying a whole lot of thought-provoking things,” says Smith. “You’ve got reality shows where people are acting a fool and then just the general perception of us in the media is still pretty substandard.”
Many listeners who know Smith’s previous music understand his conscious perspective as a young artist, rapping about Black history and the issues in the community, a journey that continues in “The Final Season.”
“When we did a song like ‘Censored,’ a lot of people felt right at home who knew my body of work,” Smith said. “But to be able to lead that song into the narratives and to put that along with my personal story, and to have songs like ‘The Ghost of Medgar Evars’ and ‘The Conversation’ and ‘Say The Words’ that tackle really sensitive things in the Black community, I was really happy to see that all come together.”
In 2010, Smith released the “Black History Year: Installment One” EP and followed up in 2011 with the “Installment Two” sequel, each released under his former moniker JYoung the General. Both projects feature music from Nick Speed, one of Detroit’s most internationally recognized hip hop producers.
A highlight of the “Installment One” release was “Haitian Fight Song,” which was written in response to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti that devastated the nation. Named after the Charles Mingus jazz song, Smith wrote it to give listeners a better understanding of why Black Americans should care for the small nation.
“We wanted to bridge the gap and get people to think about how we’re connected in other parts of the world,” says Smith about Haiti’s connection to the African Diaspora. “The Haitian Revolution was really notable for being one of the few times where oppressed people fought for their freedom. They had to out-bloody the French in order to have that happen. And so Haiti was being portrayed in the news as this poor country that needed our help.
“But I totally resented the idea that this was not a proud country because of a natural disaster. So we told the story of how they were going to fight to rebuild the country in the same way they fought to build the country, and I think that’s why people found it so powerful.
“They didn’t roll over and die then, they’re not going to roll over and die now.”
Bringing these ideas to his music brings Smith’s life full circle, as his career as a youth educator and mentor at El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz Academy in Lansing has made him dedicate himself to making the world a better place for the next generation.
“People have made me feel so good about (education) being my calling that I feel like I could do that for the rest of my life and be OK,” says Smith. “Obviously I would love to make music something more of a national or international reality, because then I feel like I could reach more people and have more opportunities to help. But at the end of the day I would become another rapper who makes some money on tour once a year and then go to the full-time job of being able to work with kids. I believe whatever it is God wants me to do is what I’m going to end up doing.”
Jahshua Smith’s album “The Final Season” is available for download at www.jahshuasmith.bandcamp.com