Whether you’re a musician, an accountant, a waiter, or any other job under the sun, it’s always important to learn how to have fun with your career. Take your job seriously and be the best that you can, but don’t take yourself too seriously. Few artists embody this sentiment better than 17-year old Def Jam signee, Bernard Jabs. And yes, I said 17-years old.
Both on and off the mic, this Georgia-bred talent radiates energy. There’s never a dull moment if Jabs is involved, and this certainly carries over to his music, as the budding talent has grown a loyal following thanks to electrifying singles and a social media-savvy marketing approach. He knows how to utilize the resources around him but he’s also authentic as can be, always dropping snippets and garnering buzz where he can, and consequently growing his ever-increasing base of dedicated listeners along the way.
With this, even as a high school student, Bernard Jabs has signed to Def Jam, toured with Pusha T, and developed a considerable following of fans, none of which he has seemed even slightly underprepared for. The truth is, for Jabs, his determination spans far beyond his years, pointing to an incredibly promising young artist who knows exactly what he wants and how he’s going to get there. Having talent is one thing, but knowing how to utilize your gift is another — especially while maintaining authenticity in the age of virality.
Today, exemplifying the artistic development behind this insurmountably bright young act, Bernard Jabs returns to Lyrical Lemonade with his debut EP, COLDHEARTED. Weighing in at 8 tracks long, this offering is the world’s first look at the full creative vision of Jabs, and quite honestly, I have to admit that my high expectations for this project were greatly surpassed. Even a year and some change ago, when Lyrical Lemonade first stumbled upon his music, it was clear that Jabs could captivate listeners and leave them demanding more after each and every single. Being able to hold this energy throughout an entire project is a different beast, however, but nevertheless, Jabs was sure to oblige, both confidently and concisely as he always seems to do.
Also notable, one of my favorite elements of COLDHEARTED — and of Jabs’ entire catalog, for that matter — is the way that his vocals are used as an instrument of sorts. Jabs’ voice is certainly unique in both sound and energy, and he skillfully plays on these strengths, pitching his voice up and down to complement the given beat, all the while adjusting his flows to complete the picture. In addition to this galvanizing vocal control, Jabs also offers up his finest lyrical performance to date on the new EP, reminding us all that no matter how good he sounds, he’s not just rapping to rap. Rather, Jabs has something to say, and at all costs, he’s going to get his message across in the self-assured, notably-technical but highly-energetic fashion that we know and love him for.
That said, COLDHEARTED is proof that the hype is worth believing; Bernard Jabs can make a hit record at the snap of a finger, and a portion of this credit deserves to go to the incredible cast of producers involved, comprised of Nick Mira, Sidepce, CashMoneyAP, Ryan Bevolo, and more. Stream the brand new EP at the following link and check out our Q&A with the Def Jam-signee below!
If COLDHEARTED should act as any forecast, Georgia’s own is just getting started.
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Q: First off, how has life been lately?
A: Life is good, man, life is good. Just tryna finish high school — I graduate in May.
Q: What’s it like being in high school amidst all of the success you’ve had?
A: Shit, I mean it’s crazy. My teachers love it. On one side, there’s a lot of love, and on the other side, there’s a lot of haters. But overall, it’s great.
Q: Explain the process of signing to Def Jam. How did you know it was the right label for you?
A: Signing to Def Jam really came at the perfect time. I just made sure the contract was straight and that it would fit my needs as an artist, you know what I’m saying? That’s really all it was about so we got it done right when I knew everything was straight.
Q: How was touring with Pusha T? What did you learn both as an individual and as an artist?
A: I learned a lot about crowd control and stage presence, mainly. The one thing I didn’t learn, though, was how not to get tired on stage. Every night, I was battling myself trying to find new ways on how to not get tired and how to pace myself while on stage. It was cool because I got to see different kinds of crowds. I always got a good reaction from crowds even if they were quiet, you know what I’m saying? Because no matter what, everybody in the crowd was affected in some way and everybody was bobbing their heads by the end of my set.
Q: Favorite moment from tour?
A: Going to Hawaii was probably my favorite moment, that was fire. Just walking around, it felt like I was in another world for a couple of days. Fire. I hadn’t traveled much before that besides Florida and shit with my family, just to the beaches and stuff, you know? So Hawaii was crazy.
Q: I wanted to talk a little bit about social media — even before you were signed, how were you able to gain such an authentic following through social media?
A: People with real popular pages follow me and they fuck with me, so it was nothing for them to retweet my shit so that other people would see it. I post a quick snippet here and there, they retweet it so the people get excited, then I drop a song the next day and it gets 10,000 plays in that one day. From there, it just keeps increasing, day by day by day. But you gotta keep it going from there, you just can’t let up. Snippets are the easiest way to promote a song, honestly.
Q: One of your early supporters who ran one of those Twitter pages was Alex Smith (@mineifiwildout). Can you talk a little about your relationship with him in the music world?
A: Yeah, so Alex wanted me to sign to Interscope — it didn’t work out that way, but he still kept fucking with me. He liked my shit early on so he wanted me to join their label, but he’s just a real cool person and a real good friend. I hang out with him every time I’m in LA.
Q: It seems like nowadays, a lot of those big accounts have more power than the labels in terms of putting people onto new music.
A: Yeah, I mean really, they just all follow me. Everybody that’s cool on the internet follows me, so it’s just about putting that into motion now, you know what I’m saying? Showing it in front of their faces and getting their support. They’re already on board, but once they show other people that they’re on board, that’s when other people start to see what’s going on and everything works out.
Q: Speaking of snippets, I have to ask about the red BMW that shows up in all your videos on social media, too…
A: Yeah man, after I signed, I got a car because the car my parents gave me was an old BMW. The AC didn’t work and there was no radio, so I was just driving around hot and bored — couldn’t pick up bitches in it, no nothing. My favorite color is red, so I bought the red BMW and blacked the wheels out — that’s my baby. They love that shit in the snippets!
Q: One characteristic of your music that has always struck me is just how much enjoyment you seem to get out of making music and being an artist. What made you want to be an artist?
A: Lil Wayne made me want to be an artist — that n***a was cool as fuck. I wanted to rap because I thought he was the coolest rapper. I was into all Wayne’s music, so just listening to him made me want to do it. I didn’t know that I could do music at first, but I knew he looked so cool doing it that all of a sudden it was the only thing I wanted. He looked cool and I figured it can’t be hard to make words rhyme, so I would just sit at the computer desk and search up beats on YouTube, just 5 years old writing on some notebook paper and presenting it to my dad.
Q: What’s your favorite Wayne project? My favorite is Dedication 2.
A: I remember buying the clean version of Dedication 2 on iTunes. That shit got taken down, but there was a clean version on iTunes that you could buy for a little bit — an official Gangsta Grillz and Lil Wayne production. That shit was clean, too! But Cash Money released it then took it down. I had that shit. I used to wash my dad’s car and save up for iTunes gift cards so that I could buy Wayne albums. That’s my favorite artist. My personal favorite Wayne projects are Tha Carter III, No Ceilings at number two, and Da Drought 3.
Q: When you make music, do you create with your own energy in mind? Or do you think about the way that a listener might receive the song?
A: I really look at it both ways — I take both into consideration, so that almost answers the question for me [laughs]. I just think, okay, is this to my standards? Is this what I want? Am I doing dope shit and satisfying myself with this song? Then, I think, okay, are other people going to like this? Because what I think is good, other people might think is trash, so I gotta make sure it’s likable for everybody. I’m tryna get rich.
Q: How did the Def Jam Undisputed project come together? What was it like being in that collaborative environment with other labelmates?
A: Everybody was really cool with each other. I think it was important to have us all together in the studio for like, two weeks, making us like each other. Everybody was making music with each other — everybody fucked with each other and would walk in on each other’s sessions. It was no egos, just everybody playing their part and believing, you know? So it was really nice.
Q: Where do you want to be in 5 years?
A: 5 years from now bro, I’m going to be $10 million up, number one album, you dig what I’m saying? I might even need 2 number one albums with that $10 million in my bank account. Imma have a house in LA and Imma get my mom and them a house. I want to do some modeling shit, too, because I’m a pretty n***a, you know? I also want to get endorsements. Really though, just more money and more success — that’s what I see for myself in 5 years if I keep doing what I’m doing.
Q: So far, we’ve only heard singles from you. When it comes to your debut project, what can we expect? How did the process of making a full project differ from the process of putting together singles?
A: Well, the EP name is COLDHEARTED, so I’m just rapping along the lines of being cold-hearted, but while I’m doing that, since it’s a full project and not the singles I’ve been dropping on SoundCloud, I’m thinking about music for the masses now — making hits and making music that sticks, you know? Those “Mo Bamba,” “Sicko Mode” kinds of hits. I’m trying to make mainstream music but still stay true to myself, so I’m just doing that the best way I know how. I’m still trying to get better, though.
Q: When making the project, did you go song by song? Or did you have an idea for the full piece at first and then work backward from there?
A: When I’m making a project, I just go through each song with it. Like okay, I really fuck with this beat so I gotta make it hard so that it will be good enough to make the tape. But not every song is going to be hard, so as long as I go into it with that mindset of trying to make my music better and better, 9 times out of 10 the song is going to hit. Then, we’re left with a bunch of songs we can put on the tape.
Q: What’s the most rewarding part about being an artist?
A: The most rewarding part? Pussy, man. Pussy. And also people listening to your music. Just that satisfaction of you making something in your bedroom and other people hearing it and loving it, putting it into their playlist and then putting other people on. I know I love that feeling of really liking a song, so when I can give somebody else that feeling, that shit just makes me feel good. Putting out music makes me feel really good about doing music. Sometimes, I might drop a song on SoundCloud because I feel bad; dropping music just makes me happy.
And also, pussy. Those are the best parts about music.