Perspective is something that can’t be taught. Either you have it, or you don’t. And if you do have it, chances are it’s because you’ve been around for a while. You’re a witness to history – one who has kept their eyes open through some dark times. Younger MCs, even conscious ones, can read about social movements and write second-hand accounts of what they’ve learned. But if you want the story from someone who knows what he’s talking about, you need to turn to a veteran. You need Jimmy Mack.
The Florida-raised, California-based rapper is no newcomer. Jimmy Mack has been spitting fiery verses for decades, and although he’s stepped out of the spotlight from time to time to handle the business of life, he’s kept his skills razor-sharp, and he’s cultivated a keen awareness of the dynamics of the world around him. Since 2018, he’s been back at it hard, refining his distinctive brand of hip-hop and pushing himself to integrate new sounds, new flows, and new approaches into his timeless style. My Own Lane, his upcoming full-length, is a state-of-the-art modern hip-hop album. It’s lean, smart, and hungry, and it sounds contemporary and fresh. After listening to the lyrics, you’ll know that the man at the microphone has attained wisdom that only comes after a lifetime in the struggle.
Consider the single “Walk The Line,” an anthemic track that doubles as a history of the civil rights movement. With the storytelling confidence that lived experience provides, Jimmy Mack takes us through it: an emotional first verse that pays respects to the martyrs of the 1960s, a stinging second stanza that confronts the legacy of the Rodney King beating and its troubling aftermath, and a thunderous conclusion that name-checks the many recent victims of state violence. Effortlessly, the rapper connects the dots, drawing causal links between acts of sacrifice and consciousness-raising, police overreach and paranoia, prejudice and injustice. All of this is captured in pithy, pared-down, muscular rap couplets, delivered without a wasted syllable or gesture.
Video directors Manny Brea and Jonathan Betancourt match the lean, direct, forceful music with shots that underscore the song’s urgency and immediacy. We’re shown footage of the Capitol, street protests and political actions, redacted ledgers, and vintage black and white images of civil rights leaders. Then there are the images that we know all too well: Los Angeles neighborhoods on fire, George Floyd under the knee of an uncaring policeman, surveillance helicopters scouring the city streets with searchlights. Jimmy Mack appears in handcuffs on the wrong side of an interrogator’s desk in a police station. He’s bruised and battered, but he knows he’s got the truth on his side – and he never stops speaking out.
How long have you been rapping and songwriting?
I have been writing songs since I was 13 years old. I became interested in rapping from the age of 9 years old. I was living in New York city and My parents used to take me to block parties and I used to watch unknown artist perform and I was very interested in music from them.
What pushed you to start taking it more seriously and to consider entering the hip-hop industry?
I decided to take it seriously at the age of 14 years old. I performed at different talent shows and local events. Then the battle aspect of hip hop caught my eye. I decided to pursue being a battle rapper until I decided to join the military. The military was my first love so I put music on the back burner to pursue my first real career. My passion for music was still in me I never stopped writing music or doing shows I performed in military clubs as an M.C. and D.J. But when I decided to leave the military I felt it was time to pursue music again as a career. I went back to college and got my Masters in Business and Marketing. I reconnected back with Adrian ” Meta ” Lowe and we decided to pick up where we left of and started recording and building the label Senshi Entertainment.
How has your Florida upbringing and your current residency in California shaped your musical journey and unique sound?
I was actually raised in California and I live out here in Florida. But actually I don’t think neither place influenced my sound my music I always listened to local music and tried to create my own sound, I always try to do the opposite of what’s trending in the industry. I picked up a lot of musical sounds and trends because Being that I was a military brat and me being in the military after I lived in several places like New York, Germany, Japan, California, Florida, Etc. I picked up multiple sounds and vibes from multiple places.
What was your inspiration for “Walk the Line”? What about its powerful theme and message is significant to you?
My inspiration for “Walk the Line” was a couple of things. The main reason was George Floyd murder and realizing that this has been a trend going on in America for decades and it needs to stop. What set me off to actually sit down and write the song is I watching the news ( because I am a news junky) and I saw Trump had people pepper sprayed and gassed people so he can stand in front of that church in Washington D.C. and hold the Bible upside down. Then living in Florida an seeing people stating “Blue Lives Matter” which not saying Blue lives don’t’ matter. It seemed like that statement and Trumps actions was diminishing the value of black lives in this country. So, “Walk the Line” message was we as black people we have a history of being diminished as a people. But we keep fighting and we need to keep fighting until everybody in this country is seen as one. And Most of all no matter what race, Gender, Sexual orientation, Have have every right to stand up for what is right and if the powers that be treat you like your less than what you are you have every right to ” Walk the Lin” and stand up for what you feel that is right.
What was your creative vision for the “Walk the Line” music video? How did you react when seeing the lyrics and the visuals come together to create this hard-hitting, completed product?
I wanted to tell a story, I wanted people to see the history from where we were as a country, to where we are now, and where we need to go. I have to give my man Mannie from 44 films his props because he is a genius. I call “Speilberg” we both brainstormed this project and he put it together and I feel it came out great. When I saw my idea for the song and his vision make it come to life I felt it was the great beginning for me. We got more to come.
During a time with a great amount of competition in the rap genre, what makes your music unique and stand out among other rising artists?
I feel my music is unique because I don’t stick with one style in a song I don’t even like to be repetitive in my verses. And most of all these days there is a lot of music out there I feel is not from the heart its carbon copy or cookie cutter. That’s something that I refuse to be. Originality with a little familiarity is something that’s missing in music these days and that’s what I try to do. Also, I focus on quality not quantity every song I write is not always the right song, I do a lot of of quality control on my music I don’t see it as my art I see it as my product. People wont buy or listen to anything that’s garbage whether its music or a car. So with that in mind I take my time. I feel to be better than the competition and to stand out from the competition you cant follow the trends you can pay attention to them but you have to realize a trend is temporary. You have to make music people to relate to, you can’t make music to appease the masses once you do that you are here today then gone tomorrow. We at Senshi got a motto that “We make timeless music”. That’s always my goal to make that type of music that people can say hey that happened to me or later wow this song reminds me when I was here or there. The competition don’t seem to do that these days. I give my fans Jimmy not Jimmy trying to do what everybody else is doing. When I write a song It’s exactly how what the beat makes me feel like and what is on my mind at the moment. I feel my music is the truth and I feel people will gravitate towards that.
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