Jovian interview: meeting Timothée Chalamet, synethsesia and the state of hip-hop

“I use music as a way to express myself and gain self-love. Without this outlet I would not be alive. I owe Hip-Hop my life…”

For those that can, creating music is often a vital outlet for channeling inner battles and complexities that are otherwise difficult to get to grips with.

This mechanism is certainly the case for Brooklyn-based hip-hop/R&B artist Jovian, who turned to music as a way to deal with depression, body dysmorphia and anxiety. Since breaking into the industry, Jovian has produced a diverse range of sounds that traverse genres.

Equipped with the ability to ease between The Weeknd-esque falsetto melodies and thought-provoking rap, Jovian is an artist to watch out for. His hit single, ‘Timothée Chalamet’, was inspired by his time spent with the A-list star during acting school, which he labels a formative time of his creative journey. On top of this, he describes his mental condition synesthesia as a driving force behind his unique work.

With his moody and pensive new single ‘Where’d U Go’ dropping this week, we sat down with the rising star to decipher his interesting story so far.

Jovian is based in Brooklyn

Hey Jovian, how’s 2020 been in Brooklyn?

2020 in Brooklyn has been great for me. Obviously COVID has changed everyones lives and in no way am I making light of that, but personally I have had the best year of my life emotionally and artistically. I’m really happy things have progressed for me in this way. For instance, a year ago I was not capable of speaking to you…

Talk us through the inspiration for your new single ‘Where’d U Go’ – is this release an expression of your inner emotions and awareness?

‘Where’d U Go’ is the most vulnerable and transparent song I have ever written and released. It is all about some of the sensations I’ve felt over the summer and how my mind views myself every once in a while. It’s a moment showcasing when sensations of depression and anxiety consume me, and what that looks and sounds like. 

Jovian’s new single ‘Where’d U Go’

What drew you to music in the beginning? Is it an outlet for you in some ways?

Growing up I wasn’t blessed with a group of friends that I felt truly at “home” with, so I took to writing poetry very early on as an outlet to not only escape my thoughts and sensations, but to gain clarity and closure as well. I think it forced me to look within for support first before looking for exterior support. Poetry ended up turning into music and producing, and here we are today!

Your single ‘Timothée Chalamet’ has enjoyed widespread success since its release – what was it like meeting the young actor? How did this come about?

The release of my song ‘Timothée Chalamet’ is the only reason all of this has been possible for me. Getting fans and industry acknowledgement wouldn’t be possible without the release of that track. Meeting him the few times I did just gave me reinforcement to release the song and literally name it after one of its inspirations.

I live close by to him and it just so happens his favourite burger spot and club are both my favourites too, so it was inevitable that we’d eventually meet. I didn’t get to tell him about the song because I felt it wasn’t the place, but I’m hopeful he will hear it at some point. I want to do a remix to the song with him on it so I’m writing this publicly to manifest!

Jovian’s hit single ‘Timothée Chalamet’

Does your Puerto Rican heritage play a part in your inspiration and creativity?

Hmmmm, great question. I would say it definitely does to some degree, whether it’s subconscious or not – but what informs my work more is being from NYC. I would say my NYC roots inform my work and inspirations more than my ethnicity in this current version of myself artistically. 

Tell us about synesthesia – what is it and how does it affect what you create?

Synesthesia is, simply put, having overactive senses. My “form”, which is Chromesthesia, specifically relates to color so I can smell, taste, hear and feel color – I see colors in my head based on those senses/vibes. It affects my work and my life tremendously.

It used to be very overwhelming to be that stimulated super often, but as I’ve spoken about it more and accepted it more it has really become my superpower. My music is affected by it most directly of course. When feeling a certain sensation I will want to produce a song with the color that emotion feels/looks like to me.

I’ll write that song with that color, I’ll title the song a word that has the exact color I see, and the cover art/music video will have the exact color I see and feel for that specific song and any complimentary colors that may satisfy my vision. I’ve come to learn about how rare this “superpower” is and I’m so blessed that this is something I’ve learned to not consume me, because it allows me to create in a very different lens than the rest of my peers. 

Jovian has a condition called synesthesia, which he talks about below

If you could choose one artist to open up for at a gig, who would it be and why?

Woooow that’s so crazy you ask that question because I just spoke to my good friend about this exact idea. There are many artists that I’d love to open for when 2021 comes around, but I think I’d be a great compliment to someone like Kid Cudi. We have such similar themes and topics within our work and I think his fans would really appreciate what I have to say and share. 

Kid Cudi giving his TED Talk

How do you see the current state of hip-hop? Does the wider context of the genre affect what you decide to create?

Hip-Hop is the greatest genre in the world and the most diverse. It runs the world. It runs pop culture. Just check any charts. Hip-Hop and R&B are usually 17 of the top 20 songs in the world at any given time.

I think the wider context of Hip-Hop affects me on a societal level where I believe my place as someone who is lightskin is to make the people who judge my genre to put their guards down and get less defensive. I think the approach I have with music mixed with my literal skin tone makes my music a bit more “accessible” unfortunately.

What that means is someone white from a state or country that doesn’t have exposure to this genre or to people of color may have their point of entry be my music, and if listening to me gets people to give Kendrick or Tyler or Cudi a listen then I’ve done my mission.

As for the second half of that question, what Hip-Hop does and becomes doesn’t really affect what I create all that much. I use music as a way to express myself and gain self-love. Without this outlet I would not be alive. I owe Hip-Hop my life and what others do with this culture has very little impact on what I do with it. 

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