Dublin’s JYellowL: “I’m finding out what my ‘why’ is”

by James Hendicott

JYellowL’s debut album 2020 D|vision is an exploration of goals and concepts, one that’s been a long time coming.

After several EPs in recent years, but also dabbling in music since his childhood, the rapper, Jean-Luc Uddoh, raised in Dublin to Jamaican and Nigerian parents, always looked destined to pursue a life in music. 

His commitment is such that the rapper says the entire purpose of his education – in particular a degree in politics from UCD – was to lay the groundwork for a politically-heavy career in music. His music has since helped soundtrack the hit TV series Normal People, and he’ll shortly take part in the BBC documentary ‘The Rap Game UK’. 

He’s spoken to crowds at Black Lies Matter Dublin protests, and addresses racism proudly and starkly in his lyrics.

“It feels like stepping into my purpose, really, having a full body of work done to call my own” JYellowL says. “The whole process was great, you only get to finish your debut album once.”

“It felt a lot different to the EPs, I guess EPs would be more the same sort of concepts, but done really concisely. I don’t delve as deeply into certain things as I’d like to on the EPs, and I have done on the album. That was the major thing for me when I was writing.”

“There are a lot of concepts. The overarching theme is the different stages of growth for an up and coming artist, finding out what my ‘why’ is. It’s one I touch on from the very first track on the album, and it slowly progresses from a state of questioning everything but maybe taking everything at face value, to actually realising the impact I could make with what I’m doing, and what my goal is as an artist. That’s the main idea.”

“I address things like racism, hypocrisy, pride, humility, patience, the balance between those things. They’re basic human concepts, but it’s about my experience with them and my relationship with them.”

Uddoh points to his background as being a key driver in putting pen to paper, and lyrics to beats. “I studied politics to get a better understanding and more critical view of the world,” he continues. “It definitely feeds into my music, and I was always that way inclined. Going to college made me a more critical thinker, and helped me analyse topics that I then wrote music about.”

The songs, though, kind of ‘come’ to the rapper. “I get moments in my sleep where I have the kind of feeling of a dream, and I’m aware that I’ve written or ‘performed’ something, and then I forget the details. Somehow, I guess the mind is a beautiful thing, everything I write later feels familiar, and the details of the dreams start coming back to me.”

“It feels like that’s how things come back to me, almost like I’m channeling my subconscious.”

“The album channels this year’s problems, though some of it was written before 2020. It’s crazy, as the way things were leading into this year felt like everything was a bit trapped and lost, a loss of identity, and so on. The BLM stuff in America felt like it covered so many of our own problems here, and it felt like foreshadowing, almost, looking at where things would go.” 

“It felt like everything I had written this year came so much more naturally and became so much more relevant. It’s ended up fitting very well with the way the year has gone, fortunately. Or maybe unfortunately.”

2020 D|Vision by JYellowL is out on 20 November 2020

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