Jamal Ali on Hurricane Katrina, the Musical Legacy of New Orleans, and Lyrical Versatility

Jamal Ali is a 23 year old rap artist whose music reflects his culture, as well as a wisdom beyond his years. His style is a musical gumbo of various influences featuring New Orleans bounce sounds, Dirty South production, Reggae beats, and Up North lyricism. Being from N.O., Jamal follows in the footsteps of living Hip-Hop legends such as Master P, Lil Wayne, Juvenile and many more. We connected with Jamal to find out more about his firsthand experience living through Hurricane Katrina, as well as how he has been influenced by the music coming from his hometown and much more.

Hurricane Katrina occurred in 2005 and you were a 12 year old kid at the time growing up in New Orleans; how has that traumatic event shaped you as a person, and specifically, as an artist?

Hurricane Katrina, no doubt, was a traumatic event that not only shaped my life but the lives of my entire family. This major event left us homeless and unsure about the course of our lives as we knew it.  I was up rooted from a very secure place in life to simply not know where my next meal was coming from. As an artist this taught me that the only thing is sure is your faith. It shaped me to become the best person I can be. I began to write as an outlet to express the things that I was actually feeling.

We're big fans of your video "Try Tol' Em".  How did the video come together and where exactly did you film it?

Thanks. The response to the” Try Tol Em” video was overwhelming.  But, I can’t take full credit. My video producer Jerrell Green helped a lot with it. He came up with the location for it. That guy is great at what he do.

Tell us about your upcoming debut EP; have you settled on a title yet and what can we expect from it?

I am in the process of putting together my next EP, however, I haven’t actually named it yet because of all the ideas to make this EP epic. I want this project to stand out. I want my listeners to recognize that I am a true artist that really cares about the music.

New Orleans has such a great history in terms of Hip-Hop, ranging from No Limit, Cash Money/Young Money, and Currency, to name a few; how do you continue this legacy of so much dope music coming out of your hometown?

I agree. New Orleans has a very rich cultural city as it relates to music.  The legends you previously named, I believe just simply told their story along with hard work and perseverance.
My goal is to take what I’ve learned from these artists and add my “yea” to it.

Following up on the last question, how much have artists like Master P, Lil Wayne, and Currency influenced you?

They influenced me in a major way, especially “Lil Wayne”. He was still working. He didn’t allow anything to stop him. When Katina hit the city of New Orleans he was someone that influenced me in a major way. The way he flowed, his delivery, He was just a very skillful artist. ( haha). Even though I wasn’t home listening to his music brought me home. 

Some people feel like lyrics don't really matter anymore in Rap music and that all you need is a hot beat, especially if you want radio airplay. How important is lyrical content to you and do you ever feel like you need to dumb down your rhymes for more accessibility with radio placement?

Lyrics are very important. This is what makes Hip-Hop Hip-Hop. I also believe you can be versatile now days. I believe you need a healthy balance of both.  My goal is just simply to make great music to make people dance, think and to have fun.

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