Interview: Raleigh Based Rap Artist And Poet Lena Jackson

Lena Jackson is a Raleigh based rap artist and poet whose new emotionally driven visual "Poor Kids", directed by Dan S. Lewin, candidly touches on the complexities of poverty. We connected with Lena to discuss "Poor Kids", which is the second official single from Jackson's upcoming project "The Darkness Brim EP" set to release in Fall of 2017, as well as her thoughts about the music scene in Raleigh, and much more.

After reading our exclusive interview with this talented female emcee, be sure to follow her on social media so you can stay up to date on all things "Lena Jackson" and know when "The Darkness Brim EP" officially released.

Tell us about the "Poor Kids" track and visual. What motivated you to write the song and take it to the next step of shooting a video?

I was motivated to write “Poor Kids” because I was a poor kid myself- I grew up experiencing on and off homelessness, and struggled in some ways I sometimes feel embarrassed to discuss. For example, I once lived in a house with essentially no bathroom floor. There was a huge hole that you could see the outside ground in, and you had better not step the wrong way to get to the toilet. So when I rap, “I walked floors that were rotten,” I’m speaking my life. Describing that experience in a song was more therapeutic for me than anything. I was compelled to shoot a visual for it after revisiting my old neighborhoods and witnessing how they have all gone through the gentrification process. It completely pissed me off! You didn’t want to do anything for us poor folk when we were staying there, but now you want to bull doze the area, make it pretty and charge 1000+ to live? So the video is reflective of my anger and frustration with how “the system” operates. I also chose to incorporate my pregnancy-I was 8 months along- into the video, to suggest hope and progression towards a better future. Much thanks to director Dan Lewin for seeing my vision.

How important have the cypher sessions you've participated in been in your development as an artist?

Honestly, it’s actually been a while since I’ve participated consistently in cypher sessions, but I will say this-cyphers are vital. They’re a reminder of the passion, energy and desire to improve when I was a kid, trying to stand out among my fellow peers in the rap circles at school. That vibe reignites my craft- not just when I participate, but when simply witnessing others doing it. There’s a sense of rejuvenation there, a type of liberation I can’t quite articulate. Anything that produces that type of feeling has to linger on your pen and follow you into the booth. Cyphers inspire me to get better, be sharper.

What can we expect from your upcoming project "The Darkness Brim EP"? And what does that title mean?

“Darkness Brim” actually came from a poem I wrote years ago (I’m also a poet). I just happened to come across it while going through papers and it pretty much detailed how this world is full of happy faces, but underneath the facade is the darker things we won’t discuss. “The Darkness Brim EP” is going to contain much of what the title implies- darkness. What I mean by that is pretty much every song will touch on a serious topic of some kind. I wanted to talk about things I’ve seen and experienced that may not be the most popular in hip-hop right now. I touch on poverty, domestic violence, mental illness- but when I created these songs I was adamant about showcasing my lyrical skill set too. So the intent is have subject matter, but also be crafty with my words, sharp with my delivery, and let folks know that these bars don’t play.

What are your thoughts about the music scene in Raleigh-Durham, specifically for rap? Do you feel that it's easy to get the spotlight and that there are suitable outlets to promote yourself?

The Raleigh-Durham area, and North Carolina in general, is chock full of talented artists. Everyone is trying to grind right now in this area, and I don’t blame them- so many are really that good. As far as the spotlight, I don’t dwell on that as much as I care about having my music sound on point. Don’t get me wrong, I like to perform, be seen, and logically I want to be acknowledged for my craft-but I’ve yet to feel the need to compete for shine. For an introverted recluse like me, I would go crazy striving for shine. I salute those that get it and stay focused on my goals. I love North Carolina forever, but the spotlight I prefer would be on an international level. There is a handful of people on the NC scene that really love the music, and they go hard at trying to provide outlets for independent artists to promote themselves- much respect to them. I would love to see more people and establishments do this; in the meantime I feel it’s my responsibility as an independent artist to seek as many outlets as possible to market my product- inside North Carolina or out of it.

Why should every reader of this interview start following you and your music?

Follow me and my music because you want to! Meaning, you gave me a listen and liked what you heard. Because I don’t always fit into a neat little box, and that might actually be what you like. Because you want to hear something different and see what I pull out of my sleeve next. Because I’m dope, and I’m worth your ears.

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