Detroit emcee Jahshua Smith’s self-created genre of Pro Black Cool – a musical melting pot of sociopolitical lyrics and cocksure rhymes—secured him one of college radio’s top rap albums of 2013, and the respect from some of Michigan’s most revered rap staples. And it makes sense: music is in his blood.
Smith’s great grandfather, Motown Records Executive Music Director Maurice King, oversaw projects by legends such as Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and Gladys Knight for a decade. Jahshua began his own career as an affiliate of Dramasetters Productions, a stable that crafted beats for iconic Harlem rap crew The Diplomats. After Dramasetters dissembled, he continued as a solo emcee under the name JYoung the General. Influenced by legends like 2Pac, Nas and AZ, he paired a multi-syllabic flow with lyrics that honored rap’s traditional braggadocio while maintaining a keen awareness and opinion of Detroit and the world around him. His introductory “The Megaman Mixtape,” released in 2006, garnered online acclaim and a development deal with Universal Records that he declined to finish his degree at Michigan State University.
After graduating and leaving his post as co-host of campus hip-hop radio show Cultural Vibe, he continued to pay dues. Singles such as “She Likes Me” and “Black Nationalists” (which would later appear on his EP “Jahshua 1:6″) nabbed college and Internet radio spins, while he opened for the likes of Wiz Khalifa, eLZhi and others. He also co-founded BLAT! Pack, a Michigan collective of music professionals that have won various city, state and national competitions since its inception.
He teamed with DangerousNEGRO Apparel and in-house G-Unit producer Nick Speed to create the Black History Year series, a project inspired by his passion for African American studies and his day job as a residential counselor for at-risk youth. The project’s two volumes – Part One was released in March 2010, Part Two in May 2011 – covered black leaders, issues and events like the Black Panther Party, gentrification and the Haiti earthquake of 2010. Their success earned him media coverage in the likes of XXL’s “The Break,” and HipHopDX’s DXNext, along with A3C and SXSW showcases by HipHopDX and Miss Dimplez, along with Vans Warped Tour.
“The Final Season” (sponsored by YouHeardThatNew) is Jahshua’s full-length debut, and his first effort to use his real name. The album showcased his layered persona while tackling issues such as systemic racism and sexual abuse. Anchored from the success of singles “Censored,” “Carry On,” and “Butt,” “The Final Season” enjoyed a run as the top rap album in the CMJ college radio charts, before ending the year as the no. 11 rap album of 2013.
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(Photos by Thomas Xu.)