JXSE Talks His Debut Afro Trap Single: "Ronaldinho"
If you haven’t heard of JXSE, get familiar. Born and bred in London, the rapper is exposing a new sound to the UK called ‘Afro Trap’, which masterfully blends a mix of African and American music styles for a whole new breed of musical sub-genre genius. Afro Trap has already been popularized in France by the likes of MHD, and now JXSE is jumping on his chance to bring it across the Channel.
His debut track, “Ronaldinho”—titled in homage to the Brazilian soccer player—was first up, and it exploded onto the scene, unsurprisingly. Since then, the accompanying video was also released, and for JXSE, the fanfare only continues to grow. We sat down with the rapper to talk about the “Ronaldinho” obsession, and Afro Trap’s place in UK hip hop culture; check the full interview below.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
So my name is JXSE. I started in music since I was born really. I left music ’cause I wanted to do football—that’s soccer. So yeah, I left music, but it’s always been there. When I’m in bed I’m always tapping on my chest, feeling beats, stuff like that. And it’s only recently, last year, that I decided I’m gonna do something major. I decided to fuse French and English together. And there’s a market for it, and no one is doing it. I was influenced by MHD. He started the Afro Trap that I wanted to do. He started it off, and it’s so fresh, so new. Whenever you hear his music you want to move. So I’m saying I can do what he does and do it in English too.
And for the uninitiated, can you explain Afro Trap?
So Afro Trap is a fusion of African sounds—so the dance, the rhythm, the beat — with the American trap sound. But there’s two types. The one I’m influenced by is the MHD sound—it makes you move more. It’s more catered to the wide audience. But the Afro Trap in Africa now, it’s proper Afro Trap. It’s African sounds but with a very American influence. The one I’m influenced has a very European influence. It’s about moving.
There’s a lot cultural convergences in your music. Can you talk a little bit about your background and how that informs you music?
So my background is Ivory Coast, so the whole of my family is from Ivory Coast. So I grew up around the Ivorian sound, moving and dancing. So it’ll always be an influence. I can’t go and create something that’s not influenced by that. Even when we went to church, we listened to Ivorian gospel music. Even that will be dancing and so fun. So I’m trying to incorporate it, because I feel like our generation doesn’t really like to talk about their heritage. So I want to make it a thing. To be proud of where you’re coming from.
Who in rap—or any other genre—has been an inspiration for you?
I’m gonna start off in the UK. In the UK, J-Hus. His sound is like Afro Beat, dancehall and rap at the same time. He made his own thing and he stuck to it and everyone knows his genre now. I’ve looked up to him. But I want to do my own thing now. I want to pave my own way. Who else am I influenced by? Giggs, I don’t know if you know of him, but he’s a South London rapper. He’s like a proper South London rapper. And there’s a new artist called Dave. Drake remixed one of his songs. I’m looking up to him because he’s doing things the way I want to go about them. In America, now, I’m not really influenced by too many people unless it’s Tupac, Biggie, the old school. I feel like the new-age rap not so much, unless it’s someone like Migos who’ve created their own sound. And ASAP Rocky. Because of his style and how he carries himself.
Let’s talk about your latest song.
Yes! So why “Ronaldinho”? Why that soccer player specifically?
You know what it is? I was thinking, for my first song, it needs to be based on someone people love. Ronaldinho is someone I grew up on and he’s the one that made me love football. And since I wanted to do football, but now I’m doing music, I wanted it to be a symbol of my transition into the music world. I wanted him to be the person I based my career off. The song symbolizes a start of a new era. On YouTube, his [Nike] video was the first to get one million views. So I want to be the first person in my thing. Everyone loves Ronaldinho. I don’t know one person who doesn’t.
The video was filmed in London, and you capture the city’s multiculturalism through the different people featured, but also through subtle references like the various football jerseys people are wearing; there’s obviously the Brazilian national team jersey that you’re wearing, but then there’s a guy wearing a jersey for a Turkish team.
Yeah! I saw him and I was thinking why are you wearing that shirt? But it’s been a blessing in disguise. Because of that shirt, my song in Turkey has gone up. Because over there, football is so close to their heart.
Are those cultural references something you thought carefully about?
If I explain the day of that video shoot, you wouldn’t believe it. Everything just feel into our hands. It was planned. I knew what I wanted to do in the video. I always wanted in Albino in my video. Like that’s the main thing [laughs]. If I didn’t have an Albino in the video, I feel like I wouldn’t have done myself justice. In the song, I’m saying, “they are my brothers, Albinos.” So I’m trying to bring to light that they’re like us. They aren’t any different to us. People ostracize them. I’m not political but I’m engaged. I know what’s going on around me. So I wanted to include it in my song, but in a fun way. So if people hear it, they’re repeating it, “they’re my brothers, Albinos!” So you see an Albino, your perception of them is going to change. And the dancer as well. I wanted to make sure everyone got their shine. Even with my friend, the girl that was playing football. I wanted to make sure they all got their parts. It was such a long day, I wanted everything to shine through. I wanted everyone to see their culture in it. So that’s what I tried to do.
You mentioned is was a long shooting day, but it looks like you’re all having fun.
From what I’ve seen when people come to do shoots, they get paid. But they don’t really care. But that day, something was different. I feel like people knew what they were about to be a part of. It was kind of like we’re gonna take it as it goes. We’re not gonna force anything. Some of the shots were so unforced. It was so natural. Hopefully it shows that in the video. That’s what we were trying to show. I was telling people just do your own thing. I’m not trying to be the artist that wants the limelight all to himself. If you work with me, I want you to be in the limelight with me.
How have you found the response? People from all over—the US, Brazil, people in Turkey obviously.
When I released the song on Soundcloud, I had a vision that it would blow. But when I had the video out it just took off. I wasn’t shocked [that it took off], but I was shocked at the way it took off so quickly. It’s shocking because it’s on my own channel. In the UK there isn’t that much of an audience like in America. It’s easier to get views there because there’s so many people in that country. But in the UK it’s so hard. People have to really be feeling your music.
What’s next from you? Can we expect an EP soon?
My next single is called “Cataleya”. I don’t know if you watched the film Colombiana—it’s gonna be based on that. It’s basically for all the people that have done me wrong at the start of my career. The people that have messed me about and the people that have doubted me. It’s basically like a message saying, “I’m coming for you with me success.” So that’s the song. I reckon it’s gonna be way bigger than “Ronaldinho”. I’m looking to release it in May or June, in time for the summer.
Dope! So it’s gonna be a summer song?
Yeah! That’s gonna show what I’m really coming with. I’m putting my all into that one to let people know I’m coming with something different. But you’re gonna like it. It’s gonna set the mood for the next project, the EP. I’m gonna work on the EP in April, May and hopefully release it in August, September. So that single is to build excitement for the EP.
Is there anything else you want our readers to know about you?
Images courtesy of Suzette Dorrielan
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