For many of us, creativity and inspiration was stunted during this past year; for someone like Jipsta, this year brought on his brand new EP, the ferocious Year Of The Tiger. With one of his one of his most successful singles to date coming from this EP (the throbbing dance track, aptly titled “D.A.N.C.E.”), Jipsta is collaborating with friend and musical partner, DJ Ranny on new tracks and possibly planning some music videos to accompany the tracks. I caught up with one of the East Coast’s most visionary artists to chat about trusting Ranny’s vision while still staying true to his own & what it was like writing and creating during this one of a kind time in our world.
Michael Cook: Tell me about Year of The Tiger, your latest release:
Jipsta: Year of the Tiger is my new EP, or what I consider to be my 5th album. There are five tracks, including the first single “D.A.N.C.E,” (produced by my long-time music friend and collaborator, Ranny). I’m happy to say “D.A.N.C.E.” has actually become one of my most successful songs to date, with well over 60K streams on Spotify basically from word of mouth. Ranny and I co-produced the album, but he definitely was the one who steered me into doing a record signifying my “return to dance music,” since my previous two albums were more hip-hop influenced. I am really, really happy with this album and am happy I trusted Ranny’s vision for my new musical chapter.
MC: Where does the inspiration and idea come from for much of the material?
J-I’m sure a lot of songwriters say this, but with me, it is feast or famine. I go through long stretches where I literally can sit listening to an amazing beat and am staring at a blank sheet of paper, or I can’t keep up with the words flowing onto the page. But I will say, this album was a different experience for me, as it was written during the initial “worldwide lockdown” in March-May due to the pandemic. During that time period, I actually took up walking/hiking just to get some fresh air and to try to get some ideas for songs. Here and there some lyrics would come, and I’ve learned from my mistakes enough to know that when they come, I need to stop everything and start typing them in my Notes app on the phone. With “One Sided Love”, I actually couldn’t stop writing (it’s actually about my friendship with someone I considered my best friend coming to an end because I felt like I was putting in all the effort), and I found that writing about “real situations” is actually fun for me.
MC: You are known as one of the premier “gay rappers” but this material has so much more of a NYC/70’s style vibe also. Was that intentional?
Jipsta: Why thank you; I can’t believe I’ve been at this since 2007! One thing I have come to realize, both in my own career, as well as watching those of artists I look up to/enjoy listening to, is that evolution is a must. Musically, I tend to always look to what is going on in the UK and Europe (France, Italy, Germany) as far as sounds/styles. When we started creating the music, I did tell Ranny that I wanted to make a “future-pop/dance-pop” album, because I’ve been loving the stuff I’ve been hearing on Gaydio (they play a lot of nu-disco, future house, up front house, French disco etc) as well as from artists like Kim Petras and blackbear.
MC: You worked with DJ Ranny during the quarantine; you two have a magical partnership. What do you think makes your creative ideas come together so beautifully?
Jipsta: Ranny and I have an open, honest, and sometimes, very much unfiltered friendship. Early on, he and I didn’t always see eye to eye on the production or musical arrangements he came up with. As an example, our song “Body Pop” originally had like three or four full verses that I had written. On the final record, he took the first verse and hook and repeated it, which originally I was upset with, but he was like “I would never steer you wrong, please trust me on this.” The song went to #11 on Billboard. That was an “a-ha” moment for me. Sometimes when you write a song, especially one which takes a lot of time to develop, you become ‘protective’ of it. I had to learn to get out of my feelings and listen to Ranny’s advice, because I couldn’t get out of my own way. And in fairness, over time, Ranny has also met me halfway with some song ideas/lyrics (“Berenjena” lol) in order to let me feel like my voice & opinion matters to him.
MC: Can we expect some videos to accompany the new tracks? Any upcoming collabs coming or remixes for these tracks? Your music is known to light up the dance floors.
J: Great question! Personally, my favorite song on the album is “Wordsmith.” Anyone who knows me will attest that I am a “Grammar Geek.” My vision for “Wordsmith” is to have it heard on Sesame Street, or used as a tool to help students struggling with writing. With that said, I am planning to do a fun, animated lyric video for it. I also have never done a “proper dance video” (aka with choreography) and I kinda think that “Get You Home” needs that kind of treatment, just cause it is so sexy and I feel like it is the next logical choice for a single from the album.
MC: The LGBT community in NJ and NYC is hurting; any words for our community or realizations that you have had during this time?
Jipsta: I’m a native New Yorker, and as you know, now call New Jersey my home. I never thought I’d see the day where so many restaurants, bars, movie theaters were either closed or having to reinvent themselves to stay afloat. I’ve seen so many friends, family members, and musical colleagues fall on hard times financially, and emotionally. I’m really blessed because during the lockdown, I always had the comfort of my partner being with me the whole time. But for a lot of people, the isolation, the uncertainty, the misinformation left an impact that may will affect them for a long time. My biggest realization is that “when the music stops,” friends, family, love, and kindness are what we all really need.
MC: How have you stayed inspired during the quarantine when it can be challenging to find creativity?
Jipsta: As I mentioned earlier, walking/hiking has been such a wonderful outlet for me. It’s amazing what ideas come to you when you are just by yourself with no distractions. But I will also say I’ve been listening to a lot of country music lately. Of course, not everyone vibes with that, but the thing about country music that moves me is the songwriting. If you really listen to the lyrics, these artists are giving you storylines, prequels, and sequels honey! I decided I wanted to move my songwriting more in the direction of telling personal stories of my own, because people can relate to it. My first attempt at that was “7th Grade,” which people seem to really like. So when I was stuck in quarantine, I was like “what do people not know about me yet and what would they be surprised to learn about me?” And on a way lighter note, “Labelz” wrote itself because I literally had just finished putting together a cabinet from IKEA, taken my partner’s car for an oil change and I walked past an Edible Arrangements that day!
Stream or purchase ‘Year of the Tiger’ here
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