IN THE NEWS
Source: Hype Magazine
Let’s hop right into this latest single, “Enough“ — Tell me about this track; how did it come to fruition?
Three events: Buffalo, NY, grocery store shooting. Uvalde, TX, school shooting. Highland Park, IL, Independence Day parade shooting. When I heard the “breaking news” about these events, I thought, “it’s more like heartbreaking news,” because each of them involved a mass shooting with semi-automatic assault weapons. Like my lyrics say, “I’ve had enough!” I’m fed up by how F’d up the gun violence levels are in the United States. Gun violence is a leading cause of premature death. The tragedies are many and the trauma so deep that both the public and our politicians seem numb to it; but we shouldn’t be. I hope this song motivates people to use your voice and vote, have conversations with your loved ones about mental health, and contact your elected officials to hold them accountable for change. Let them know, addressing gun violence as a public health issue is not antithetical to protecting civil liberties or the 2nd amendment. Instead, it’s an approach that can help increase the health and safety of communities.
Of course “Enough” follows on the heels of “Rise” — Talk to me about this particular song…
Imagine you see a train heading in your direction and you’re sitting in a car stuck on the tracks. You know if you don’t do something it’s going to lead to devastating consequences. That feeling is what gave rise to “Rise.” In 2019, as a lead up to the 2020 elections, I released “Problem,” a music video style public service announcement that addressed mass incarceration, racial profiling, immigration, systemic racism, and women’s reproductive rights. Then, as now, I understood what was at risk. Fast forward to so many reprehensible events of 2022, including the overturning of Roe v. Wade by the U.S. Supreme Court, the violent arrest and killing of a woman in Iran over what she wore and how she wore it, and the extreme violence against and killing of many other women and allies who protested in support of women’s rights and freedoms. The ongoing attack on women’s rights, including reproductive freedom, is a gut punch. I believe equality, equity, and autonomy are fundamental rights. I believe every individual should have agency to make decisions about their own life and well-being. I believe governments should not have control over a woman’s body, as it violates their right to bodily autonomy and bodily integrity. I believe women should not be relegated to second-class status or secondary supporting roles. For anyone who knows, respects, cares for, cares about or loves ANY woman [friends, family, colleagues, siblings, daughters, aunties, and more] then you understand this is not only a women’s issue to be fought by women only. “Rise” is about being undeterred in promoting, protecting and defending our basic human rights, despite the setbacks that may occur. Through “Rise” I voice my resolve to continue my efforts to ensure women have control over their own lives and bodies free from government interference or societal oppression. I encourage others to join me in advancing equity and equality for girls, women, and for all.
How then does this new material(s) either differ and/or compare to previous Kwanza Jones entries?
Music is a powerful tool for creating culture. It influences, connects, soothes, inspires, and shapes us. My approach to music is similar to my approach to life; it’s all about continuous growth and evolution. In my earlier material, I used music to both evoke and process emotions. My first album, “Naked,” was organic, introspective and vulnerable; I was emotionally naked. When I released my later album, “Supercharged,” I used music to energize and empower. My new material adds to this. I aim to bring awareness, motivate, and inspire action. My team and I intentionally create music to provoke thought and serve as a catalyst for positive social change. From promoting equality and justice, to fighting oppression, to creating a better world, my message-driven music addresses social issues and aims to make a positive impact.
As a songwriter, when you sit down to pen your lyrics where do you draw your inspiration from?
For me, life = inspiration. I call it life-inspired songwriting. When I’m penning lyrics, I think about life as it is, as it was, or as I hope it will be. I tell those stories and create from that place. I am in awe of and inspired by the power of words. Understanding this power helps me use my voice and words with care, thought, and intention. Words in song format can ignite the fire in your heart and touch your soul. I use my songs, my words, and my voice to raise awareness, start important conversations, and inspire others. I feel it’s my duty to use my voice and music as a catalyzing positive force for good. There’s a line in my song, “More Now Than Ever,” that best expresses how I continuously stay inspired to create – “I am just a voice miles away in the dark, but I put it on my life that I’m gonna be the spark.”
Reflecting, tell me your whole inception into music — When did you first become interested in it? And, how did it all begin for Kwanza Jones?
Music has always nourished me. Although my parents were lawyers, they also appreciated music and arts. My father played piano, my mother played clarinet, and my paternal great grandmother played piano to accompany the movies being shown in the theaters during the silent film era. She also played piano for Bessie Smith, a famous singer during the Jazz Age known as the “Empress of the Blues.” Growing up, it was required that my siblings and I learn to play an instrument. I played flute, violin, piano and sang in my church and school choirs. During law school, I taught myself how to play the guitar. It was a great outlet from the intensity of my studies. While I was in college at Princeton University, I was a soloist in the gospel choir, founded an acapella singing group, and also performed and won Amateur Night at the world famous Apollo Theater, that became my first paid gig as a performer. After law school, I recorded and released my song, “Think Again,” which landed on the Billboard Hot Dance / Club Play charts. Since then, I’ve had 7 songs hit on multiple charts on Billboard. You can hear my latest tracks on Spotify, Apple Music or your favorite other digital service provider. You can also check out my videos on YouTube.
Now you’re a native of Los Angeles, CA, correct? So growing up in the ‘City of Angels,’ who all did/do you consider to be your strongest musical influences?
Technically, I’m a native of Los Angeles because I was born there but I grew up in Washington, D.C.. My musical influences are less about the style or genre of music and more about the approach of the artist. For example, Prince is an influence because of how he blazed his own trail and was committed to constantly creating; Queen because of their theatrical flare and experimental blend of multiple genres; Beyoncé and Tina Turner because of their powerful vocals and electrifying delivery; Nina Simone because of her soulful and soul-filled approach to using her voice as a tool for social change; and Quincy Jones because in a handwritten letter he sent me after a chance meeting while I was at Princeton, he told me he knew I would be successful because my heart was in the right place and encouraged me to keep creating music.
In having said that, how do you classify your overall sound and/or style?
I am happy that my music, much like me, is ever-evolving. It’s exciting to experiment and grow musically. My sound, which has touched on Soul, Rock, R&B, Pop, EDM, Dance-Pop, and Hip Hop, is less about one specific music genre and more about motivation, meaning, and message. I think of myself as a powerful voice amongst the silence. Through my music, I celebrate the power and strength of the human spirit, while also acknowledging the challenges and obstacles. Bottom line, I classify my overall style as thought-provoking, soul-stirring, action-inspiring music. For me, it’s all about energy and my commitment to using my art and voice to make a positive impact on the world.
Switching gears here…
What do you feel has been and will continue to be the ultimate key to your longevity?
I approach everything I do as part of my legacy and life’s work. So much of what I do is to motivate and give myself and others a boost. Life can be hard, but it can also be beautiful. I constantly ask myself, “what does living a life well-lived mean to you?” I direct my energy and focus to the realization of that answer. It’s what I call, living that #SUPERCHARGEDlife.
What do you want people to get from your music?
My personal motto is: Own your power. Live your purpose. Be of service. I want people to wake up and realize the power that is within them to understand that we are all connected, and to know that they matter and what they do matters. It’s all about boosting each other to be better, because no one succeeds alone.
Do you have any other outside/additional aspirations, maybe even completely away from entertainment?
In addition to being an artist, I am an investor, motivational speaker, advisor, strategist, catalyst, and philanthropist. I effortlessly embody the meaning of a multi-hyphenate. I am also the CEO and founder of SUPERCHARGED® by Kwanza Jones, a motivational media company. With my background spanning music, media, production, law and business, I have served on numerous for-profit and non-profit boards including the Apollo Theater, Bennett College, Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, and the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. Together with my partner in business and in life, José E. Feliciano, and I founded the Kwanza Jones & José E. Feliciano Initiative — to power possibilities that boost humanity and its future. We believe in bringing together vision + talent + financial resources to drive beneficial societal change. Our efforts are focused on creating lasting impact in four key areas: Education, Entrepreneurship, Equity, and Empowerment.
To date, what has been your greatest career moment(s), at least thus far anyway?
There are a few: As an indie artist, I make a conscious choice to use my voice and speak my truth without constraints. All too often marginalized people and communities lack power, resources, and access; that is why I speak. Being a voice for those who feel voiceless is one of my greatest career moments. Leading, building and growing a company and team that helps me accomplish my mission of boosting humans and humanity through culture, community, and capital is my greatest career moment. And, doing that while staying true to my roots as an independent and autonomous artist has been extremely rewarding. When I was in college, I had the opportunity to perform at the Apollo Theater and it was life changing. Fast-forward to 2021, I made the conscious decision to lead and serve along with the leadership and Board of Directors of the Apollo Theater. I was a premiere sponsor for their 2022 Spring Benefit, which was a full circle moment. The Apollo is more than just a performance venue. It’s a safe space for supporting artists in all forms of art. From film, to music, to dance and more. It’s a place where voices are elevated and experiences are created. In 2019 José and I, donated $20 million to our alma mater Princeton University. It was the largest gift by underrepresented people of color to the University. The donation helped broaden access to the University for students from diverse backgrounds and put a spotlight on the benefits of diversity, inclusion, and representation. In Fall 2022, the University, completed and officially opened the doors to two new adjoining dormitories, one named after him and one named after me – Kwanza Jones Hall. I always operate from a place of gratitude. Supporting and giving back to the communities that have supported me have been career highlights, too.
What’s an average day like for you?
My average day usually involves four things… creating culture, building community, providing access to capital, and prioritizing self-care. With 24 hours in a day and 5 to 6 of those hours for sleep, I’m intentional and take advantage of every little bit of time, whether it’s 3 minutes or 30 minutes. All those small increments of time add up.
Please discuss how you interact with and respond to fans…
It’s important to me that every person I encounter feels seen and heard. Although I engage and respond on social media, especially Instagram, Linkedin and Twitter, what I’m truly passionate about is building community. Most of my interaction, time, and energy goes to actively connecting with and bringing people together in the Kwanza Jones Boost Friends™ Community. It’s an inclusive, yet exclusive community that’s committed to helping people build greater wealth, health, knowledge and opportunities together.
What advice would you have for someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?
Understand that happiness is a choice, mindset matters, and always make a statement – most importantly, to yourself. I wrote a personal statement over 10 years ago to keep myself motivated and always moving forward. It’s called the SUPERCHARGED® Statement. I continue to draw from it today and want to share that with you here!
Lastly, what’s next for Kwanza Jones?
I’m excited to find out! I’m never stagnant. I let my curiosity and energy flow. I always say, “Goals are guideposts, they are not your ultimate destination.” Goals help me get started, but I always make room for and stay open to change. So, I can’t tell you exactly what’s next…but I know I’m going to grow while doing it and it’s going to be bigger than what I’ve already achieved. After all, I AM SUPERCHARGED. ⚡️🔋💪
Connect w/Kwanza Jones Online: KWANZAVERSE
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