‘Something special must be in Canadian water!’ Jahkoy Palmer said that comment to him made by many journalists was the inspiration for his highly anticipated EP titled Foreign Water, which just debuted in October. The album followed his September single “California Heaven,” featuring L.A. rapper Schoolboy Q, which received rave reviews from USA Today, Billboard, and the Fader and is skyrocketing to the top of Spotify viral charts. Jahkoy has been described as “the next in the list of big names to come from Canada,” but his unique genre-blending approach tying R&B and electric house makes him stand out from the rest. His eclectic sound and feels-hitting vocals have generated active support from Pharrell, Elton John and his single “Odd Future” premiered on Zane Lowe’s Beats 1 Radio Show and played on Drake’s OVO Sound Radio. Jahkoy tore up the stage at festivals all over the U.S. this summer, driving crowds crazy at Lollapalooza, Wireless UK, Billboard Hot 100, and tons more. The world wants more, and the 22-year-old Def Jam Recordings artist is cooking up a world tour, a new album, and new shows for 2017.
Jahkoy’s been making music for so long that he laughed when I asked him what his first musical experience was, saying “I couldn’t tell you my first experience with music just because I’ve been doing music for so long that I don’t even remember when I started. I just remember always loving it.”
He’s been writing music since he was 11. “It started with writing poems in school. I turned a lot of those poems into music—I used to rap at the time—so it was a lot of poems that turned into raps.” Rapping under the alias of “Raheem” in Toronto was the beginning of Jahkoy’s journey.
“I grew up on a lot of Def Jam poetry. I’ve always wanted to be a part of that experience of the spoken word, and expressing how I feel in a format that was like written to tell a story, and also make it sound smooth. As a kid it’s like ‘monkey see monkey do,’ you see something that’s really cool [and] you want to try it, and that’s how it was for me. I saw something that was really dope and I wanted to be a part of music. I love music, music always changed how I felt, it would make me feel better. A funny story that my mom tells me, I guess when I was 2 years old and every time I started crying she would put on this record by Craig Mack called ‘Flava in Ya Ear,’ and she said every time she would play the record I would stop crying immediately. So I guess music has just instilled in me [a way] to help me get rid of my demons and get vulnerable, and just express myself as a whole. Ever since I can remember I’ve just been in love with that form of expression.”
“I love music, music always changed how I felt, it would make me feel better.”
We talked about Jahkoy’s transition from rap to R&B, and where his inspiration stems from. “I started singing two years ago at the Disclosure show. At the time, I didn’t know who Disclosure was or know anything about them,” he recalled. Jahkoy first saw the Electronic Duo at their concert in Toronto, which he’d gone to see Vic Mensa. As his first exposure to purely instrumental music, Disclosure blew him away. “Just having that experience, seeing instrumental music being appreciated by people just enjoying themselves, listening to the bump of the beat. And having that first experience, not really familiar with the instrumental world, and it struck me that there could be potential vocals over these records to make them like number one hits. And it was wanting to go through a bit of trial and error to make some potential hits in that dance-infused world. It was using, I guess, pop music with urban—a little bit of that urban—and throwing it over house records. With all the technology that we have right now, we’re able to do so many things to make good music, and it’s so hard to I guess label it, I like to just call it good music. Music is evolving… a lot of my music has three elements—house, R&B, or acoustic, those are the worlds that I live in musically and that’s how I express myself. I never like to stick to one, I never like to cater to a specific style, I just like to express myself entirely and how it comes out at the moment is how we’re going to execute it, and most of the time it comes out at random.”
He then opened up about the evolution of his signing voice and where he’d like to improve upon. “I’m still working on my voice, vocally, and learning where I can take things. ‘Cause I’ve only been singing for a couple years now, so I’m not where I’m going to be if I get like ten years of experience. Right now, I feel like I’m still in the earlier stages of my career. I feel really comfortable where I am, especially over time. I’ve been going to vocal lessons, I feel more in control of my voice, feel more comfortable, but I’m still learning. The future is bright, the rest is history.”
He’s definitely right about that; Jahkoy’s future is bright. He’s setting out to prove himself here in the U.S. and continue making waves.
“Foreign Water is out, my first album. That lets me know that the engines are running, so now I really gotta prove why I’m the one and why I should be here, what do I bring to the table. I’m trying to bring a fresh experience to the listeners of the music world, in this industry, to share the experience of someone from Canada. I’m coming from the other side of the border, I really want to share the Canadian experience. I’m in America now, I’m seeing different things and meeting new people and absorbing a lot, becoming more of myself and seeing all that’s out there. I’m only going to grow and am only going to become better at what I do, trying to master my art as much as possible and understanding what it means to be in the music industry and what being a part of the singer-songwriter world is, and linking up and making these connections. When I first came out to LA, I found myself in a lot of happy accidents. I came out here to make music and really put my foot in the door, and prove to everybody why I’m here. I’m working on my album—hopefully top of the year, looking at a world tour, potentially, got some shows coming up early in the year. It’s going to be awesome.”
Jahkoy’s got some pretty exciting stuff lined up and has made a lot of major transitions, but through all of it he hasn’t forgotten why he’s here. “I really just want to put an imprint on the next generation so that they can absorb my energy and potentially feed off of my energy and deliver it to the following generation, so it just goes on. I’m inspired by Kanye West and Pharrell, these guys are leaders of my generation and they deserve a reward, if you ask me, for being the guys that stepped out of the norm and stepped out of what everybody felt was the comfort zone and really, like, express themselves as a whole. They weren’t holding back for what anybody thought, they just wanted to be artists. I just want to bring my perspective and share my story.”
This is original AMG content.