Artivism – Jea Street And His Unique Brand Of Soul Music
Delaware is a state in the Mid-Atlantic region of the U.S, most known for it’s favorable business laws. What the “First State” lacks in size (it’s America’s 2nd smallest state in total area) it makes up for with unprecedented business acumen. 1,000,000 businesses are incorporated in the “302” (a reference to the state’s only area code) including 60% of Fortune 500 companies.
Delaware is nestled between Baltimore and Philly. It’s a hop skip and a jump from New York City in one direction, and Washington D.C. in the other. The music scene has thrived from the days of Jazz music and Clifford Brown, to the more recent party years at Unitversity of Delaware (where bands like The Rolling Stones, Dela Soul, and Run Dmc all made tour stops). To this day one of the countries biggest music festivals Firefly, takes place in this sleeper of a musical state.
Jea Street, emerged on the scene with his own unique brand of soul music. It didn’t take long for Street to become an established act on the Delaware Valley music scene. He infuses a social awareness into his music, but keeps it palatable enough for diverse audiences to grasp and enjoy. He reminds us that in a world of auto tune, and studio tricks, there are still musicians willing to offer us their true selves.
Yaheard.com recently caught up with Jea, to chop it up about music, artivism, “Ronapalooza” and more.
Yaheard.com: Tell us a little bit about your early life and how you became interested in music?
Jea Street: I got interested in music relatively late in life. I went to Morehouse College and joined The Morehouse College Glee Club because it was touted as the premier organization on campus. By the time I finished my first year, I was a changed young man. That brotherhood gave me a deep appreciation for the power of music and of what professionalism looks like. I attended initially with intentions on being a psychiatrist and left on the path to becoming a musician.
Yaheard.com: When did you realize that you wanted to play out publicly, What was your first concert and were you nervous?
Jea Street: I think the first time I can remember singing publicly was in high school. Just for fun, my friends and I formed an R&B singing quartet called S-ential. I don’t remember being nervous because it was all just for fun. I also think that later on being in The Morehouse College Glee Club made me immune to nervousness. We were HARD on each other in that group in the funniest way possible.
Yaheard.com: You are based out of Wilmington, Delaware correct? Tell us a little bit about the city you’re from.
Jea Street: YUP! I love my city. I’ve lived in many different cities and chose to come back here because I see so much potential. We have a tremendous amount of talent per capita. We should be a cultural hub. We’re not there yet, but I believe we can get there with hard work, and by hard work, I mean the work that’s required to create excellence.
Yaheard.com: For those in the Delaware, North East Maryland, Philadelphia and South Jersey areas they see your band not only putting on an exhilarating live show, but also incorporating a level of social consciousness into your set. Why do you feel that’s important?
Jea Street: The main reason is because of my dad. He has fought for our people all of his adult life and my grandmother did the same. I come from a line of civil rights warriors, so it was natural and necessary to put that spirit into my music. I consider myself to be an “artivist” which is a term coined to mean using art as a weapon to create cultural change. I use my music as a voice to speak hard truths in a way that everyone can hear it and that can cause them to think more deeply about those issues. Whether the issues are something they are living, something they read about in the newspaper, or something they have their own power to effect change in by using their own artistic abilities, a position they hold that has power, a teacher bringing light to real issues through music, etc. I can’t just be about making the music, it has to do more than entertain.
Yaheard.com: Do you have plans to release an album?
Jea Street: I’m actually working on something right now that’s related to this whole COVID-19 debacle. I have a ton of music that needs to be recorded and the issue is always budget. Fortunately, these strange time are forcing and allowing artists to make a way where there doesn’t seem to be a way.
Yaheard.com: You recently organized The “Ronapalooza” live streaming concert series on Facebook. Tell us a little about that?
Jea Street: First I did The Corona Concert which was an idea sparked by you! THANKS BRO! The next logical step was to try and do something bigger that shows off our community. Performers have been smacked by our current situation as hard as anyone. If we can’t perform, we can’t eat. Ronapalooza was created by artists for artists as a way to help us get through this situation. So far, it’s been a success and a testament to how much talent our small community has. I have a little fear that people are gonna like sitting at home and watching us more than in person, but I think that’s mainly just fear talking. You can’t replace live interaction; people need it, and people want it. This whole social media live thing is another path to artistic freedom. With I, Facebook, and YouTube Live, we don’t have to worry about paying venues and all the ways that we get jerked around. If you perform under Ronapalooza, you get 100% of whatever people pay you. Ronapalooza 2: Ladies Night resulted in several ladies making more money online than they would have under traditional circumstances. It was a blessing to be able to help them with such a simple and raw platform. I think it’s a part of the future.
Yaheard.com: Who are some of musicians in your personal life you can’t live without?
Jea Street: Donny Hathaway. Stevie Wonder. James Brown. Beethoven. Outkast. Sam Cooke. Aretha. Whitney. Bob Marley.
Yaheard.com: Where can people find your music online?
Yaheard.com: Any last shout outs?
Jea Street: Shoutout to you for having me and shoutout to our dope ass state. Shoutout to my wife and kids for enduring me LOL
Jea Street- “A Better Man”
Jea Street – Ronapalooza set