Russell Hamilton

Black FuturesMusic

jasminfire’s ‘dem disenfranchized boyz’ mix is your bhm soundtrack

February 21, 2020

How can you capture the breadth of the African American experience in about 45 minutes of music and movie clips? A daunting task no doubt, but New York-based musician and visual artist Jasminfire has risen to the occasion. A composer, string arranger, and violinist, Jasminfire has lent her talents to the likes of Jamila Woods, budding R&B star Baby Rose, Kyle Dion and even Beyoncé (Beychella anyone?). But for Black History Month, she decided to put her producer hat on, creating a collage of music and soundbites that spoke to the many emotions and colors of the Black experience. The result is something that encapsulates the beauty, struggle, and humor of Black life in America. Listen to the mix and read our conversation with Jasminfire below.

What inspired you to make this mix? Can you tell us about the story being told through the music selections and soundbites?

I wanted to make an audio documentary that felt like a spaceship cruise through archived cultural gems – a blend of real interviews by my heroes, music by my friends and collaborators, and art by people I am a huge fan of who are all writing their way into Black history as we speak. I wanted to show range; nobody could ever deliver the Black National Anthem [“Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing”] like Beyoncé and no one could ever make an impactful song about a white t-shirt like Dem Franchize Boyz. Everyone on this mix dropping gems about the Black experience in their own special way is what makes this project so special.

I spent this entire past weekend with very little sleep sourcing my culture clips, practicing live mixing for the first time, and assembling/producing it in Reason 8. For the cover art, I probably asked Russell Hamilton for his beautiful archival photography of L.A. a thousand times, because he is just so gifted, I knew he would have something to perfectly capture the vibe of this mix. I saw that Jaguar on rims + pink flower tree + EBT sign and knew it was the one.

What does Blackness mean to you as a concept?

I don’t think of Blackness as a concept, I consider it a culture, an authentic way of life. The USA is the only place in the world an African American can be created. In that sense, the term “African American” is the concept, and Blackness is the experience. We are, in fact, a stolen and violently exploited and persecuted group of people with melanin who are managing to thrive in an economy we were forced to build. After so much shit, we still right here. Some people want us to be so ashamed of our wild, ugly past. Ha. I definitely carry a lot of pride as a Black American of mixed descent knowing that we continue to survive under our unique circumstances by constantly creating our own inimitable culture that transcends unfair boundaries intended to keep us disenfranchised. Within the past 100 years alone, Black Americans pioneered permanent trends in world culture through well-documented advances in technology, education, music, entertainment, food, fashion, sports — the list goes on.

Who do you want to hear this mix and what do you want listeners to get from it?

I can’t control who consumes it. But I think it’s so coded, I hope the people who do know where I’m coming from can appreciate it. The way I curated it, it’s not for everybody to fully understand but it is still enjoyable. So much of the art and music in this mix that allow us to erupt in laughter together were fueled by our generations-long collective response to the darkness of America.

You’re a violinist and people might know you for your work/performances with artists like Ari Lennox and Jamila Woods, what’s a violinist doing making such an expertly crafted mix? Why did you choose this as the medium to express yourself? Do you also DJ?

GAS lol! For one, I am a composer before I am a violinist. As soon as I picked it up at 8, I was already writing solos on it. I was thinking of getting into DJing as a means of expression a while ago but was preoccupied with writing, touring, and vibing out the LA scene. For my violin friend Ezinma to randomly want me to keep her (way better) DJ rig right after I moved back to NY. I took it as a sign.

Two, this mix is not expertly crafted, just intuitively curated for fun. There is so much more to learn as an actual DJ, so I can’t front like I can speak on that discipline yet. Humbly, I am just learning how to get basic techniques down right now in order to enhance my live violin performance with it in a way that hasn’t been done. Anybody who knows me knows I love doing everything differently, and to a very high standard.

How do the ideas in the mix play into your own original music?

I think they exist as separate ideas. Composition is one thing. Mixing is another. My original music is so left field. I am currently composing violin solos and concert pieces that can’t even be transcribed to paper — you can hear it on my EP, Baby Jazz. During this process, I was inspired to end the mix with Nipsey [Hu$$le] speaking over a freestyle by my three-piece band that currently lives in Atlanta.

As it pertains to my own creative process, I am more inspired by the freedom and range of all the artists expressing themselves. I feel I am unlocking my own potency through tapping into the artists I’m into, sharing how I enjoy hearing them blended together with the world.

What can we expect from you next?

Over the next couple weeks, I’m working very closely with my friend Megan Gabrielle to co-direct, co-produce and compose a score for an original short film called “Hands” that Jordan Women’s Collective is sponsoring, no strings attached. We are super excited to be able to do whatever we want, which almost never happens with corporate money. I think it releases in March. I also just wrapped up scoring several scenes in a documentary on one of my idols (NDA status), so if a major network picks it up you’ll all be the first to know :)) Musically, I am on hiatus. Just having fun braiding hair art, photographing, painting new works, composing with my friends, and slowly building my own catalog of music for a new release. Definitely another exclusive mix called G String – I asked all the violin homies (Ezinma, Bri Black, Grandmaster Vic, etc) to be on it. :))