JonoJono sat on an antique tv with a guitar. Photo in black and white.
JonoJono by Cass Ruffins


JonoJono Is Making Transcendent Art

June 16, 2023

Despite the rising visibility in media, Black artists have often been hidden in and on the alternative scene. There is still, among some, a belief that certain genres sit outside the realm of sounds Black musicians should make. Black rockers, punks and indie sensations are the community that Afropunk was founded for. The specific insistence and intention to create in this space is not only a form of resistance but an ownership of spaces we helped create and do exist in. One such artist is JonoJono.

Their latest release, Consciousness shifts between melancholic crooning and explosive lyrics that carry listeners on his journey with him. It’s easy to hear JonoJono’s influences on the track but it’s also clear that JonoJono is forging his own path and ultimately coming into his own. I had a chat with JonoJono about his latest single, the relationship between Blues and alt spaces and what it means to create transcendent art.

JonoJono sat on an antique tv set strumming a guitar. Image seen through smashed glass in Black and White.

JonoJono by Cass Ruffins

Consciousness has just been released, how are you feeling?

Happy that I released my 1st original material for the year of 2023.

Consciousness was written during the pandemic. What’s your experience been like from conception to execution? 

Well…for that time of writing the song and playing it, I was in the process of working on my project “in a toxic world” which was released in 2021. I was in a stuck mental place like everyone else at the time and I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t able to grip reality of my emotions or drive. I felt like I lost touch of who I was and why I do what I do because all I had was 4 walls surrounding me and alcohol to help the day go by, and with that said – paranoia formed and spiritual stress came from it. I kept numbing those emotions and losing consciousness to survive to the next day. Some can say it was depression, but I say it was a catalyst to the rawness power of this project. 

Last year, you mentioned your journey from the church to alternative spaces. I particularly love the description of making Blues in a louder, heavier way. There’s still this perception of what Black music is vs what white music is. How has it been navigating this in your career?

There’s a stigma that needs to be broken on what skin color made what. It’s obvious that blues is the blueprint to all genres that everyone loves today, spanning from hip hop, metal, R&B, country, house/EDM, etc….Blues is the epitome of feeling and raw expression when there wasn’t anything else to use. For me, I stay to facts and history with my performances and influences and make it a point to educate any demographic that objectifies my craft and evoke conversations like these that aren’t inflammatory to let others understand why they do the type of sound their spirits link to. You can’t run away from the impact of black artists because 80% of music (outside of international/cultural genres) that is thought of by any race doing anything mainstream today, will indeed name drop a black artist at some point in time. That fact alone gives me peace and won’t allow me to waver in my sound.  

Word on the street is, you want to produce art that transcends genre. You’ve also said ‘music shouldn’t have a label as long as he’s authentic.’ So I guess, what does this look like to you?

There’s a term that I learned when falling in love with the Early Bay Area thrash metal scene and it’s called a “poser”. A “poser” is someone that uses glitz and glamour, or smoke and mirrors to get their push in the game. In present day time, that could equate to someone who goes for a genre that doesn’t fit them, or maybe an R&B artist that releases a vocally strong and demanding song, but in reality it’s all constructed and auto tuned, or they’re terrible performers but they have all the bells and whistles on stage to hide that fact that they can’t sing live or play like on the released record. Ever since one of my favorite bands like Metallica and peer artists at the time highlighted the disgust of being a “poser” it made me look into myself to make sure I carry this flag to not be that in anything I do. So when I sing, The mic is on. When I play, It’s me playing…when I write and produce on these topics in the sonic spaces of R&B or grunge or metal…that’s just how I feel at the time and there’s nothing anyone can do to change that emotional illustration & there’s nothing forced when I’m doing it. It’s who I purely am, I’m not “posing” for a particular demographic. I make music as my therapy and it gets me through life, not for the approval of others. It’s that mentality that opens the door to make something new and unheard of. We can look back and refer to the greats that innovated sound before us decades ago.