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Q&A: Getting to Know Atari Jones

By Abbie Doyle, Editorial Director

Atari Jones is a young hip-hop artist hailing from Cleveland, Ohio. Having recently signed with Lawless Inc., Jones’ popularity is skyrocketing both nationally and internationally. Alongside Grammy-nominee Juicy J, Jones will be playing at Athens’ first ever Independent Fest, located at Snowden Lake and taking place this weekend on March 28. ACRN talked briefly with Jones about his rise to popularity, playing Indie Fest and his future plans.

Tell us a bit about yourself! Where you come from, where you’ve been, where you are; your interests; your feelings about the current state of music...

I’m originally from Cleveland, Ohio, Shaker Heights area. I traveled a lot and also lived in New York. I’m currently back in Shaker Heights and going to school at Cleveland State University. School’s easy, but not my focus; I’m taking up business administration, so it helps me with my music career for sure. A big part of music is the business side, which a lot of artists don’t know about or aren’t really keen to, but it’s what helps an artist rise or fall and stay around.

My interests are photography, clothing, women, music (of course) and different sounds. Sounds, because not everything is music, but if it sounds good to the ear it can be considered music in a way, right? I feel the current state of music is cool, but too trendy. It’s more open than it was before because of the Internet, but even with the Internet artists still tend to cling to one sound only. We need more of a variety in the music scene.

You’ve got a pretty big reputation in Cleveland. How long did you work to cultivate this following, and what steps did you take to increase your popularity?

My music career honestly took off online; I have a strong Internet presence. [An Internet presence] also helped me gain a buzz overseas; I have a following in Cleveland, but it isn’t as big as many think. My songs are probably more known out of the States than in, which is dope and funny at the same time.

To increase my popularity I just started perfecting my craft, doing stuff my way instead of following a standard. It took me a little bit to hone in on my sound; once I did this my following started to come, which led to me signing a recording contract with an independent label out of Chicago, Lawless Inc. You may have heard of Lawless because of its other artists such as King Louie or Katie Got Bandz, both being urban-sounding artists. I’m more universal, more diverse, with the sounds I use. I still have a grind ahead of me to become more “popular,” so to speak, but I’m content that this year will be a big one.

What steps did you take to spread your name outside of Cleveland?

I would say I spread my music and name outside of Cleveland through word of mouth, playing shows, traveling and the biggest of all--the Internet. Signing with Lawless helped because they are what people would call an “ On-the-Rise” label. People in the music industry always look out for new talent.

How did you get signed for Indie Fest?

Well, funny story... It started with one of my good friends from Shaker, who kind of manages me, having a friend with a brother who goes to OU. I guess they needed performers, so my friend asked me if I want to perform at OU. I said of course, because everybody knows college shows are the way to go.

I ended up just doing my own research on the side, finding out about Indie Fest and reaching out to them myself. It’s not that my homie wouldn’t have gotten me linked in with them, I just like contacting people on my own so there’s no middle man, you know? [Indie Fest’s organizers] emailed me back, saying they liked my music and would want me to perform. And that’s how I got signed.

Do you have any expectations for the show?

I just expect to have a good time and give my fans, and Juicy J’s fans, a good show. My live performance is always on point and I want people to see that.

Some coverage from HypeTrak said your involvement in the rap game stemmed from an early interest in poetry. Who are your favorite poets, and in what ways have they influenced you?

Honestly none; I’m not influenced by anyone when it comes to poetry, I’m influenced by my own self, and stuff I see on a daily. Poetry started for me when I was in the fourth grade. I just liked it; I liked that it was a creative way to express myself. Ever since then I have been doing it. I couldn’t tell or recite to you a single poem from any other poet than myself.

Who are your favorite musicians, of any and all genres? In what ways have they influenced your beats?

I don’t have any favorite musicians either; I like different artists and genres, but I try to make my own sound and stick to my own waves. That way, when I do really blow up and people compare me to others or something of the sort, I can be like, “I was doing this years ago.” As for beats... I just pick them off of what screams out to my ear and that’s how I create songs, based off the vibes I get from the beat.

I try to put knowledge in my raps for the youth or for people who just like substance, and add a little hype to it, because everyone needs a little “hype” now and then.

What musicians do you listen to?

What knowledge do you put into your raps?

Just [things] about everyday life, not to give up on your dreams, and to stop polluting the youth.

You recently Tweeted about wanting to make it big because you want to help your Great Grandmother. Could you tell us why she’s so important to you?

My great grandma is probably one of the sweetest women in the world. She pretty much raised me and helped me become the person, the man, I am today. She used to drive me around everywhere and anywhere, no question. She was the first lady to tell me I’d be great, so I owe her the world.

What are your future plans for your career?

My future plans for my career include seeing the world with my music, showing the world my creativity and changing the way the music industry is today. Touring would be epic for sure. I’ll go from “low key” to a big deal by just continuing what I’m doing. I’ve been drawing a lot of attention with it so I see no need in stopping.

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