Names hold power. They grant individuals the faculty of ownership, creative expression, and the ability to add metaphysical value to themselves and their bloodline. Take one look at the Kardashians for further evidence. Names are never just names, they carry with them power like no other. So when an individual wields a name whose literal meaning is “power,” it’s safe to infer that person is certainly destined for greatness. That person in question is the extraordinary 19-year-old artist Jelani Aryeh.
Jelani’s music journey first took flight back in 2016. YouTube instrumentals, early SoundCloud singles, and high school mumble rappers set the scene for his first stop in the land of creation. Everyone—Jelani included—was interested in stamping their names into the great big book of sonic artistry and, at the time, rapping was a commonly chosen facet to do so. Early in the discovery of his sound, the San Diego native decided to start releasing personal raps over instrumentals and “[insert artist here] type beats” off of YouTube. As he began formulating his sound around his aching desire to add substance to music and deviate from the clout-chasing mumble rappers that he grew up around, he eventually closed out of those YouTube tabs, bought himself a midi keyboard, and decided to sing rather than rap. The aim was to produce music similar to that of his favorite hidden gems on SoundCloud but to make it his own.
Since then, the alternative R&B musician has been releasing his Frank Ocean-adjacent tracks atop saintly vocals, with his first seven-track EP Suburban Destinesia debuting in 2017. Over the years, his uniquely textured production skills, sinkhole-depth of lyricism, and celestial vocal abilities quickly earned him a following. However, he credits much of his growth to his close friends in Raised by the Internet, an online collective started by Jelani over a love for Frank Ocean, Odd Future, and BROCKHAMPTON. Jelani’s music grazes a daunting limbo between R&B, hip-hop, and an alternative experimental sound that is so uniquely its own. It’s no wonder people drew to his music quite quickly.
Cut to 2019 and the world has been graced with a lot more music from Jelani like the organic, synth-heavy sounds of “Union Station” to the astonishing storytelling narrative behind “Patagonia.” Following the wave of mystic singles came his nine-track project that dropped in October, Helvetica. Much like the rest of his music, Helvetica, tells a story—his own.
The project is filled to the brim with personal narratives and a wondrous amount of emotional depth that gives listeners a glimpse of what it means for Jelani Aryeh to be Jelani Aryeh. Avid listeners of his music soon learned that while we engage with him via the picture he depicts in his songs, we are actually growing and developing with him.
Jelani furthered this connection with his latest track, “Decide”. The haunting vocals, raw emotions, and explorative production of the track send listeners on a self-reflective spiral that we cannot help but get lost in over and over again. As we embark on our own journeys through his music, it becomes pertinent that the power the young artist unconsciously exercises is his power to coalesce.
So join the community and stream “Decide” below: