After graduating from the University of California, Merced, Leimert Park‘s newest star Jamal Cristopher’s following has grown yearly since his college beginnings in 2011. Recently coming to a head in 2017 with the release of “Come Back to California” on iTunes and prior releases such as 2016’s “Out Of Luck”, Cristopher amassed rave reviews from some of Hip-Hop’s most prominent curators such as YouHeardThatNew, This is 50, Hip-Hop Vibe, and more. Garnering more than 20,000 followers on Instagram, the city of Leimert Park, and Los Angeles as a whole have been more than welcoming to Cristopher’s rise to stardom.
For years now, Dom Kennedy pretty much by himself, made Leimert Park a staple in the Los Angeles music scene; from well known local hero to household name, Dom Kennedy has set the standard for how an artist from the west coast should move, and he’s done so all the while without assistance from a major label. Cristopher stated, “Living in Leimert my whole life, Dom is everything.” Kennedy revived the west coast along with others such as Nipsey Hussle, Kendrick Lamar, Big Sean and the entire TDE camp, YG. And now, it appears as though Jamal Cristopher looks to finally be ready to add his name amongst those who came before him.
Cristopher provides a sound that’s missing and needed in the streets of Los Angeles. His new album, “Call Me When You Get This” set to drop by years end on Come Back to California Recordings, presents a stark contrast with today’s artist who seemingly could care less about the content in the music. Cristopher does this all the while still making music that’s in line with who he is as a young kid who’s still making mistakes and yearns to have fun. “One of the fastest rising stars on the west coast” according to Hip-Hop Vibe, everything suggests that Jamal can be a potential player in West Coast Hip-Hop now, and for years to come.
One of the new faces of Los Angeles music, Cristopher seems to be on a collision course with stardom whether he’s ready for it or not. With his new project “Call Me When You Get This” due out in stores by the end of 2017, we will find out soon enough.
We got up with Jamal Cristopher to talk about his feats and what to expect from him, as far as Hip Hop is concerned.
Checkout the interview below:
Although you’ve put out a lot of music this year, your last full length project was in 2014. Obviously, your popularity has grown a ton since then, what went into the delay of your new project, “Call Me When You Get This?” What’s changed since then?
–My last project, ‘Like We Used To’ was really good man. Like it was dark. It was deep. I spoke on a lot..Both of my grandmother’s passing the summer before I put it out, my mother and her fight with cancer, me struggling to figure out how i was gonna continue to pay for college and how i was gonna graduate..like I spoke on a lot. I linked up with a publicist, and put a lot of money into it. And it got on blogs, but none of the major ones. And it didn’t take me to where I thought it should have based on the quality of the music. Not even close man and it got me upset.
It was then where I was like, ‘okay im done’. 2014, I reached a point where I became really good with the music and I didn’t want it to fall on deaf ears. Even if that meant I’d never put out a full length project again. So since then I just focused on attacking things like Instagram, Twitter, and continue to grow my presence on that…putting out songs here and there. And hopefully, at some point start gaining some momentum, enough of it so that I feel comfortable in putting it out. But this summer I just said forget it all and just started to continue to grow my instagram presence, but I started letting go of some records I’ve been holding onto.
Leimert Park, although known for its deep and rich music culture, hasn’t generated any Hip-Hop stars outside of Dom Kennedy. It appears as though you’re the next in line. How much has Los Angeles, particularly Leimert Park meant to you?
-Leimert Park has meant everything to me, man. It’s all I know. I went away from Leimert at like 18 for college for 5 years; I would just come and visit every 3 months or so. But other than that I’ve lived in the same house all of my life. I remember being in college and just missing it so much. I love what we represent.
Los Angeles, in terms of it’s Hip-Hop scene is quite crowded. You’ve been trying to break through for a while now. Where do you see yourself in the midst everybody else in LA?
-In terms of skill and talent and music, at the top…like the very top. I said it earlier, LA is known for either lifestyle west coast rap, Gangster music, or ratchet music. I incorporate those elements into my music too for sure, I enjoy it. But I feel like we don’t have that many guys who have a desire to incorporate melodies. Or guys who actually care about rapping good, having bars. Real content. And that’s where I fit in. That’s the lane I try and take in LA. Like I grew up in South Central, the heart of it. I went to Audubon and Dorsey High, made it to college and got a degree. I fall in love.
Like those stories, coming from where I’m from aren’t told. Or aren’t told enough.
I asked my brother the day I said, ‘can you make it out of LA without banging? Without being on the scene?’ Like outside of talent and skill, I’m probably not at the top..I don’t go out. I’m not out here at the parties or clubs or hosting things. At all. I’m not the most popular guy in the city. I don’t bang. So in terms of a popularity thing, I’m not up there yet, and that’s cool…Because of that it took longer. But it’s happening now. I have a group of people who follow me and love my content and music and know what to expect from me. 2017 has been a real big year for me in that regard.
You went to Dorsey High school in South Central, and then went on to the University of California, Merced. You graduated in 2015 and that’s atypical for a rapper. Assuming that school played a big role in your life, did school play a big part in shaping your career?
-It definitely did. I started taking music serious my senior year of High School at Dorsey. That’s where I get a lot of my stories and my content from. Like it’s rare that I’m out here on the scene like that and I don’t get involved too heavy with a ton of women or people in general, so those experiences in college and High School often times get me going with my writing. If you aren’t super popular in your city, like people knew me but I wasn’t the most popping guy in LA or anything like that. So if that’s the case, how are you gonna get these people to hear your music? Or get enough people to hear your music? So in High school and at UC Merced I played basketball all the time. I played 3 years var at dorsey and a year of college ball. I was always social and it was always kinda easy for me to meet and get new friends. It was an easy way to get a start at generating some support at the very least.
For the last few years now, the music industry has shifted towards the artist. It’s never been a better time to be an independent act in music. How do you feel about the state of music, particularly Hip-Hop today? How are you attempting to use it to your benefit?
-It has it’s pluses and minuses. We have never had this much freedom and control. It’s something that I know previous eras wished they had. Social Media plus streaming, with things like tunecore has changed everything. Like I don’t need a label to release a record, and actually sell it on iTunes and make money. I don’t know if I’d be doing music if I didn’t come of age in this era.
On the other hand, it’s a complete free for all now. The flood gates are open you know? Like anyone can do music. It’s like find a way to get enough momentum on social media, you get millions of followers now you can put out music and tour and you’re good. You got guys doing all kinda gimmicks ifor a ton of comments and laughs and followers, and once you get enough of a following all of a sudden you’re a rapper. Like it’s entertaining, these dudes is funny, but it cheapens the genre. It’s all good though. I love where we’re at. I’ve just been trying to do the same. Just trying to find my niche on social media and grow my following and once that happens the real will win out.
This summer you released a lot of music, including two extremely impressive records in “Come Back to California” and “All Talk”, with “Come Back to California” being one of the better rap records this year. Two records that sound incredibly personal. Are these records 100% your life? How do you go about including your personal life in your music?
-Yeah most of the time it’s all of my life. And if it’s not my life the emotion of the record is inspired by my life. ‘Come Back to California’ was just me in my most honest form. I love that record. I’m pretty sure that’ll make the album. When I get in that mode, I just feel like I can go somewhere where most cant. Elite level rapping. I rap about my current job with the LA Clippers, love life, my moms life, When I met Zendaya, everything man. Those records are like therapy to me. ‘Come Back to California’ is my favorite song I’ve ever done. I don’t know how to make music another way other than extremely personal…well I do. And sometimes I do. Sometimes I make those records where I flat out lie on joints. It’s an art form and I can create the art anyway I like as long as its good. But my best records are always the ones that are 100% me. Even the records that I make for you to bump in the whip, records that are meant to turn up to, the content in it is 100% honest.
“All Talk” isn’t that. I haven’t been in a real relationship in a while. So it’s hard to make these kinda records from a 100% me perspective. So if I’m talking to a girl and we get in an argument, I’ll let my imagination wander and just imagine if we were having that talk in a relationship. All Talk is all imagination. But it comes from a real place like I’ve been in that situation before, just not currently. And I know someone out there is in that situation. I enjoy making those joints like that.
Do you have any notable influences?
-Influences? Yeah a few. Dom Kennedy is always like, that guy to me. The coolest nigga on earth to me. Just epitomizes it man. What he did and how successful he’s gotten, coming from where we’re from and doing it independently, since 07 he’s been it for me. I ran into him this summer it was a real special moment for me. From a musical perspective, Big Sean, J. Cole Drake, and Kendrick. Guys who value raps, content, but also value melody and making music that’s easy on the ear. That balance might be the most important thing to me and its something I strive for every time I hear a beat. Anybody that has that balance I look to. Russ is a guy I rock with in that regard too.
At this point, your career and you as an entity period seems to be headed in the right direction. What can you attribute that to?
-Just having a great team man. My brother is like my direction guy from the music, to everything else regarding me he directs me where to go. And my bro Len who’s also my engineer he’s my do it all guy too and between us we just kinda have a great handle on what’s needed or what I need to do. Patience has been a huge thing too. It takes a while. And even now I don’t know how close I am to where I’m gonna be. Understanding social media though particularly instagram. Just getting a following on there and growing my presence on that, The image im creating on there just helped me a lot.
Tell us about “Call Me When You Get This.” What are you looking forward to the most? What inspired the title? The album?
-“Call Me When You Get This” is just a summary of where I’m at now, and what’s been going on with me since I graduated from college. The title comes from Corinne Bailey Rae she has a record that’s called that. She’s also a heavy inspiration on the album. It’s my most honest effort. I’m just not even in the same arena as I was musically in 2014. The music is just on another level. My raps, flows, melodies and cadences I took a lot of pride in those things this time around. I always do but it’s just a natural progression when you work so hard towards something..Otis Redding is somebody who played a huge role in the album I sampled him on it he’s like the greatest ever to me. But like I said earlier the album is basically filling a space where I’m from. My story. The story of the kid who grew up in the heart of what you know LA for, but chose to go a different way.
Where do you see this all, in 3-5 years from now?
-With a platinum album or two, Grammy’s, I really wanna buy my mom a house. Or whatever it is she wants. Change the lives of those that I love. Those that’s been looking out for me. I’m overly ambitious. And I have trouble thinking rationally. I want it all. And I’ll get it..It’s already happened.