Rasheed Jamal Washington, is an American rapper, songwriter, and actor better known by his stage name — Rasheed Jamal. Many of his projects, albums, and singles including My Beautiful Ugly (2012) and SANKOFA (2015) have received vast critical acclaim. Following the release of SANKOFA, Rasheed was nominated for Best New Band in the Willamette Week. On August 21st, 2017, during the Solar Eclipse, he released his most recent work INDIGO CHILD (U Ain’t The Only 1!). He founded an artistic collective known as FRSH TRB Republic. The creative collaboration formed with the help of Glenn Waco and Mic Capes, who together are known as The Resistance.
Growing up in Hot Springs, Arkansas, Rasheed was immersed in music — drawing inspiration from the jazz, gospel, and blues festivals his family brought him to as well as the harsh realities of street life. In an effort to continuously celebrate the heritage of hip-hop, Rasheed samples rhymes, song titles, or album titles of the various rappers he studied. Best known for his dextrous and dense word play, Rasheed has a gift for entertaining while conveying a sense of intellectual dialogue on bouncy and bass driven music. Within his work, Rasheed’s strives to connect the dots of his surrounding culture.
His forthcoming offering entitled, 22 Grams (iAMTHATiAM), testifies to the experience of a young black male in modern day America, given from the perspective of a disembodied “Soul” — the main protagonist in the narrative. Several years in the making, 22 Grams is a statement that will mean a lot to the culture of rap music.
For inspiration Rasheed looks to a wide variety of artists, however, identifies these three as the most prominent: “Tupac Shakur has been the most inspirational to me emotionally, Outkast has been the most inspirational creatively, and Lupe Fiasco’s Food & Liquor gave me the confidence to find my own voice and to stop hiding my intelligence — not only on my records, but in my day to day life.” Listeners may draw style comparisons to Tupac Shakur, Andre 3000, Q. Tip, Kendrick Lamar, and Big KRIT.
1) How would you describe the work you’ve generated thus far? Do you think it emulates a certain kind of style, carries a specific kind of message, etc.
The music that I’ve created has for the most part been influenced and molded by experiences that I’ve had or witnessed. It emulates the hip hop/rap culture I was brought up within as a youth in the South. Before anything, my music represents Black Culture, which is not synonymous with any music genre or art form. My thoughts, customs, sense of humor and mannerisms reflect my upbringing and ability to adapt to my environment. I seek to tell the Truth in my expression. Sometimes that disturbs people, but art should move us and its better to be disturbed than to be lulled to sleep.
2) What’s a recent project or performance you were involved in where you felt like you made an impact as an artist?
I feel as though my most recent album, Indigo Child (U Ain’t The Only 1!), was a great accomplishment. I released it during the Great American Solar Eclipse at 11:11am. That was something that I’ll be able to talk about for years. It was a really a significant event for the people who were able to catch it and hang out in the sunlight for the day.
3) You have a writing background and create all of your lyrics, how did you find your voice? Who influences you within and outside the music world?
I have dozens of musical influences that have helped me find my voice. For a long time I made song after song after song because I hated the sound of my own voice. The artists who I admire most are people such as Tupac Shakur, NaS, Jay-Z, Scarface, Outkast, UGK, 8Ball & MJG, T.I., 3 6 Mafia, et al. These are examples of rappers. They all make me laugh or cry…
I was raised on gospel, jazz, and blues by my parents who had great taste in music. My Mother, Grandparents, and cousins participated in the church choir. I grew up around different musicians throughout my childhood and once I came of age around 15 I started to really write my lyrics. My cousin Natasha initially got me into writing songs when I was around 8 or younger.
4) You’ve worked with a lot of other talented musicians, filmmakers, and producers in and out of Portland, what kind of elements do you look for when pairing up for collaboration?
I like to collaborate with people I can be myself around. The best collaborations come in the form of people who respect one another mutually. You can hear it in the music that’s made, or in the visual representation when the work is completed in final form. A good collaboration is a reflection of that relationship. I love to work with people with a good sense of humor or who have interesting comedic timing.
5) What do you hope listeners get from your work?
I want listeners to get a sense of inspiration from my work. The people I make music for are forgotten and disenfranchised. They may have been exposed to poverty as children. These people have felt hopelessness and despair. They’ve lost family and friends to the streets, the grave, and prison. I want those people to hear something uplifting that’s not preaching about a world that doesn’t exist and actually never existed. I want folks to recognize that I’m real and that humanity needs a voice like mine to be heard.
6) Which one of your songs should listeners make it a point to listen to today?
Love Is The Highest Religion. Peep that.