The Musical Journey of JWords
From MC and pianist to producer of full-length collaborations, the multi-talented artist deconstructs her origins and current work.
New Jersey-based producer JWords first developed a strong interest in making music during high school. “I remember I was a junior and I was figuring out what I wanted to do in my life,” she says. “I was going to be an accountant or something. I love numbers.”
After her sister encouraged her to pursue music more seriously she took up piano lessons and enrolled in production classes at school. She also joined the band Jumanji in 2013 as an MC before moving away from the mic to focus more on her piano skills. Her transition from rapper to pianist and the collaborative nature of being in a group greatly expanded her ability to structure and compose songs.
JWords graduated high school in 2014 and broke off from Jumanji in 2015. In effort to nurture her abilities an individual artist she purchased a Roland SP-404SX and a Roland Juno synthesizer. She constructed tracks using her SP in tandem with her ear for piano melodies. “I sampled piano parts and put it in the pads,” she says. “And then I started to do drums.”
“I was just trying at that point. I didn't know what I was doing,” she adds with a laugh.
Though early efforts to add the right mix of percussion to her instrumentals were trying, her continued practice quickly bore fruit. The 2016 song “Voodoo Mama” - a collaborative effort with fellow vocalists Mello and NajaTheGreat - served as one of her first notable recordings. With JWords providing raps in addition to the track’s production, the three artists combined to create a potent sound.
Though she appreciated the experience of this collaboration, her desire to become a solo artist intensified. Drawing on her Dominican roots, the rhythms of her production began to reflect influences of bachata, Latin jazz, merengue, and salsa. She also purchased a discounted Teenage Engineering OP-1 portable synthesizer to expand her selection of gear.
As her sound matured JWords found herself increasingly inspired by the vibrant beat scene percolating in New York in 2017 - especially the work of producer vhvl. She was also drawn to several other artists making a name for themselves in various scenes and spaces. “Suzi Analogue was a big inspiration for me too during that time,” she says. “I was just looking at the women doing it - Linfornia, SassyBlack, Stas Thee Boss. They were all big inspirations for me back then. They still are now, you know?”
As JWords continued to develop a unique sound and style, she picked up Teenage Engineering’s PO-28 robot sequencer and synthesizer and started posting videos on her Instagram account. This eventually led to contact with the Teenage Engineering staff and an official relationship with the popular sampler and synth manufacturer. “I'm an ambassador for their company now,” she says. “I went on tour with them and I do a lot of workshops and shows for them.”
The company also equipped her with two OP-Z sequencer/synthesizers. She appreciates the powerful machine as tool for live performances and the ability to tailor the synth to her individual needs as an artist. “With the OP-Z, you can sample your own sounds into it,” she says. “You can create the unit to be your own sound. For me, it's way easier to just carry that around rather than bring all my other gear to make music.”
While her live performances have become a bit more streamlined in terms of equipment, JWords continues to use a variety of options for sampling depending on the feel of the music she’s working on. “I usually sample songs that I love,” she says. “I sample from the internet or I sample something that I've recorded on my phone from the outside world.”
She also creates her own original samples through an innovative process of gear combination. “I'll make another beat on my Minimoog and then I'll record it onto my OP-Z,” she says. “Then it chops it up really interesting. There's a lot of forms of sampling that I do.”
As for official releases, 2020 and 2021 have been very busy and fruitful years. After spending time as part of her mentor Suzi Analogue’s collective Never Normal Records, JWords released her debut project SÍN SÉNAL with the collective in February of 2020. Showing off her production range and diverse skill set, the six-track album contains hypnotic moments like the pulsating, uptempo “Stay Away.”
She recently left the Never Normal collective to focus on her own music as well as a video production entity, but she remains very grateful for her relationship with Suzi. “We've been close and she's been a good mentor,” she says. “She's always been there for me.”
JWords immediately followed up SÍN SÉNAL with three three-song EPs - dancepackvol.1, dancepackvol.2, and the Nappy Nina and KONCEPT JACK$ON-assisted Year 2300, which she describes as a “rap kind of futuristic album.”
In September 2020 she joined forces with Brooklyn MC maassai as the group H31R. Their impressive debut Ve·Loc·i·Ty seamlessly bridges the influences of a broad spectrum of genres including electronic, drum & bass, and rap. She then closed out 2020 with Sonic Liberation, a collection of tracks crafted with her Eurorack modular synth and her pocket operators.
March of 2021 saw the release of another full-length MC collaboration via the Double Down project with Brooklyn resident and Oakland native Nappy Nina. Featuring co-production from keiyaA on the massai-assisted winner “Thin Ice,” additional guest verses from Stas Thee Boss on the potent “Real Tea,” and some very badass cover art, the record serves as another notch in her belt.
Now, with write ups in Bandcamp Daily and Wire, a role as a brand ambassador and mentor for Teenage Engineering, two impressive collaborative albums with talented MCs, and a growing catalog of solo work, the future looks incredibly bright for JWords.
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