As an artist blending hip-hop and R&B with his pop-tinged music, JoJo is a unique talent. She first hit the scene when she was just 12 with the release of her self-titled debut album. The project includes the hit song “Leave (Get Out)” and helped launch JoJo into a career spanning nearly two decades. Now an adult, JoJo is still a beloved artist and released her fourth album, Good to know, Last year. Talk to XXL on his love for hip-hop, his rap memories Jadakiss bars in the school bus, in collaboration with Remy Ma and his own longevity, JoJo has a lot to share.
XXL: Growing up, who were the rap artists that you liked?
Jojo: I remember being drawn to Busta Rhymes at an early age. It would get really soft, subtle, and then increase. Even when I was younger, “Put your hands where my eyes could see”. So I liked hip-hop artists like him and Missy [Elliott] who really pushed the boundaries not only with their flow and what they said, but also what they did visually. It was so exciting for me.
I’m particularly drawn to East Coast hip-hop; Dipset, Biggie [The Notorious B.I.G.]. I remember the first time that I listened Ready to die. Jadakiss had a huge impact on me; when I was in college, and me and all my friends were on the bus saying, “Fuck the frail shit.” I mean, just plain ridiculous, watching us with our little backpacks and Air Force 1s, talking about weighing coke. I think it’s really disappointing when people try to infuse something that’s unnatural just because it’s hot. In particular, white artists who had no interest or proximity to hip-hop. If that’s not true then I don’t think you should, period.
In 2010, you became one of the first R&B artists to drop a mixtape with I can’t take this off, then Agape in 2012.
It was grace that saved me. It was 100% inspired by what I’ve seen men do in hip-hop. At the time, it was definitely a more male dominated space. And, I had always known hip-hop artists to release mixtapes, they kind of avoided the majors system and they did things on their terms. I didn’t know any other pop artist doing this, but neither did I know any other pop artist currently in the position I was in.
You have deposited your album Crazy Love in 2016, on which you collaborated with Wiz khalifa on “Fuck Apologies” and Remy Ma on “FAB”. Why did you choose these rappers in particular?
We wanted a feature film for “Fuck Apologies”, and Wiz was one of the people we pitched, because I’ve been a fan of him since the days of his mixtape. So, I thought that might be cool. We sent him a song and he dug it out. But with Remy, I’ve been a fan ever since I heard her on “Lean Back”. I remember “R to Eazy, M to Wizeye.” It was a big part of my childhood. I was really excited for her to come back and felt she could respond to the topic. I slipped into his DMs and sent him the song. She loved it.
Which rappers are you listening to today?
I like Anderson .Paak. I have loved him for a long time. Tierra Whack It’s incredible. I like D Smoke. Baby Keem. My best friend put me on Baby Keem months ago and I’m obsessed. It’s not normally my thing.
Travis Scott, Kendrick Lamar, Juice Wrld, Pop Smoke and many more have taught us quite a bit along the way.