Soul Explored: Jennifer Johns Lights It Up
- Words: Tomas Palermo
Her fans and admirers include KRS-One, Les Nubians, and Zion-I. She has shared stages and performed with Lauryn Hill, Mos Def, Common, Mary J. Blige, Chaka Khan, Zap Mama, and The Roots. Yet Oakland-based Jennifer Johns has remained a steadfastly underground local phenomena. All that may be about to change.
The singer, who describes her style as "electric-hip-soul," and debuted with the 2004 album heavyelectromagneticsoularpoeticjunglehop, is one of a growing number of Oakland artists (including Goapele, Ledisi, The Student Body, Fiyawata, and Femi) contributing to an emerging East Bay black electronic-soul renaissance.
Johns is about to take her vocal talents worldwide when she performs alongside legendary hip-hop icon KRS-One during his Fall 2007 "I Am Hip-Hop" Tour. She's also readying the release of her sophomore effort, Painting on Wax (Hiero Imperium), whose title symbolizes the calm after the storm and features classic guest appearances from Blackalicious.
Although it was predominately West Indian rhythms that filled her home as a young girl, Johns says it was somewhere between Slick Rick and Doug E. Fresh's "The Show," Rakim's "Know What's on Your Mind," and Queen Latifah's "Ladies First" that she first fell in love with hip-hop music and soon identified herself as a part of the culture.
Painting features guest appearances by Gift of Gab from Blackalicious, MC Zion, and Kaz Kyzah of the Team, to name a few. Production is provided by Amp Live (Zion I, Linkin Park, Goapele) and Grammy nominees Spontaneous (Mystic) and Charles Stella (Wax Poetic and Norah Jones). Look for Johns' magic on your iPod or in your town soon.
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