JUMADIBA: Rap As a Chant to Our Shared Contradictions

«It is not scary to try. It is not scary to accept challenges, because if you fail, you grow.»
JUMADIBA (@jumadiba_assaji). Illustration: David Rosel (@rosel.david).

JUMADIBA (@jumadiba_assaji) raps with one of the original meanings of the genre: to express what he is not happy with. In his first mixtape Kusabi, he highlights the contradictions he perceives in the world around him and also inside himself. 

His message or his personality could also seem contradictory: humble but forceful, strong but approachable, he complains but also apologizes. However, when JUMADIBA performs live dressed in the jersey of one of his favorite football teams, the audience gets as excited as the supporters at a match, proving that what JUMADIBA shouts are shared feelings.

JUMADIBA released his first mixtape Kusabi with a special Massacre party, K/U/S/A/B/I MASSACRE, in July 2021 at Forestlimit. Photo: Noa.

Chorareii: Before talking about your music, I would like to learn more about your artistic persona. Your rapper name combines “Ju”, from your own name Seiju, and “Madiba”, which is Nelson Mandela’s middle name. Also, your back DJ ykah (@ykah___) usually plays a song dedicated to him before you start your live performances. What connection do you feel with this historic leader? 

I admire him for the size of his heart. Rather than for the specific policies he implemented, I respect him as a human being. Even if you have someone as an enemy, it is important to be willing to talk to each other without resorting to violent solutions.

The song “Spike!” includes a football chant as the base. JUMADIBA prefers that we find out which team the chant belongs to instead of revealing it! Vídeo: Harry Cruttenden (@harryfish.er).

Football is an important ingredient in your music and your aesthetics. What does this sport bring you as an artist? Are football and hip hop alike? 

Sometimes I get the same feeling of excitement watching football as I do when I listen to live music. It’s a part of me. I don’t think there is a direct connection with hip hop, but it is a sport close to music because it has a culture of chants.

«You can’t put a price on relationships with family, friends, or lovers,» says JUMADIBA. Illustration: David Rosel (@rosel.david).

What about your hairstyle, with the braid in the back? You look like a warrior to me!

It is something in between football players’ hairstyles and the classic Jedi style from Star Wars. 

Let’s talk about Kusabi, your first full-length mixtape. Tell me about the concept of the album.

“Kusabi” means “wedge.” A wedge is a tool used to widen gaps and break things, or to squeeze things together so that they do not separate. It also has the meaning of joining two things together. Personally, I think of it as a way to connect various things together and look further to distant places.

JUMADIBA supports the Manchester City football team. Could this be because he was a fan of Oasis as a teenager? Photo: Noa.

When Kusabi was released, it was said that “JUMADIBA’s attitude can be seen throughout the album everywhere.” What is that attitude? What kind of feelings do you want to awaken to those who are listening to you?

It might be something like anger and release. Rather than trying to wake people up, I’m happy if people who listen to it can sympathize with me. I’d like people to be able to relate to what I’m upset about, or what I want to apologize to someone for.

“DAWN” is a collaboration between JUMADIBA and Mare Interno (@_mareinterno_). This rapper inspired JUMADIBA to start making music when they met in college. Video: ZECIN (@zecin_001).

Because of the meaning of this song and how the audience feels it when you perform, “SLK” (“Stay Low-Key”) is becoming an anthem that people can relate to. It’s funny that this song is one of the least “low key” of your live performances. Should we maintain discretion or is it better to break with that idea?

This is an ironic song about keeping a low profile. For example, there are many people that are not discreet or modest when they have anonymity. However, we know how scary that can be, so we prefer to be uncomfortable and maintain discretion.

The truth is, I’m a discreet person myself. I don’t like that about myself, and by writing these songs, I’m changing that.

«It is not scary to try. It is not scary to accept challenges, because if you fail, you grow,» says JUMADIBA. Photo: Noa.

I feel that there is a theme that is present throughout the album: action. Doing things, trying, moving forward, even if sometimes we don’t know where we’re going. Do you feel that way? Do you think that nowadays it was necessary to give this kind of encouragement to people?

It is not scary to try. It is not scary to accept challenges, because if you fail, you grow. However, I don’t want to force people to challenge themselves. If you can find something that you can do at your own pace, it may enrich your life.

JUMADIBA comes from Suginami Ward, Tokyo. Apart from his neighborhood, another place that inspires him is the city of London, where he lived briefly before the spread of COVID-19. Illustration: David Rosel (@rosel.david).

The topic of money also has a presence in the mixtape, and you also talk about the things that are more important than money. Today our generation doesn’t have a lot of money, but we are still very materialistic… what do you think? What things should we care more about than money?

I realize that I contradict myself in many respects. Material things are an example of this. I want to prioritize things that money can’t buy, but I also don’t think I don’t need money. 

In any case, things that don’t come with money appeal to me more. You can’t put a price on relationships with family, friends, or lovers. I always make mistakes before I realize it. This may be different for everyone, but that’s how I see it. 

Kusabi cover artwork by Taro (@_velma960_).

Listen to JUMADIBA’s music and follow him on social media

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