Known for tackling issues such as domestic violence and defying cultural gender roles through his lyrics, Jehuniko has made a name for himself in the hip-hop world singing in English and Spanish.
Early on in his career, he realized that when he was transparent with his own journey, fans were able to relate and responded positively to his music and lyrics.
His most recent single “Eres Una Luz (You Are A Light)” is no exception. In the song, he celebrates and champions women. “I want to make music I can share with my mom and my grandma,” Jehuniko tells Billboard. “They’re down with my other songs but when my mom says, ‘I’m so proud of you for what you did,’ that touches my heart.”
In a Q&A over the phone, Jehuniko talks about starting his career as a spoken-word artist and his most recent single “Eres Una Luz.”
How old were you when you started performing and who gave you your first shot?
I’ve been performing in my bedroom since I was a little kid. My mom is a single mom and it was just my brother and me and he was out running the streets so I was little and I either had cartoons, my skateboard or being by myself. My mom was gone because she worked two or three jobs and on weekends she would do something different and so whatever song I was feeling on the radio, I would be in my room with my door closed and I would perform and pretend I was in front of a lot of people. It was then that I realized that I loved performing. I figured that if I was already writing, I could do spoken word and so that’s what I started doing. I would practice over any instrument I could get. I would read lyrics according to some beat. Like house music or anything else I could get my hands on. It was the groundwork to performing and writing things and creating an angle to display my art. I would just have fun and entertain myself.
My brother did some art work for Low Rider Magazine and they introduced him to Delinquent Habits who at the time were was killing it and that’s how I connected with Kemo (band member) got ahold of my info. He called me saying he was looking for artists to work with cause he was starting a label. I was just a kid but by then as a spoken word artist I was out there already.
You’ve taken on social justice as a theme in your songs, why was it important to sing about issues like domestic violence and other topics?
I speak about my own existence and being transparent about my journey and challenges I’ve had as a human being that ultimately became storytelling for me. I needed an outlet and being a writer way before music was like second-nature for me to channel these topics in my music. I noticed that when I started being very personal and raw my fanbase engaged and responded to my music and it tripped me out. Having a daughter opened my eyes to her being born into this world where gender roles are being shoved down our throats. There was a span of time that different subject came into my life that had never before like rape or domestic violence. I thought there is a reason for this, I have to use my platform to speak out about these issues. I did a lot of research so that I could instead of sending a message of anger, I wanted to empower.
What’s your process like for writing music, do you come up with lyrics first then beat or vice-versa?
It’s all of the above. I want [my music] to mean something. I don’t put out things for the sake of putting them out. One time I wrote and recorded an album in a week and I’m proud of that but now I take way longer and I do that on purpose. I’ve written songs in minutes but I really take my time now. Or sometimes I have certain phrases, for example, ‘eres una luz,’ because it’s part of my vocabulary and it’s less about your external appearance but more of someone glowing internally.
Talk to me about your recent single “Eres Una Luz.”
It’s about viewing things at a distance and it’s not necessarily romantic. I wanted to comment on strengths of women. I have this song “Superhero She” and I remember being in the studio so hyped up and I knew that if it felt good to me and so I also wanted to do something that was Spanglish. A little bit of English and little bit of Spanish because it’s the demographic I see responding to me and it relates to my own background. I had Mr. Sakitumi, who is a phenomenal DJ so he sent this beautiful music for me to record to and it came together so well. It went from me recording it, to Mr. Sakitumi mixing it and sent it to my friend Anura Neysadurai, who lives in Singapore, to master the song and it all happened in a week. The timing was incredible and the response has been so humbling. One of my supporters left a comment saying she’s going through chemo and she played it in the officer for her nurse and her daughter and that the song was so impactful that she wanted people to hear it at chemo. It’s inspiring for sure and it makes me want to do more. I want to make music I can share with my mom and my grandma. They’re down with my other songs but when my mom says, ‘I’m so proud of you for what you did,’ that touches my heart
Making any music while during coronavirus isolation?
The whole climate of the situation is not a surprise to me. I have an album in mind that I am going to put together and have been working on. I have a lot of music to write to. It’s business as usual for me but, to be honest, I don’t want to put out music right now because I don’t think it’s right at this moment. I don’t feel like I should be. I’d rather just be cooking right now and spend time with my daughter.