Interview: Jelani Aswad

Aug 04 2022

Pastor and musician Jelani Aswad has released two new singles 'Take Off' and 'Death Around the Corner'. Louder Than The Music caught up with him to find out more about his music and what inspires him to create it.

For those who haven't heard of you before, can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got involved in making music?

I began writing songs in 2000 when I was in 9th grade or so. I started in church like lots of artists and discovered I could sing in a church in Chestnut Ridge, NY, (35min NW of Manhattan). I wrote what feels like hundreds of songs in high school and signed an independent label deal when I was 18. That is when I got the professional recording bug. I then learned an instrument when I was 25, started an international band called Inna Vibe. I then resubmitted my life to the Lord around the time I was learning guitar and everything about my diverse style and mission in life began to make sense. I began serving people and leading worship in my local church and the rest is history. I became a pastor in 2016 and have been traveling, leading worship, and performing across the US for the past 8 years.


Tell us about your new singles 'Take Off' and 'Death Around the Corner' and what the inspiration behind them was?

Take Off is really a summer vibe, jeep top-down kind of song to ride with! It’s a love ode to my wife of 10-years. It’s a love vibe, 140 bpm, summer banger. It was inspired by the reality of godly marriage, though it’s humbling, though it’s hard, with the Holy Spirit and great community, it really still works.

DATC (Death Around the Corner) was inspired by the Drill music scene that began in Chicago, spread to New York and now the world. But, this spin will bring life to you, not death. This is a lamentation of pain for the streets and the people struggling to be heard. This is a song with a drill Caribbean vibe crafted to bring healing to the nations through the sacrifice of Jesus. We see "death around the corner" but we pray for what we don't see, life and life abundantly.


Do you have any plans to release more music in the near future?

I most certainly do. I actually just released a two song EP this past Good Friday, and Take Off & DATC is the second of six releases I have coming over the next 6 months. More music is planned to be released in the Fall of this year, 2022.

What message would you like people to take from your music?

I think we are all emerging out of a season of global, collective grief. Would you agree? We need help though as we emerge. I hope to spread hope and I hope the music can be a balm in Gilead, so to speak. My desire it to highlight the truth and sources of some of our grief in the song DATC, but to highlight the joy and goodness we in Christ and in life through relationships and family like in a song like Take Off.

How would you describe your style of music and what are your influences?

I would say my style is an eclectic mix of Christian Contemporary Urban Pop with Reggae influences. If that makes any kind of sense at all. Haha



If you could work with any songwriter, who would it be and why?

I think I couldn’t say just one. I would have to give at least three and those would be Jeremy Riddle, Chandler Moore, and Kanye West.

How would you define success in your career as an artist?

I think for me, success is a metric defined best by impact and influence. I think if I continue to say yes to God and serve the people the Lord places in front of me, I will be the success God wants me to be. I think I fail if I cease to believe in God and cease to create the way Jesus has designed me to create. Rest. Obey. Create. Share

What is your favorite album of all time?

I think my favorite album of all time and the album that sparked within me a deeper idea of musicianship and global outreach is Bob Marley and The Wailers Live Album, Babylon by Bus which was recorded while he and his band was on tour in Europe in the late 70s.

You're stuck on an island, it's hot, you only have enough battery life left to listen to one song on your phone. What track is it?

It would be Blood Medley PT.1-3 (LIVE) by Donny McClurkin

What does the next year hold for you?

I don’t know. I am really taking life one step at a time. I will continue to serve at church, serve my family, write worship songs with my church Grace CMA Church and my denomination Alliance Worship. I have about four more EP’s to release over the next 8 months and Lord willing, my immediate community will connect, worship, hear God, and vibe to that music.

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