22-year-old Jahkoy Palmer is a musical chameleon. The Toronto-born singer and rapper’s sound soaks up everything from R&B and soul, to elements of EDM, reggae and electro. A romantic at heart, Jahkoy writes with his emotions, fearlessly testing new styles and genres through his sensual and heartfelt songwriting. Having already garnered co-signs from legendary producers No I.D and Pharrell Williams, when we catch up with the Def Jam signee he’s on the London leg of Kehlani’s SweetSexySavage World Tour.
“I draw inspiration from love and life,” Jahkoy says with a smile. We’re in London at his centrally located Airbnb and he’s elated to have the opportunity to open up for the Oakland songstress. “I write about stuff I can relate to, things I’ve gone through, or things that people around me have been through. That’s the best way I can express myself.”
Jahkoy’s subject matter is normally focussed around love, particularly focussing on a niche that is rarely represented in contemporary music. “I love romantic songs. Especially songs that are Wedding-worth,” he says. “Our generation doesn’t have that really. My favourite song for this generation is Ed Sheeran's ‘Thinking Out Loud’. I don't think there’s another person who’s come up with a record that makes me think, I will play this at my wedding.” He points to his shirt which bears the vintage artwork from Luther Vandross’ 1989 single ‘Here and Now World’, adding: “This was before I was even born!”
R&B classics aside, the Caribbean music that he would hear growing up has also had a profound impact on Jahkoy’s musical evolution. Toronto is celebrated as one of the most diverse, multicultural cities of the world, and Jahkoy has noticed a comparison in our capital. “I love London,” he grins. “Like, I really love it. It’s super similar to Toronto; the vibe and energy is similar. I think it’s because both places have such an influence from the Caribbean culture, and that makes me feel at home.”
The past 18 months have seen elements of dancehall and afrobeat infiltrating chart-topping hits from Drake’s ‘One Dance’ to Ed Sheeran’s ‘Shape Of You’. For Jahkoy, who is half Jamaican, half Ethiopian, this is only good for music, “I loved the whole influence of the Caribbean in music last year” he adds. “It’s becoming pop; part of popular culture. When I was growing up, at home it was huge, and now it’s awesome to hear it around the world. I think it’s good people are open and willing to hear the new sounds.”
Jahkoy’s back catalogue incorporates everything from the country and reggae blend of ‘No Regrets’ to the electro-R&B fusion of ‘Downtown 3’, and he’s pleased to have had the tools to create such a broad sound. “I love the technology we have in music now, we can fuse new sounds in music creation, it’s amazing,” he declares. “My music is a mixture of house, reggae and pop, and we’re in a time where we can fuse it and do so much more with our artistry.”
Since his first London appearance in 2015, it’s been great to see how far Jahkoy has come. He believes that his genre-defying experiments have helped to better define him as an artist, illustrating his point with an analogy: “In my head I always use the scenario of a painter,” he says. “If a painter just painted one picture he might not be an artist, he’d just be that guy who painted one picture. I try and dive into different things an artist can get engaged in.” While Jahkoy continues his adventures in eclecticism, his support slot on Kehlani’s tour is the perfect spot for testing the waters.
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Words: Kamilla Rose // @KamillahRose