Radicle Sounds is a seasonally-curated playlist series created in partnership with Black DJs. This summer, we collaborated with DJ Jihaari. Earth in Color Founder, Darel Scott, sat down with him to discuss his musical journey and the intentional process behind curating this season’s Radicle Sounds playlist.
Darel scott What’s been your journey with music?
DJ JihaariI’m originally from Oakland, California. I have been a DJ for about eight years in Los Angeles and stepped into music production a lot more when I moved here. I didn’t have any turntables yet, but I was into the idea of DJing. I had a bunch of friends out here who had just started playing parties, so I was going to their parties knowing it was something that I could do.
A buddy of mine invited me over to his house and he had two turntables. He asked me what I knew about transitions and fading in and out and all that stuff. And I told him, “I kind of know how to do it. But also, if you want to, give me a quick tutorial . . .” It took about ten minutes for me to figure it out. After that, he said, “I don’t know why you’re here. You seem like you’re pretty natural at this . . .” That put fire under my ass to get actual turntables for my house and practice. Then, I got a couple of bar gigs, and those turned into art show parties because my wife is a curator. She actually had me at her first art show. That catapulted me into the art world in a way, opening doors for me that I didn’t even know existed.
Now, I put out playlists, I put out beat tapes with all my production, and I put out all-vinyl mixes.
Darel scott I know you have an extensive record collection, tell me about it and how it influences your creation process?
DJ JihaariA lot of this stuff coincides with my wife. She’s really necessary to my career and she really helped me formulate what I wanted to do and what I wanted to be because I kind of was floating up in the air. When we first met, we both had a lot of similar records and we were putting our collections together and seeing what we could get rid of and what things we could get more of. And every single time we traveled, we went record shopping.
Over time, she let the collecting part go a little bit and I just started to go fully into acquiring party rock music, house music, disco, jazz fusion, and a bunch of reggae, dancehall, and 1950s 45s. It helps me create a full soundscape while I’m playing for people, so they don’t have one specific genre. It’s more of just like, “how does this music resonate for me? And how does this music tell a story?”
For me, it has to do with Black music first. But since everything is created off of Black music, culture and style, I have an extensive array of music from everywhere.
“…it’s just nice that there’s music that holds you and also takes you to a space where you’re like, ‘oh, I think I’ll be okay.”
Darel scott What is the soundscape that we are being immersed in through this playlist? What story are you trying to tell? What collective feelings and events were you responding to?
DJ JihaariThe playlist starts off really mellow, really calming, and almost as if you’re waking up. I was thinking specifically of the Earth in Color brand and the first thought I had was, “what could I play for plants? What could I play for trees? What could I play for soil? What can I play for anything that grows out of the ground and that needs that love, protection, and sunlight?”
Then, the shooting [in Buffalo] happened. So, right in the middle of the playlist, I was thinking about loss and mourning and grieving. I was thinking about what happens with the soil, as things die other things are created and things go back into the soil and other things are manifested. And then, I wanted to end on an upbeat note because it is a summer mix. We’re all grieving in our own way and mourning in our own way. So it’s also really nice to be able to dance it off and dance it out.
The lyrics are also part of it. Björk’s “Oceana” has really strong lyrics. The song from “The Smile” really resonated with me because it’s about the idea of people willingly setting themselves on fire, like Buddhist monks do, to create some type of revolution or change. And the song by Granddaddy called “Under the Weeping Willow” sat with me for a very, very long time because of the idea of sitting under a tree, waking up, feeling refreshed and rejuvenated, and letting all that stuff pass through you and fall to the ground. It’s really important to take time to rest.
If you think of humans as growing individually, we’re complex individuals and I think we need more than just the party all the time. I think it’s really important to be able to hold space for people who want to sit on their own loss or grief or hurt or pain or suffering. And it’s just nice that there’s music that holds you and also takes you to a space where you’re like, “oh, I think I’ll be okay.”
Darel scott I feel like when you were creating this playlist you were really reading the room. You were thinking about what was happening in the collective Black experience right now. What do we need right now? I think we need to be held a bit.
DJ JihaariWe really really do. It’s the most important thing right now, for me. To feel like you’re being held by the music that you’re listening to and not like you’re getting hit over the head or talked shit about or made to feel lower or worse. Because I feel like the Earth is already at such a low vibration. There’s music that can counteract that, so I try really hard to play the music that moves that vibration into a different space.
Darel scott What’s your favorite place to be in nature?
DJ JihaariThe forest. I really enjoy the forest because it can be 100 degrees but if you have a canopy, you’re chillin’.
Darel scott What are 3 words to describe how you want people to feel when they listen to this playlist?
DJ JihaariWell-rested, held, and loved.
Darel scott What’s your favorite thing about the summertime?
DJ JihaariIf I think back to when I was younger, I really liked being on the block, seeing everyone outside with a carefree attitude.