Q&A with OKC hip-hop artist Jabee about new music, upcoming free Norman concert
Originally published by OU Daily, Sept. 17, 2019.
Musician, Emmy Award-winner, restaurateur, concert venue owner — Oklahoma City’s Jabee Williams does it all.
The hip-hop artist first entered the rap scene in the Oklahoma City metro area at the age of 14. Since then, he has headlined Norman Music Fest, toured across the country and Europe, been featured in the top 25 and top 50 charts on iTunes, and more.
Despite Williams’ notoriety, he’s still an avid supporter of the community he grew up in and will host a free show Thursday in Norman as part of a collaboration with Karlos Hill, chair of both OU’s African and African-American Studies department and the Clara Luper Legacy Committee.
Williams describes the event as an intimate, get-to-know-you evening with a 30-minute performance followed by a Q&A with Williams and Hill, ending with an open meet and greet.
While the concert is free and open to the public, those interested in attending should register online to secure a free ticket to enter. The concert is hosted by The Third Space, a co-op workspace on Campus Corner, and the evening will be capped at around 50 audience members, Williams said.
Doors open at 6:15 p.m. for ticket holders and at at 6:45 p.m. for the general public, if space is still available, with the show starting at 7 p.m. at The Third Space, 331 W. Boyd St.
The Daily sat down with Williams ahead of the show to discuss his music, inspiration and new album:
Q: Where did the idea for the upcoming Norman show come from?
A: I’m on the Clara Luper Legacy Committee with (Hill), and it was idea that he had where do an event where it’s a get-to-know-you night, because (as an artist) you’re up on those stages, and then you’re gone. So it was a way to more or less connect in a different way, in a more intimate (setting).
Q: Can you talk about the show and the songs you’ll be performing?
A: You know, an intimate conversation — a little more in-depth of what the songs are about and why I’m saying these things and just be really intentional with the music. Every song I’m going to do on Thursday is with the intention that I can really explain why I’m saying these things.
I just hope that people that come really get a sense of who I am.
Q: You have a new album coming out next year, can you tell me about that?
A: It’s called “This World is so fragile and cruel, I’m glad i got you.”
And the idea is (that) every day we encounter somebody or we know someone and they have affected our life or impacted us — whether it was good or bad, whether it was a negative or positive impact on who we are. Because of that, it's helped to make us who we are.
I know I've been through some really hard times, and because of that, it’s made me who I am. I've been through some really good times, and because of that made me who I am.
So there's that, and there’s the history of black people that inspire me every day. One of my favorite stories is the Ada Sipuel story. I’m really good friends with her son, Bruce. Just being (at OU) knowing that she was here — that inspires me.
So all of those things are what inspires me and what my album will be about.
Q: When is it coming out?
A: Hopefully February to March 2020. I’m going to finish the recording in Tucson in November.
So if I finish it and get it recorded and mixed in November, then I'll start releasing music in December, and the album in February (or) March.
Q: Chuck D from Public Enemy said that you have “the potential to change the world.” What does that mean to you?
A: I just feel like if I’m speaking (and) people are listening — it’s important ... to be somebody that people can leave different (than) when they came. You know, that’s how music made me feel growing up, and still to this day. So I feel like there’s a lot of work to be done, and I’m responsible for some of it.
I’ve seen a lot, been through a lot, done a lot — and music has helped me, and because of music, I’ve been able to do other things that I wouldn’t be able to do for people (otherwise).
Editor’s Note: This interview was edited for clarity and brevity.