Some hip-hop artists rap about Benjamins or beating up Rihanna or the pleasures of purple drank. But local rapper Jarius Bush — aka J-Bush — has always had more on his mind than kickin’ it and getting high.
A member of late, lamented local hip-hop outfit The Theorizt — one of Knoxville’s best-loved bands, in an era when hip-hop groups were largely a musty relic of decades past — Bush with his happy-go-lucky demeanor and luminescent smile is a forward-thinking rapper with a searching intellect and an instinct for self-improvement.
Past projects have tapped the influence of New Thought pioneer Napoleon Hill, author of the seminal self-help book Think and Grow Rich.
Now J-Bush — in full-on reassessment mode, having just become first-time father —is finding inspirational fodder from an online program by British author and self-help entrepreneur Colin Hiles. Entitled “The Mind Power Series,” his program is available as a multi-part series on YouTube.
“I’d been searching the Internet for programs that look at how the mind works,” Bush explains. “I’m planning an album soon, and the title will be Dreams of the Limelight. And I usually like to do something short before I release something full-length, to get myself ready and sharpen my writing skills.”
Bush centered his new project, Visions — which has blossomed into something of a full-length release itself, despite its status as a “warm-up” for the full-length to follow — around the idea of a “vision board,” a concept discussed in the online series.
“The idea is that you draft a board with images of the things you want to see in your life, what you want to be as an individual,” Bush explains. “Your subconscious works off images, not words. So it’s a way of communicating with your self-conscious, visualizing who you want to be.”
Bush ended up writing 11 new songs, each one keying off a different element of his personal vision board. The tracks will be arranged such that the titles comprise something of a manifesto themselves:
Threw Pain and Strife
Que the Tape
It’s All Inside
Stylistically, Bush says Visions is a throwback to his hip-hop roots. “The production is traditional boom-bap, reminiscent of Tribe Called Quest,” he says. “I’m a big fan of that Afro-centric era of hip hop, the “Native Tongues” era, with Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul and Busta Rhymes. That’s my roots, and before I do a big project, I like to go back to my roots.”
Likewise, many of the songs are lyrical TBT’s, like the track “Threw the Pain” (the misspelling is intentional, and metaphorical, FYI): “That track is about being on the porch in the projects with my dad when I was little,” he says.
“He would be playing M.C. Hammer on the box, and the song is about how music got us through the day.”
For production chores, Bush tapped California-based Average Thought, whose work may be familiar locally to fans of Black Atticus. “I love his production, the tempo of it,” Bush says. “A lot of half-tempo; it meshes with my style really well. His production has that old-school boom-bap feel to it.”
Bush’s Visions should be available on Bandcamp in the coming weeks, with a video to follow. And then it’s on to the hard work of turning Dreams of the Limelight into something real.
“Right now, my main thing is dealing with belief — belief in myself,” Bush says. “I think believing in yourself is the most important thing in anyone’s life, and that’s my message to people.
“If you are in control of your own mind, you can shine through anything. That’s what I’m struggling with as an individual.”