Sacrifice and Dedication Led to Ajani Jones Debut Album Dragonfly

Introduce yourself

My name is Ajani Jones. I do music, sometimes. I was born and raised on the southside of Chicago, and I’m 25. 

A year ago you were doing interviews already knowing that Dragonfly was going to be coming next. Knowing that how did the project change since then?

At that point, I had a bunch of songs, but only one of them from that point made the project. It changed completely. It got to a point where I wanted to release the project at the end of last year, but we were encouraged to wait. That honestly helped the album, because I was able to make a lot more quality songs. 

While you’re not new to releasing music or projects, you consider Dragonfly to be your debut album. What is it about Dragonfly that proves to be the true introduction to people who may not be familiar with you?

This is a strong introduction to people that don’t know who I am because you can quickly see that I can do a lot. I’m versatile. And that’s what I wanted for a debut album. I want them to see that I’m a complete artist now, in terms of my skillset. I can rap, I can sing a little bit, I can do house, hip-hop, pop, I can do whatever you want. I feel like I showed that and was able to scratch the surface a little bit on this project. 

With releasing EPs over the last couple of years, did you feel like you were finally at the point to release an album?

Dragonfly wasn’t even supposed to be an album. When we did the deal with Closed Sessions, we wanted to take things seriously and Dragonfly became that – in a sense. I’ve always considered it to be a mixtape because I imagine my debut album will have a big budget that I can use to do a lot with. It became an album because I put so much time and sacrifice into it. It became more about the experience of doing it. 

Did you feel nervous releasing your first album to the world? Or, do you ever feel nervous releasing bodies of work?

Not at all. I think I’ve listened to it so many times that once I picked it to be on a project and it’s out, I’m like it’s out. I never really cared about people’s thoughts, negative or positive. If you like my music, I love that and thank you so much for listening. I more so released this project for people to appreciate and for them to relate to. 

When did you get to that point where you were able to release art and not care about what others thought of it?

I think it was recently. With the singles that I put out, I noted that some performed better than others. I saw that some people liked certain things more than others. I know that my music isn’t for everybody. When I listen to my album, I don’t think there are any skips on there, but somebody else who might be in the mood to listen to a full trap album, will skip a few and go to the harder records. I understand that nuance of what people want. I just stopped trying to please everybody. At times I’ll get bad reviews of people saying, “I’m not fully there yet”. While I know that, I think it’s completely fine. I’m not where y’all want me to be but I’m going at my pace. 

Going into the album rollout mode, did you have a strategic plan on how you were going to release the project or did you just pick a date and release it?

We really wanted to be strategic with it. The team began working with Closed Sessions once the project was done to figure out the best way to release it. My intention was to come out with Lucid first. I thought it was a big bang and it would hit. As a team, we decided to be a little bit more personal so that people can understand where I’m from and why I make music. I’ve always wanted to drop a video with a single and that was my big thing from the beginning for this. I wasn’t going to budge on that, that’s what I wanted. So, to roll out the project I released Lucid the single and then the music video. I wanted to show the different sides of me with the video. 

I saw that you made mention that Sea, with Iris Temple is your one of your favorite record’s on the album. Talk about this specific record and how it came about?

These guys have been my friends for about 2-3 years now. I met them after their first EP came out. Before we even made music, I became friends with them because I liked them as human beings. We would just hang out at BBQ’s and do the whole squad thing. One day we came together to the studio to hangout. It was me, Iris Temple, Solo Sam, Banks The Genius and Anna Agosta. They happened to just all make it and were hopping on the boards one at a time. The song sat there for a year, the instrumental and a verse from Quinn. I had a verse that I deleted. One day I came back to it and was like oh shit, this song is going on the album. I then told them they need to be on my album and boom – here we are. 

When I first met you, you were in BanksTheGenius’ studio. Banks is one of the people that have been really pushing your talent from the very beginning. How important has that relationship that you guys have had over the years help with the process of this project?

Banks is so pivotal to everything that I had going on. Honestly, I wouldn’t be here without him. I started working with him, I was paying for sessions, working a terrible factory 9-5 job, and he saw my potential and wanted to be part of my journey. He’s my big brother. I can go to him for anything and he’s there for me and vice versa. Banks has helped me along the way. He’s been like a pseudo overseer of everything. If there’s an email that comes in, he sees it. If there’s a song I make, he’s listening first. He’s always there to tell me the truth at all times and always put things in perspective for me. That’s why I consider him my big brother. 

It’s been about a year and a half now since that you’ve officially signed to Closed Sessions. How have you seen yourself grow as a human and as an artist working with this team here?

Working there has shown me a lot. It’s shown me that I need to be involved. I think before I was more so caught in the nuances of being in the label and letting them handle stuff. I got to the point where I was like, the ship is going to move how you steer it, where you steer it, and how fast you want to go. 

It also taught me to calm down. A lot of times I would get mad at the little things that I thought should be happening for me. Things they should be doing for me or whatnot. But, I realized that nobody is going to give a fuck as much as you. So, if you care enough, do it. Make it happen. I was getting too comfortable with letting them handle things and it can’t always be that way, especially if you want to move forward. 

As you look back on these 13 songs that made the cut on your first ever album, talk us through the one that was the hardest to cut…

Man, I’d say there are two songs. They might come out, but they might not. One I was working with a friend of mine named Sebastian Kamae from the Netherlands. He used to be an intern at Closed Sessions a few years back. He was one of my favorite people. We made a song called Wavynis. It was such a great record, but it didn’t fit the scope of the album and it was so hard to let go. I had one person that told me I should keep it on, and I remember being torn. But, having to do things for cohesiveness was important for me. 

Another song that I’m a little upset that I tweaked on that I didn’t put on the project was a song called Xi. It was a song about letting go of all of the things that you harbor in your brain. Letting it go and putting it to the side for a second. A lot of us hold on for far too long. That’s what the song was about and it was produced by Banks. We’re pretty upset that we didn’t put it on there either because it definitely fit. I should’ve made the album 14 songs when I think back on it. 

Dj Booth said, “I know who Ajani Jones is, but I couldn’t tell you exactly what the Ajani Jones sound is. Not yet, at least. Are you fine with that?

Hmm. I didn’t read that. I get why they say that. Every project that i’ve released has been different. I released Eternal Bliss, which was filled with future bounce records. Then I did Cocoons and that was rap mixed with vibey type of songs. And then this project is a complete collection of different sounds. I’m working with 4x producers and they all have different sounds. I don’t know, I definitely believe that when you listen to me, you know it’s my type of sound. I’m not looking to box myself into a sound though either. I don’t want to be known as just the rapper that raps, or the singer that just sings. I feel like I can do a lot of things. In terms of having a go-to sound, I definitely have one. I just don’t think people are paying close enough attention to me for people to say ‘Oh that’s Ajani’s style’. I think my future works will put things all into perspective. 

Now that it’s been a few weeks since the album has been out, what is that feeling like for you?

It feels good. I think that at first, it was a bittersweet feeling. I had all of these ideas of what I wanted to do and all of these things I wanted to happen. Unfortunately, life doesn’t work that way. That being said, I had to step back and strategize. As I look forward, I really just want to think of more ways to get people to listen to this project and get into rooms with people that I want to work with. I am hoping that this album will open doors for me and I think it can. I’m excited to continue moving forward though. Hopefully, I can get on a tour. I want to get in a position where I can perform live and in front of the fans. 

If you can give a message to your haters about this project, what would it be?

Keep listening. You shouldn’t really hate it, but if you do I’m sure I’ll drop a song that you like at some point. I can guarantee it. Also, stop hating, have a coke and smile. 

Any last thoughts or words you’d like to share?

Man, I definitely want to give a big thanks to all of the people that worked on the project. Banks, Iris Temple, my brother Kevin, my Mother, and my family in general. They all really helped me out and were so supportive of me. Even though I am working a 9-5, I do really appreciate having people and publications publish my work. That was a dream for me three years ago when I was in college in Iowa. I’m very appreciative and am happy to be here, but you’re not going to hear me say that too much longer. I’m at a point now where I know I’m supposed to be here. I’m a humble person, but I definitely want to start ripping heads off.

Written by: Nico Rud