Interview Series: Naji.
Creative. Artist. Instrumentalist. Vocalist. Producer. However you choose to describe Kenyatta Naji Adamson, one thing remains undeniably clear: This guy will not be stopped in his quest to leave a lasting impact on the (music) world. Hailing from Erie, Pennsylvania, this star-in-the-making has music in his blood, and is as versatile a musician as could be, effortlessly channeling rythmic funk, heartfelt soul, and playful pop sounds in his work.
Initially discovered a few years ago by the folks over at DC-based record label Fête – who were themselves just getting their start at the time – Naji has since worked with a number of well-respected producers in the beats scene and, perhaps most significantly, recently signed a hit single with legendary cult favourite collective/label SOULECTION, with whom he has exciting new plans in the works.
Get to know more about this talented artist – read on for the full interview below!
You play a whole bunch of instruments. What has been your background in music, and what prompted you to begin singing?
My background starts from the womb, haha. My mom and dad are both creatives, and I’ve been inundated with music or art since a super young age.
And since my dad is a percussionist, I sort of followed suit and started with a shaker. From there, I moved to auxillary percussion, to cello, then to drumset at 9. I’ve been drumming since then, and picked up production and other instruments along the way c:
But I didn’t start singing at all until I reconnected with my friend, Elias, in 2015. I’d dropped a small ep featuring him and then he tapped on me to do some vocal ad-libs. I knew I could sing a little, but I never liked doing it in public, because my parents both did it so I knew that it could be heavily scrutinized.
So Eli coerced me to put my first audible vocals (just hums) on a track and then one evening I had this dream about a baked potato. I was approached by Miranda Cosgrove (iCarly) and she asked if I wanted to have a potato. So we did. And then I woke up and had this idea for an entire song, ready to go!
That track was the first song I released as a singer/songwriter & producer, and it caught the attention of Fête when we were both at the VERY beginning. From that point, I noticed that the vox gained infinitely more traction than the drumming or production, so I knew it was something I had to keep doing!
What kind of music did you listen to growing up? How have your musical tastes evolved over time?
I listened to whatever my parents did, initially. Mom had me on Take 6, Celine Dion, Boys 2 Men, Sarah Brightman, Ella Fitzgerald, John Mayer, Talib Kweli, The Roots, Jill Scott, John Legend, Micahel Jackson, and the list goes on. And Dad had me listening to the musicians playing for those big artists.
Over time, I developed my own tastes, and started getting into the RANDOMEST of things. Like J-Pop to Classical, to Tool, to Flying Lotus (who was a huge influence on me due to adult swim, I just didn’t know his name at the time) to Muse… I could go on. I just listened to anything I could. Nowadays, my tastes are still as eclectic, but I don’t dig as much as I used to, and I’ve been getting back into it for The Goodie Bag (more on that later).
How did you link up with SOULECTION for “Mona Lisa”? Rumour has it the track is actually a single off of an upcoming EP that’s set to drop with them later this year – is that true?
Mona Lisa was a super weird chain of events. Basically, I put out “Fallen.” J.Robb did a remix while he still had Mr. Surf. Monte caught wind of that. Months later, Monte hit me up over Twitter. Asked for stems. Then it went dark for a bit. Meanwhile, Krs. dropped his “Fallen” remix. Then Joe and all of ’em caught wind over there of that.
Sometime before that, Monte hit me up again, and sent me the demo instrumental to Mona Lisa. I sent him back 95% of what you hear in the final song within 2 hours. Didn’t hear back for a few months. Then Montalis, from Soulection, hit me up about a singles project. He was gonna link me with Monte, but he found out we’d already been working together! From then on, we just kept in touch and I was eventually invited to join the family.
But Mona Lisa is truly just a single! That doesn’t mean there aren’t other things in the works 😉
What is your typical work process like when working with producers?
Lol, pretty much all text based. I rarely ever get to chat with the bigger producers I’ve collabed with. it’s all been over the internet and just sharing files. I usually get a track from someone, send them a vocal draft and then we tweak and finalize.
You’ve recently started up an awesome YouTube series, “Goodie Bag,” showcasing some of your favourite music – how did the idea for that series come about? Can we expect more video content going forward?
That series came about from me noticing a lack of personality in our online music community. The simple task of putting a name to a face has been shrouded in soundcloud mystique. So I figured I may as well take my existing love for YouTube and do something with it. I wanna give people the shoutouts they deserve and know the face behind the words!
And yes, in addition to the goodie bag, the intention is to create biweekly vids to build the story, build the fanbase. Slowly but surely, I’ll be able to get into doing more than a video a month, lol.
What are your plans for the next 6, 12, 24 months?
In the next 6 months, I plan on continuing the videos and increasing the schedule, finishing my own projects and knocking out a bunch of collabs. In 12 months, I plan on starting a new platform (all I can say for now) and prepping for more projects to drop as well as a tour! In 24 months, I plan to be either travelling around the world on The Amazing Race or working on more Youtube series c:
What can fans expect from a Naji live show?
You can expect me to be an energetic lil’ shit. Lol, I love DJ sets, but I miss the performance aspects of artists. So I do my best to combine both. It’s a fun ride. That’s just me solo, however. If I decide to get a band with me, it’ll be infinitely more energetic.
If you could work with any other artist (dead or alive) who would it be?
I’d love to work with Kimbra. That woman is incredible live. I just wanna be around that, soak that in.
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