Real Atlanta Gets Jaded!
On The Path to Fame: Life Behind the Studio Doors
By Julieta Martinelli
Chances are, if you live around Atlanta and frequent the local urban nightlife events, you have heard them say, “We Jadedddd!” more than you can count.
The visitor hits on their music pages multiply daily, their YouTube videos continue to make rounds on the web, their songs continue to be the top requests on the radio in South Carolina, they have heated up the stage at almost every local nightclub, and they have a growing fan base that follows them to their every performance. The artists of Jaded Records are a force to be reckoned with… all without having officially reached the peak of “fame”.
They are a local sensation, a growing label expanding in record time, made up of a group of young artists who see no limit to where they can go with their love for music. Déon Herring, CEO of Jaded Records, courteously opened the doors to the Jaded Records studio for Real Atlanta Magazine, and introduced us to his prodigies, duo sensation Flako & Jona, E.Dii.Pro and Zacari, to appease our curiosity.
Welcome to Jaded Records
Jaded Records opened its doors in 2007, but what they classify as the “Jaded movement” was inspired a year ago, when the elite lineup first walked though that studio door with hopes of perfecting their skills and dreams of success.
Pedro ‘Tempo’ Perez, along with Jose Piscoya, is a manager at Jaded Records, although he considers himself more of an “all-purpose right hand man”. His job is to make sure “everything flows smoothly so the artists can concentrate on the task at hand”, from dealing with the set up of shows, planning their meetings, to the everyday operation of the music studio, he is aware of every aspect of the artists experience at Jaded. In watching the team at work, its evident fighting for a collective aspiration has united them beyond simply a boss-employee, mentor-student affiliation; a friend-to-friend bond radiates in their interaction.
It’s not that there isn’t a clear hierarchy at Jaded, there is just so much palpable esteem among all members of the crew that it is implied. Walk in on a session and you will find everyone’s opinion is equally regarded, from producer to writer to singer; there is a team effort behind every track, no matter who it’s finally credited to.
“As a company we are very tedious workers, in and out of sessions, constantly moving from project to project, assuring ourselves that our product is never stale,” adds Juan Jose ‘Vacano’ Solano, producer at Jaded Records. “Working with these artists has changed me not only as a producer but as a person. I learn and am inspired by them as a musician everyday.”
The freedom to create is at its peak when there are no resentments, and the team at Jaded Records has managed to create that elusive work environment where the common goal is the priority, minimizing friction between artists that would otherwise be fending for their own interest. “Jaded is more than a company, it’s an extended family, an estate of mind,” Jonathan ‘Jona’ Mercado, a headliner for the label, explains.
But the “dream team” didn’t always seem so plausible.
A Label in Need of Talent
Perez explains, “I knew Déon Herring would be the man to take us to success since the first time I met him. I knew under his guidance the right artist would do more than make music; we’d start a movement. It was just a matter of time and patience to find the right musicians to do it with.
I set about testing the local musicians who had caught my attention in the past, preparing them for Déon’s high expectations. I knew he would coach and mold these talented guys into successful artists, but in order to do so they had to be teachable.”
Déon Herring is a man of experience, respected and well known due to his successful years in the music business; he has met many and seen it all. Most of all he is tireless as a mentor and passionate about his duty as CEO of Jaded Records, and in order to get the most of his mentorship, an artist needs to have a zealous work ethic and supernatural strength to withstand the long sessions he can embark on when he is focused.
“These guys had to live and breathe music in order to be up to par with his standards, and so I had to test their commitment before I ever considered introducing them to Déon,” Perez continued.
Flako, Jona, E.Dii.Pro and Zacari found themselves at the doorstep of Jaded Records because of their talent, but it was their combination of humbleness, relentlessness, and willpower that unlocked its doors.
Jaded finally had a squad of versatile talent, and management “knew the time had finally come.”
The Jaded Lineup:
FLAKO & JONA
When did Flako & Jona meet and when did you start working together?
Jona: We knew each other for four or five years, but unbelievably never knew the other did music until one day Flako showed me some beats and we began to just mess around in the studio.
Flako: The duo didn’t come to three or four years later, though, we were both working as solo artists.
Did you ever have doubts about being in a duo?
Flako: I was originally going to become a duo with E.Dii.Pro but that didn’t end up coming about and when I started working with Jona it was just natural. We were collaborating on tracks, but there were no plans to become a duo. The feedback and suggestions from so people hearing our music and loving the combination started pulling us in that direction.
Jona: Officially it’s been four years, but we work so well together because we were making music together long before that label was placed on us.
Can you describe your style individually and what you bring to the table as a duo?
Jona: I’m the rougher part of the duo. I rap more, my lyrics were always tougher. I always liked Flako as an artist because he did what I didn’t do.
Flako: I was always the hook and melody guy, usually while I was making a beat Jona would throw me the hook and see what I could put on it, so I guess you could say I’m the “softer” side. Not necessarily as a person but I tend to sway to more romantic songs—
Jona: I never even thought of doing that before I worked with Flako! I was more of the rapper, hip-hop lyrics, and Flako was the singer.
Flako: It ended up evening us out because putting those two extreme styles together caused a blend, it evened out every song.
Tell us about the work you’ve done prior to your newly-released album Pleasure:
Flako: We used to do a lot of shows in different venues and that brought us the opportunity to put a compilation of songs together. Controlando la Audiencia was our first official mixtape as a duo. Before that I worked on a solo album that was never released, but this was our first real product and the one that got people taking us more seriously as artists.
Jona: Back then we were putting a lot of time on his album. Even when we weren’t working together, it was always a team effort. Flako would call me and tell me he was working with a few producers and needed help with his album, and I’d drop what I was doing to help him out. We’ve always had a good vibe, and especially in the studio we can take advice from each other and implement it to better ourselves. That’s why Flako & Jona work. We understand each other as artists and can predict each other’s next move; it makes working in the studio not only easier but more enjoyable.
How would you describe the sound of this album?
Flako: Yes! It’s a mixture of everything, it has every style of music you can think of, I would say it includes the top 10 popular genres in music. It’s also in bilingual, multicultural, for two different types of audiences, and the mixture in between!
Jona: You’re going to hear Latin, top 40, pop, and of course our hip-hop and reggaeton, which is where we came from. It’s targeted for everyone, it was made to go against something no one believed in, it’s exciting, it’s pleasurable, it’s different, it’s out there, it’s Jaded!
Who and what are your musical influences?
Flako: The other artists in Jaded inspire us all the time. We all just hit the studio together, put on a beat and see what we can feed off each other, especially with our main producer Déon Herring. He has a very open mind and can get you to vibe to a beat you have never heard or imagined working with. We definitely influence each other.
What are your goals?
Flako: To create a movement that confines different cultures, different styles, to make music everyone can enjoy without worrying about the genre label.
Jona: We are doing what we were always told we couldn’t. We’re always going to do it for the love of music, but specially to remind people that nothing is impossible. We want to represent our Latin community. As immigrants to this country, everything is more difficult for us, but we overcome because we are determined, and that is the way everything in life works. Everyone at Jaded has overcome barriers, has been told what we dreamed wasn’t possible, well, a couple steps down, a few more to go! We truly believe we can accomplish anything if we put our mind and heart into it! Don’t ever stop reaching for your dreams, don’t let any obstacle stop you from getting up, and don’t expect it to be easy…but know it will be worth it!
Can you describe your style in one word?
Versatility. I’m like an IPOD, you pick the music you want to hear and I’ll go for it. I’m not scared to unleash my creativity and try new things; I’m passionate about all aspects of music. I can go from rapping, to singing, to writing. You name it, I can do it.
How long have you been involved in music?
I’ve been singing since I was seven. That’s fifteen years of my life. I started playing the piano as a kid and jumped to the school choir, where I stayed from 4th grade to 11th. When I graduated high school I decided to dedicate myself to music officially and that’s when I started performing with Alma Letal in Atlanta.
How has your love of music affected your life?
I truly feel if it wasn’t for music I wouldn’t be alive. Music is the reason I wake up in the morning and close my eyes in peace at night. Music is my life, it gives me strength when I’m tired, it inspires me to keep fighting, and it clears my mind like nothing else can.
You don’t live in Georgia and travel every Friday after work straight from Tennessee to spend the weekend at the studio. Do you feel distance has affected your career negatively in any way?
If I was somebody else, I would have to say yes but actually not bring able to be I the studio as much as my coworkers brings more fuel to the tank when I get here. I’m just ready to work! When I’m not here, I’m just craving to work, to lay a track, I’m constantly writing and preparing for my weekends here! I dot have the privilege to be bin the studio here everyday like everyone else but when I reach this door, I disconnect myself from the world.
How do you find time to juggle full time work, college, music, and your personal life?
I guess it’s my ambition for success and my stubbornness. I will never admit defeat, and I’d rather go down fighting than giving up. I’d rather stay very busy, because the people who don’t stay busy are the people who don’t enjoy everything life has to offer!
You have lived, made music and performed in large venues in Dominican Republic. Do you ever plan on going back and continuing your career there?
Of course! There is no place like home, it was a very good experience that I needed as a person and it was what helped me evolve as a solo artist. When I first started working here I was very limited, in Dominican Republic I was able to work with a lot of other artists who I truly admire and that helped me grow. I’m looking forward to going back at some point in my career, but I like to travel, if I have to go to China to hear one sound, I’d be on the first plane.
Are you currently working on any projects?
I’ve been working a lot on Flako & Jona’s album. I’m also involved with Zacari’s project, sometimes I help him write, and I am also producing my own solo album, which is still untitled. I’m working with my label all the time, whenever and wherever they may need me, I’m there.
When did you realize music was what you wanted to do with your life?
Since the first time I stepped onstage at a talent show as a 12 year-old kid, although there was a time that I almost gave up. That was when I met Déon, Jona, E,Dii.Pro and especially Flako who made me realize if they were giving me 100% of their support and encouragement, then I should keep trying. I was amazed, and so we started this journey to success.
How would you describe your style as an artist?
A mix of R&B, pop, techno and reggaetton. But I can work with what I’m given, if today they tell me to come out with a salsa song, I will, because I know it’s all about mindset. Jaded works hard, there are high expectations.
What brought you to Jaded Records?
Déon, really. I call him “boss” because he is the main reason why I’m with Jaded. He showed me he saw something special in me at a time I wanted to quit. He said he wanted to break it loose and the funny thing is that he has not even started yet. I believe in him. Also Flako, who always reminds me we don’t give up, “we’re Jaded”.
Tell us about any prior projects or what you were working on before Jaded?
I was working with renowned Latin producer Danny Fornatis and Pierluisi, a famous drum player for Wisin y Yandel. We started working on some songs and ideas but things did not turn out as promised, but at the end of the day, that’s life. You fall and get back up.
What is your inspiration to continue forth with your goals in music?
I want to be the best I can be and won’t stop until it there is nothing more to
do and nothing else to try!
On an end note
As their popularity expands and the possibility of truly hitting it big becomes more palpable, the goal of Jaded Records continues to be to keep making quality music for their fans. On a larger scale they wish to inspire people to reach for their dreams, to merge cultures and obliterate the barriers of language under an unifying force that has no boundaries- the power of music.
“We want everyone to continue to reach for their dreams and never quit trying. Hard work and perseverance will take you further than you can ever imagine if you can manage to keep your faith even after one thousand no’s. All these guys once were writing on tattered journals behind four bedroom walls, or making music in someone’s basement, and the reason they are here today is they never gave up,” explains Perez. ‘They work hard and give it their all; music is not their job, it’s their life.”
They are exhausted, overworked, and juggling the multiple responsibilities of living two lives; but truth is, they couldn’t be happier…because that’s what it truly means to be Jaded.
Want to know more?
To learn more about the artists of Jaded Records check out the label’s official website www.JadedRecords.net or subrice to their video channel at www.YouTube.com/JadedRecords.
To hear samples of the artists music, you can visit their individual music pages at myspace.com/flakoyjona, www.myspace.com/zlovin, and myspace.com/ediipro respectively.