One Los Angeles-based duo proving the viability of the city’s DYI R&B scene is non other than Jake&Papa. Since their 2014 debut Athena’s Erotica 2.0, the group which are the remains of a quintet once signed to Def Jam have grown into one of the consistent R&B acts from the area. A followup to 2015’s Sexual Warfare, April saw the release of their third full-length album through Tattoos&Blues, which continues to provide longtime fans with those slick harmonies and crafty baby-making songwriting.
Speaking with Jake&Papa over the phone, the two discuss pushing R&B forward while retaining the genre’s fundamentals without major backing.
Music Industry Quarterly: We’ve been hearing about you all and seeing your shows for the past four or so years. Can you guys break down what’s led to this moment where many longtime fans believe this is your best body of work to date in Tattoos&Blues?
Papa: Just a lot of hard work, dedication and trying to perfect our craft. We’re independent artists, we write, we co produce and arrange. It’s an ongoing process in perfecting the craft and fine tuning our artistry.
MIQ: Some would categorize you guys as more traditional or “real” R&B. What’s it like fighting the good fight as not only independent artists but artists grounded in a genre that many don’t consider as commercially viable anymore?
Jake: Honestly, it’s what comes naturally to us. We honestly just follow our hearts and whether it pays off with a million dollars or two dollars, it makes us happy because Rhythm & Blues is literally something that was in our system ever since we were born. We grew up singing Sam Cooke, Donny Hathaway and Anita Baker. This is deeply rooted in our veins. Whether it’s extremely lucrative or not, it’s something that we want to do because it’s our culture and who we are. It’s what we breath.
MIQ: How exactly do you guys manage to stay with the times, yet retain fundamentals of the genre?
Jake: The thing is, it’s a lot of good R&B and Soul out right now even though it’s not promoted as heavily as other genres. It’s still a lot of good stuff out there that’s inspiring that we listen to all the time. There’s great energy and great inspiration. For people who think it’s not as popular as the other music, it’s out there and lit. And, it’s selling great tickets. If it’s something that comes naturally to you, don’t get discouraged because of radio. These artists are still packing houses. You just gotta put in a little bit more footwork. Second of all, if it comes to you being an indie artist, do what comes naturally to you regardless of the genre. Make good music regardless of what’s on the radio. You gotta do what your heart tells you.
MIQ: Your project kicks off with “Hotel Lobby.” Using that track as an example, how much as your evolution creatively changed your approach to making music from a vocal and songwriting perspective?
Papa: Using “Hotel Lobby” as an example, that track was written verse and hook in 2015 when we first went to SXSW. It just started off as a voice note in my phone. [Starts singing] After that, it took me a while because I had a specific way I wanted the music to sound. When I didn’t find a beat for it, I started to create it. So, we stacked all the harmonies which were like four or five parts. Then, we tried something different by sending it to the homie Reggie Red and he added drum and bass. Then, we sent it to someone else and had them add saxophone. Basically we like to build from scratch.
MIQ: Considering the start of your group and the ups-and-downs of any career, what exactly keeps you guys together in a time where you don’t see that many groups in R&B?
Jake: That’s a good point. I feel like around ‘98 / ‘99, Hip Hop became mainstream and artists like DMX and Jay Z were selling out 20,000 seat arenas. At that point, R&B went to the backburner for a few years. As of recently, it’s been coming back. As far as the R&B groups, who knows? I’m sure there will always be a point for groups since they go away and come back. It evolves and grows. For us, what keeps us together is who we are. Aside from us being brothers because that doesn’t always do it, we have loyalty and respect. That’s key components for keeping any relationship whether it’s love, brothers, friendships, professional or whatever. Loyalty and respect is the foundation of it all. That’s what keeps us together.