Vancouver-based artists IAMTHELIVING and Teon Gibbs, have partnered together to form JNGL, a new project exploring genres and cultures. IAMTHELIVING provides a buttery, soulful croon over upbeat production while Gibbs injects laid-back, West Coast wordplay that packs a punch into every track.
While creating positive energy through art and crossing genres through their collaborative sound, IAMTHELIVING and Teon Gibbs make a distinct connection on JNGL with the intent to move listeners from their soul and to lead by example for other Black voices to connect in their city.
Fresh off the release of their latest single, Distance, we asked JNGL a few questions on creating in B.C. during uncertain times.
IAMTHELIVING and Teon Gibbs
Tell us about your collaborative project JNGL and latest song and video ‘Distance’
IAMTHELIVING: JNGL is an acronym for Jungle, a collaborative project that came together at the start of the worldwide lockdowns in April of 2020. Teon and I decided to come together to collaborate on tracks that lifted us up, made us feel vibrant and got us bubbling around the studio during a time that felt very uncertain. Because of these songs that we were creating we felt that it was only right that we shared this music with the universe, so since then we have released three singles including our latest release Distance. Distance is a song about going those extra lengths to make a relationship work no matter what friends or family may say. All relationships go through ups and downs, and we all turn to our closests to get advice, but ultimately it’s all about the two that are in the relationship to overcome those challenging times to make it work and that’s what really counts. The video that we created for this song has a movie-like feel to it, we wanted to create a cool narrative that would keep the audience engaged and on the edge of their seats which we feel we were able to achieve, with mysterious unanswered phone calls, late night drives searching around the city, cityscapes and an ending that would keep the views questioning “I wonder how it ended with them two’
Teon Gibbs: JNGL is our world’s meeting. Our whole project is genre-bending – hip hop meets soul, R&B meets garage, house meets pop. In the same way, our backgrounds and life experiences are meeting here. Everything from living in Botswana and London to what it feels like to go through heartbreak or find new love just, all brought to life through the social lens of two black artists living in Vancouver.
Distance is just a snapshot of the range on this project. I’ve always loved garage. Ever since I was youngin’ I would listen to Craig David or Oxide and Neutrino and just get lost in the vibe. Some of my favourite records come from this musical palette, so when we heard the Distance beat and just how IAMTHELIVING’s vocals were sitting on it I got excited. It’s a song about trying to make it work even when the odds are stacked against you. This is a sentiment I’ve been through and I think we can all relate to some degree.
How have you both stayed creative and inspired over the last year?
IATL: I’ve been meditating a lot, sharing my gratitude for life through prayer, spending a lot of time outside in nature, going for walks, riding my bike, working out and training by the way of calisthenics. I’ve been writing new music and creating a lot of visual content to go with it.
Teon: It’s been a crazy year, we’re living through history right now and because of that everything is different! This is really where I draw my inspiration from. I’m already a bit of an overthinker, I really feel like there’s been a microscope placed on my life so my self-awareness is heightened. I’m more aware of my relationships, I’m more aware of the things that I value and I think it’s fair to say that we’re all a lot more aware of all the madness that’s been going on in the world.
So when I talk about what it’s like to be in a relationship in these times I feel like people can relate, when I talk about black issues, which is not a new conversation for me, the world is wanting to pay a bit more attention.
As far as motivation to keep working… I guess just good habits. I love being in the studio, I love songwriting, I love hearing or making a slapping beat! It’s really ingrained in my everyday routine.
What does the future of community in the music industry look like for you?
IATL: The future looks really good! I feel like people are supporting each other more so than ever before. The community is really coming together to elevate and push the music scene and more and more people are open to collaborating which is important. There’s so much talent in B.C. and for it to really be on the map the community needs to stick together and continue lifting each other up.
Teon: I want to be able to build infrastructure and be a voice in culture. I want to be able to create opportunities for other artists here. Honestly, I’ve been honing in my skills for a long time and building my network out and it’s been a lot of work, invaluable, but a lot of work nonetheless. If I can be a conduit to facilitate growth and accelerate careers that’s what I want to do. My work with 100 Collective, my work with Music BC and of course my work as an artist are the foundation for me to help create that space. I love B.C., I think we have so much talent here and I just want to do my part to accelerate the good things that are already happening.
You told Complex that there’s a need for more cross-genre collaborations in Vancouver, overall, what is it like working in British Columbia’s music industry? How do you think the industry can evolve to get there?
IATL: Well for me, I’ve had a pretty positive experience when it comes to collaborating with others. Especially during these times that we are currently in, I think a lot more artists are open to collaborating with people that may not be in the same genre as them as we have this time to think of new ways to create and collaborate and plus, it really does benefit everyone involved. We’re living in a time where artists just want to make good quality music with people that they admire no matter what genre they’re in, I just hope that artists continue to take risks and push boundaries with their collaborations and music once these uncertain times pass, I know I will be.
Teon: Collaboration is key. We’re seeing a lot of that already within genres, but to make noise in the scene I think we need to see more producers and songwriter’s working with artist’s from multiple musical backgrounds – it’s only going to create more space and more opportunities for us to thrive. We have some of the largest artist’s in the world coming out of Canada, and in a lot of ways Toronto has become the holy land for Canadian music. When I take a step back and look at what we have going on here in BC, I see the blueprints for a lot of artist’s to really thrive! We really have to champion ourselves.
What advice do you have for Black emerging artists that want to break into the music industry in B.C.?
IALT: My advice would be to study the greats, whatever genre of music that you love and have a passion for, go back in time and study all of those legendary icons that paved the way and that made an impact in your life and in popular music culture, study their songs, performances, how they presented themselves and their art to the world and use those influences to help you figure out where you want to go as an artist. I would also say to be patient, focused and resilient, take the time to really develop your talents, your mind and your body, all those three will really make a positive impact on what you want to share with the universe through your music and your vision. And lastly, stay true to self, so many artists compromise who they truly are because of the opinions of others, instant validation and out of desperation if they don’t see results as quickly as they were hoping to see. Everyone’s journey is different, things happen differently at different times for every one of us.
Teon: You gotta be aware of who you are and the people you keep around you. You’re going to have to work hard, it’s a reality for everyone but being black you’re going to have to work even harder. We’re not afforded the generational network that can accelerate your career, so you’re going to have to build that up yourself. Look out for you and yours but be good to people. You never know what the relationships you’re forming now could lead to.
Don’t give up. It will be really hard not to at times but yeah, don’t give up.
What can we expect to hear next from JNGL?
IATL: We’ll be releasing our joint EP on June 1st which we are really excited about but before that we have three more singles coming out, one called ‘Boxes’ which will be dropping March 16th, ‘Translation’ out April 20th and ‘Where do we go from here’ with the release of the full EP and all with some amazing visuals to go with them.