Hey everyone, BCJ is back this month bringing you more top notch events, profiles and cool talent to offset the sweltering summer heat!
Next up we are pleased to present Bronx native, Jessica “Tomoko” Perez, an amazing MC/beat maker, currently in the Kansai music scene. Though we introduced Jessica with her full name, most are likely to be familiar with her stage name, Kimblee and even more recent, ____ihatemilk. With an eclectic music taste and fresh style, just about everyone wants to know what makes this artist tick so let’s dive in:
Black Creatives Japan: Alright, first things first: can you describe for us, your sound or genre of music?
Jessica T. Perez: This kind of question is always difficult for me to answer, in part because I’m probably overthinking, but also because I’m reluctant to put my sound under any labels. I make music as a singer/MC as Kimblee, but these days, I’ve also taken a deep interest in beat-making and production as ___ihatemilk.
Kimblee is probably more familiar across members of BCJ who always come out and show support, (thank you!) and that sound is definitely more R&B/Neo-soul, with a little boom-bap thrown in – I mean you can take the girl out of the Bronx, but….haha.
And ___ihatemilk is a bit darker, percussion driven, hip hop and dance music. There’s definitely some abstract jazz mixed in too and I try to incorporate house elements into my beats as well. I really enjoy blending genres, and people who have heard IHM told me they enjoy the unpredictability and atmospheres of those tracks. It’s totally different and I love it. They’re still both very much me.
BCJ: Totally understood! You definitely can’t describe any art form by a few simple words anyway. What inspired you to become an MC?
JTP: I have always written; I was a huge bookworm & writer as a kid. My poetry was first published at 15 and I have always loved singing and dancing. In high school, I was editor in chief of an activism zine and in a hip-hop poetry club that had a few slams, open mics and the like. I even did play-writing and marching band too. I enjoyed the stage back then, but I stopped writing regularly by the time college came around.
When I moved to Japan, a friend was doing one of those rap challenges on Facebook where you tag 7 people or whatever and I don’t think I got tagged, but I wrote a verse to Drake’s ‘0 to 100’ beat and was like, “Whoa, I STILL GOT IT!”. I liked my verse so much at the time, I made my SoundCloud that same day. Later on, I got a phone call from home. It wasn’t a good one. I lost my older brother. There was a long succession of loss before him with close relatives and I realized two things: that music got me through a lot of the things I’ve been through, and life is too short to not do something you really love, even if it’s a hobby. (Hobbies are valid, y’all!) That second one sounds very obvious, but especially living in a new country, trying to survive on your own, it’s easy to get caught up. You gotta find your outlet. I decided to take music more seriously since then.
BCJ: Well, there’s definitely a big appreciation for hobbies (especially of the artistic variety) around here! So, when did you start performing and how long have you been in the music scene?
JTP: It’s been 4 years. Besides open mics, actually performing my own words to music all started in Japan, so I haven’t had the chance to perform back home. I really want to one day, though. Performing is really a lot of fun and every time, I learn a little more about myself on stage. I’m in my head a lot and an introvert, so expressing myself in this way is really special to me. I would love to perform as IHM, maybe live beat-making or DJ-ing, but I’m still working towards that for the future.
BCJ: And how did you come find yourself in Japan? Is the music scene here any different from back home, in your opinion? Has anything changed about the way you perform?
JTP: I came to Japan on the JET Programme. My Japanese professor from college encouraged me, so I knew about it for a while, but I wanted some work experience after graduation, so I didn’t apply right away. I got wait-listed actually and then eventually accepted. I’m so glad. It feels a little backwards, having started my artist journey here – I was used to hearing that NY and LA is where so many go to forge their artistic paths, but I hope I can answer that second question in the future! I would love to see how NYC is different from Japan in terms of the scene. NY will always tell you how it is.
BCJ: That’s the Big Apple for you, always willing to tell it like it is! Do you enjoy collaborating with other MCs and/or DJs in the scene here? Who has been your favorite artist to perform with?
JTP: I’m a pretty private person, especially in my songwriting. I like to take my time and sit with an instrumental. My schedule is hectic, so the internet has been amazing for collaborating. I have a few unreleased collabs at the moment. I’ve done a number of collabs with my friend, nucents, who I know from college, but is out in Bermuda now. He’s dope and we always make some pretty fun stuff. The latest track I’ve got out, as Kimblee, dropped 9 months ago with Jarreau Vandal. I’ll never tire of that song, it’s a certified banger. And most recently, I have some vocals on the album, ‘246911’, by SPIN MASTER A-1 and Shing02 that dropped last April. It was the first time I ever heard my voice on vinyl. Honestly, I’m still shook. All my respect and gratitude to everyone I’ve been lucky to work with, forreal.
My favorite person to perform with has to be Cotoco. Before she moved to Tokyo, she used to DJ during my sets and I loved the energy we had, especially as two women who enjoy and support each other’s work. I think that representation is SO important and unique, especially in Japan and in general. I’d be happy to go on stage with her anytime and anywhere! I know we will link up again soon enough.
BCJ: Cheers to that for all the female artists out here! If you could perform with any artist in the world, who would it be?
JTP: Tough question. There’s literally too many, so off the top: As Kimblee: TLC, Lauryn Hill, Smino, Missy Elliot, Ibeyi, KoffeeAs IHM: Evil Needle, Graves, Flying Lotus, Robert Glasper, FKA Twigs
BCJ: Sorry to put you on the spot, but that’s an amazing line up, we’d definitely look forward to seeing any of those performances. And finally, are there any upcoming projects of yours, that we should keep our ears open for?
JTP: As IHM, I recently dropped my first EP, ‘Shit, We Might Become Animals’, or SWMBA, at the end of April. It was so much fun to make. It’s just 6 tracks, but I feel like it’s still a rollercoaster of a ride! It’s out on Bandcamp, Spotify, Apple Music, etc. I’ll be proud of it forever. ‘Yeahyeahyeah’ and ‘Muraoka’ seem to be the fan faves. I’m also dropping three new tracks this month so please keep an eye on my Instagram: @___ihatemilk.
As for Kimblee, you’ll have to wait and see. I’ve been so into beat making for months now, but I still have a lot of ideas I want to explore as Kimblee. I plan to share some more of my writing, ideas and process on my website at: www.whoisJTP.com. Also, please come say “Hi” at the BCJ Showcase and Chill on June 29th or on July 19th at SoundGarden Cafe in Dontonbori!
~ xoxoxo JTP ~
Thanks Jessica, we couldn’t have said it better ourselves! You all heard the woman. Keep cool this summer and tune into the chill JTP vibe by following her on Instagram: @___ihatemilk and her website: www.whoisJTP.com for all the music she’s mentioned here and more to come.
If you’re in, near or traveling through the Kansai area, definitely stop by and check out performances by Jessica and our other BCJ members in the upcoming summer events:
Showcase & Chill on Saturday June 29th at Bar Theatre Ludo (Shinsaibashi) https://showcaseandchill4.peatix.com
This post was written by Nache Buie of BCJ