Music News & Reviews

Jabee, rapper on the rise, plays Raleigh show

Oklahoma-based rapper Jabee has Triangle connections and a spot on Friday’s show at Deep South the Bar.
Oklahoma-based rapper Jabee has Triangle connections and a spot on Friday’s show at Deep South the Bar. VERNON DEAS

It’s not every day one talks to a rapper who has an Emmy. But that statue proudly sits on Oklahoma rapper Jabee’s shelf. It’s a regional Emmy – but, dang it, it’s an Emmy nonetheless.

Born and based in Oklahoma City, the MC received the honor when he appeared in a commercial spot for Science Museum Oklahoma in the state capital. The 75-second ad had Jabee spitting a spoken-word riff on where this world would be if the greatest scientists, inventors and thinkers didn’t ask, “What if?’

“(The ad agency) presented the idea to the museum, and the people there liked it,” says Jabee, calling from a Phoenix airport. “And they knew who I was, and thought it would be a good idea to do something like that – trying to make science cool, pretty much.”

Jabee didn’t think he would win an award for doing the spot. He forgot about the whole thing until he received an email saying he‘s officially an Emmy winner. “After I won it, I had a show in OKC, and they actually mailed the Emmys to the ad agency,” he recalls. “And, so, the guys who hired me from the ad agency actually came to the show and presented it to me at the show. So, it was pretty dope.”

The young MC isn’t just scooping up Emmy awards. He’s also working with a few hip-hop heavy hitters. Late last year, indie rapper Murs signed Jabee to his Murs 316 label. Jabee also got El-P to produce one of his tracks, “Stephanie,” which also includes vocals from Triangle songstress Carlitta Durand. This led Jabee to open shows for Run the Jewels, the supergroup El-P formed with rapper Killer Mike.

So, with an Emmy and some hip-hop pros in his corner, you’d think Jabee would have no trouble appearing on a hometown morning show to discuss how good life has been lately. Sadly, as Jabee found out when he was booked on an Oklahoma City show earlier this year, that couldn’t have been farther from the truth. “They had booked me, like, three weeks prior,” he says. “And, so, I showed up with a full band, ready to play.”

The band entered from the back of the station and began setting up their instruments. Jabee appeared shortly after, entering from the lobby. And that’s when things got a little crazy.

“I come walking through the front door, and people are looking at me crazy,” he remembers. “And (the producer) comes out and he’s like, ‘I’m sorry, but y’all gotta go.’ And we’re thinking he’s joking, and we start laughing. He’s like, ‘No, seriously, you gotta go. We can’t have you on our show today.’ I was like, ‘Well, what about the interview?’ And he was like, ‘Even the interview’s not gonna happen, because if I have somebody like you on my show, I can get fired. And, you know, we don’t really cater to that audience.’ I mean, the more he talked, the worse it got.”

Obviously, the producer had no idea that Jabee is not only is an Emmy-winning star on the rise, but a rapper who makes the kind of rap music that morning-show watchers could actually get into.

“My music is clean,” he says. “And I brought a band for that reason, because I knew the crowd. So, I wanted to cater to that type of crowd.”

Jabee may have gotten the last laugh, though. He says several members of the city’s music community, from rock bands to country acts, protested the cancellation by boycotting the show, which was canceled a couple of months later.

But Jabee has moved on from that and is currently looking forward to performing at the latest “Power of the Tongue” showcase Friday night in Raleigh. And he has musical ties to the Triangle: his Valentine’s Day mixtape “Love Don’t Live Here” features opening and closing riffs from local MC/soul singer Phonte Coleman, and he recorded his 2010 “Lucky Me” EP at the home of Raleigh rap producer Commissioner Gordon.

“I’ve got songs with King Mez and I hang out with Kooley High,” he says. “And Chaundon’s my homie, Big Pooh – all of them. So, I have a really strong North Carolina connection already. It’s just fam, you know what I’m saying?”

Also, our TV morning shows don’t kick you to the curb just because you rap!