EP Review – Jada Imani’s ‘Saline’

I receive a lot of e-mails asking me to check out an artist’s music, but this one hit differently. When I heard Jada Imani, the 21-year-old mini Erykah out of the Bay Area, I knew that I had to write about her. Her voice has the perfect amount of rasp and control to take you away and make you feel like you’re floating on clouds. She released her debut solo album, Ring Ring! on September 25th, 2020, which she used to show her growth and journey during the quarantine. However, that wasn’t the last of her. From there, she’s gone on to release Saline, a 3-song EP that’s a part of a much bigger project, showing her ability to release a fairly expanded catalog at an impressive age.

In her first track, “First Fridays Intro,” Jada outlines her project and the story behind it. She reminisces on her First Fridays over the years, thinking thoughtfully back on the relationships she’s built and experiences she’s gained. She pays homage to it with Saline, which serves as the beginning of her own personal First Fridays series. On the first Friday of every month for 6 months, Jada will release a 3-song EP. It’s a beautiful idea, especially as creatives are seriously missing the ability to network with fellow artists in their community right now. Each project features a collaboration with a different producer, with the first installment serving as a collaboration with Gabe Zapata out of San Francisco. Not only did Zapata, who also goes by Smooveez, produce and engineer the project, but he also played saxophone on the tracks, helping to create an airy and dreamlike atmosphere that could awake anyone’s inner wanderlust. It’s a beautiful thing to find a project that can truly transport you when having to stay at home.

The second track, “Open Up,” features dainty chirps and mallet percussion that can make you feel like you’re walking through the forest in your favorite fantasy novel. The flat notes create an eerie obscurity that keeps you on your toes and prevents you from getting too comfortable, making every part of the song extremely interesting to digest. It took a few listens, but I love the feeling of discomfort that unconventional notes can give. It shows that the artist will take creative risks.

However, it’s “Stay Soft” that steals the show for me. The production, her voice, everything about it. And that bit of saxophone was the perfect touch, truly. It has the most amazing mix of jazz, blues, r&b, and funk to create a beautiful neo-soul track. It’s definitely chill and relaxing, but the bounce in the production prevents it from ever getting boring. Her word-choice is so sensual without being overtly sexual, and it creates a bit of tension and animosity. The song also uses that bird-like element we heard in “Open Up,” creating a beautiful transition between the songs, building up to that atmospheric ambiance while still setting a different tone. Although the two songs are so vastly different, they fit together really well. “Stay Soft” offers the comfort that was taken away in “Open Up,” creating an interesting contrast. Her voice is so amazingly alluring in this track, and I can’t help but keep this song on repeat.

Jada blessed me with a little interview which you can read below. We talk about some of the issues she’s passionate about as well as Saline and the rest of her project.

Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me today! I would love to talk about you for a bit first if that’s okay. How did you get your name?

Jada: “My dad named me Jada and Imani is my middle name which means “faith” in Swahili. Since I was young, my mom’s life motto has been rooted in faith which she relied on to take huge risks that led us into a better life.”

That’s absolutely beautiful. How did you start making music? Did the motto have anything to do with it?

Jada: “As a child living in rural/Midwestern poverty, music was the one thing that stirred my soul and made me feel alive. The first thing  I ever wanted to pursue. My parents exposed me to all kinds of music and we’d listen for hours on end during long car rides, chores, gatherings, and free time.”

Who are some of the artists that have affected your creative process? You have this neo-soul sound which, for someone so young, is absolutely captivating. I’m in love with it!

Jada: “Thank you! 🙂 ❤ I’m inspired by a range of artists from the 1920s until today across genres. Etta, Ella,  Alicia Keys’ first album, Stevie Wonder, Digable Planets, Lupe Fiasco, Erykah Badu, Nai Palm.”

I also saw that you’ve collaborated with the ACLU and Youth Speaks,

What do those organizations mean to you?

Jada: “Youth Speaks is my family of 6+ years who raised me into being a teaching artist and culture worker. ACLU is a highly visible and historical pillar for social justice and civil rights. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to perform at the 100th Year Anniversary.”

Would you say that your passion for these organizations coupled with the current political climate have had an impact on the music you make?

Jada: “My music began as very politically charged and “radical” during the time Obama was in office. Ironically, my music is now more introspective and is a tool to be a balm on the soul and soothe people through their stress and fear. It still includes themes of overcoming oppression, as that’s the nature of my mind but my music is drawing inwa”rds more. “

I love that. And what was the inspiration behind ‘Saline’?

Jada: “Saline is inspired by the pink Himalayan salt crystal that resides by my bed and the ambiance of the Island of Hawaii where I completed the EP. The sound of the coqui frogs is so loud at night that it bled through my vocal recordings so the producer Smooveez and I decided to lean into that vocal aesthetic throughout the project.”

And I know these are some of your first solo projects as an artist? How would you describe ‘Saline’ to a first-time listener?

Jada: “Saline is a supple, tender, R&B and Hip-Hop EP. It’s where heart meets intellect. It tells stories and explores the inner-world. It is born out of love for music and creative community.”

I definitely see that! I love how intimate it is. What would you say is your favorite track off of the project?

Jada: “No waaay. That’s like picking favorite siblings or favorite children haha.”

Haha okay fair! Did Covid-19 make it difficult to create this, logistically speaking?

Jada: “It could not stop us! The producer/engineer Smooeez and I learned how to work remotely which we had some experience in, ultimately though we completed it quickly and smoothly.”

To wrap things up, what can we see from you next?!

Jada: “I have a project coming up Friday December 4th! Like Saline, it will be part of this six month series where I drop a three-track EP every First Friday.”

And lastly, where can listeners connect with you to get updates on your project?

Jada: “On instagram @ jadaimani510, via Patreon: Patreon.com/JadaImani510”

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