MIKE JAGGERR: Keeping Time
Besides being a by-product of a broken home and surviving the majority of his youth without some of the most basic human necessities, Mike Jaggerr’s story isn’t the same old story.
Words: Shabe Allah
Images: Kendra Heisler
Styling: Cortori Lightfoot
At 21, this DE to BK transplant has managed to escape the perils and statistics of a dysfunctional family and create an avenue of escape via hip-hop music. Utilizing his teenage years honing his skills as an artist and a producer, Jaggerr is advanced well beyond his years, musically as much as he is in life. The retrospective tales of his childhood as told through his rhymes is a consistent reminder of just how far this young man has come. His highly anticipated first solo project, The Eleventh Hour, which released last January, was Jaggerr’s introduction to the scene but is a far cry from all he hopes for.
I gotta ask about the name. Do you expect legendary status to the level of someone like Mick Jagger by picking your name?
That wasn’t even the thought process when I acquired the name. In college, it was a nickname that I picked up and it just stuck with me. It came from slang we used to use getting girls like, “I’m about to jag her.” I guess I “jagged” too often and it just stuck with me more than the name I had.
You’re originally from New York, but you’ve been pursuing your career as a Delawarean so to speak, right?
My sister and me are the only ones that were raised in Delaware. The rest of my family is from New York. It’s the foundation for a good portion of my story so I can’t leave that out.
Your pops seems really important to you, too. What was your relationship like with?
I lived with my father from age one or two to about eight. In those short eight years, he laid the foundation for the man that you see now more than anybody. He even gave me a precursor to the things I would go through. In the song “Away,” I talked about my mother’s boyfriend. Certain things that he did affected my mother and me in the wrong way. My father warned me about him when I was about six. He [my father] always treated me like an adult when I was a young kid, so I think even now, when people are around me, they don’t even notice how old I am. My father was just like my life teacher in advance.
We don’t necessarily associate Delaware with hip-hop. Was it difficult launching your career there?
I had the blessing of being involved with this group called Bassline, which was a pivotal experience for me as far as laying a foundation for me as an artist, producer and performer because we got the chance to perform across the country. I got a chance to experience leaving and then coming back, so that’s been the formula as long as I can remember. It was never me just sitting in Delaware pursuing it.
At age 16, you were featured in Scratch Magazine for your production. What were you working on at the time that got you that recognition?
I was working on this project called Elevator Music. It was the last album that we put out as a group. I wanted people to recognize what me and my man MPC were doing. I introduced him to producing and we were doing it everyday for like 2-3-4 summers. I always wanted to leave and Scratch Magazine was a form of leaving, to show people at home that this is real.
How did you hook up with Jayson Rodriguez of MTV News fame?
Jayson and I met through my other manager Tone “the Vizionary”; they manage me together. They worked together at one time when I was much younger, and as I was growing up and developing my talents further. They were both advancing in life and experiences, and we thought it’d be a good combo to put our resources together. Now we got the results you see and more coming along.
The Eleventh Hour mixtape was well praised. How did it feel getting that type of recognition so early in your career?
It’s a phenomenal feeling! It just makes you want to work harder, but also, it’s scary to a degree because now you have to live up to these certain expectations. It gives you tunnel vision to keep delivering.
Tell me more about the concept behind The Eleventh Hour and how you put that together.
The Eleventh Hour is just where I’m at in my life and where I feel everyone around me is. There is no other option; there is no plan B or C. This is my plan A, B, C and all the way down the line. This is what I need to work [on]; this is my passion. I don’t have those normal crutches to fall back on like a lot of people do. My family structure isn’t exactly the best. Me and my sister have been out here on our own and luckily we’ve both been blessed with each other, and people that believe in us who gave us a platform to stand on [in order] to push ourselves up and fly.
Describe your creative process?
Creatively, I need to start by myself— alone— and just find the vibe. Since I talk about a lot of deep and personal experiences in a lot of my records, sometimes I just need space to formulate how I want to say what I’m saying. After that the music goes through a rigorous buffering process with me and Tone just seeing what people love and don’t love, if there’s anything. I usually won’t send anyone [what] I record [if] I’m not confident in [it], [laughs] but sometimes I won’t hit the mark. Most times I’m good though [laughs].
What’s happened since the mixtape dropped?
We’ve gotten thousands of downloads and people appreciating the art from all over the world. A lot of doors have opened up for writing and producing for other artists, and getting my art out there better.
Got a lot of visuals on the way. I just shot my parts for a video for “Get Back,” the record I did with Diggy Simmons & Ashton Travis— that was amazing. The video for “AWAY” will be premiering on MTV soon as well as virally on a site near you. Much, much more coming.
Why is the mixtape so laid back? You can’t play this music in the club…and that seems to be the norm these days. Describe the perfect time and place to listen to your music.
I make a lot of summer, driving music. I think you could play some of the records in the club, it all depends [on] the mood and vibe. If not, I’ll change the definition of what can be played in the club. But even more so, when I’m writing I’m not writing like “Oh I’m gonna make a club joint now.” I’m more concerned with just writing a good song. A song that’ll be stuck in your head, or that will save and define a particular moment or experience in your life. I’m worried about longevity and experimenting with different and new sounds. I want to broaden how hip-hop music and artists are viewed, not limited to one type of sound.
Was this your vision for how you wanted to live your life, even at a young age?
Yeah, I told my sister that I would be doing what I’m doing right now when we were little. I put it out in the universe early.
So what are you bringing to the game that it’s missing?
My story is what has been pulling in people so far, so I just want to keep telling my story and keep inspiring people, whether it’s for my block or every block in the country. I don’t want to just speak for one block. The world is my block.
What have you learned from rappers/producers like Kanye, Swizz, Rza and Pharrell? The good and the bad?
I’ve learned [that] all great producers are never one to stand in the way of making a good record a phenomenal record by letting others apply their specialties…Bringing in the most talented musicians, vocalists and producers to help craft the perfect work of art. Also never being closed minded; I was told a closed mind is a fool’s paradise.
Images by Kendra Heisler.