Possessing an alluring voice steeped in roots reggae's mysticism and wreathed in a smoky jazz vibrato, Jah9 is blazing a singular trail across the international music landscape. Born Janine Cunningham in Falmouth, Jamaica, the daughter of a preacher father and social worker mother, whom she describes as revolutionaries, Jah9 became aware of the world's injustices at an early age. That awareness has defined Jah9's artistry, from her earliest days performing as a dub poet while attending Kingston's University of the West Indies (where she became immersed in the Rastafari movement) onto the release of three outstanding albums for New York City based reggae independent VP Records, New Name (2013), 9 (2016) and Note to Self, due on March 13.
Note To Self demonstrates Jah9's maturation as an adventurous vocalist and nuanced lyricist who conveys her perspective with passion and sophistication. Fusing dub-drenched, one drop reggae with traditional Rasta drumming, Fela-esque Afrobeat, and neo-soul and jazz flourishes, Jah9 co-produced all 15 tracks, collaborating with an intergenerational cast of visionaries. Among them are Romaine "Teflon" Arnett, whose production credits include "Blazin" featured on Koffee's Grammy winning EP Rapture; Jeremy Harding, responsible for numerous dancehall classics for superstars including Sean Paul, whom he managed for many years, and veteran Clive Hunt who, throughout his extraordinary 45-year career, has worked with icons including Peter Tosh, Grace Jones, The Rolling Stones and Stevie Wonder. "Bringing all the generations together, that is what we do as the feminine, there is never a separation," Jah9 told Billboard on the phone from her Kingston home. "But Clive anchored the project, even songs that I wasn't doing with him, I wanted him to be a part of because I have learned so much from him. He has immersed himself in his craft since he was very young and I relate to him because I was aware of purpose for a long time, too."
A luminous, confident, dreadlocked spiritual warrior, Jah9 is amplifying the female voice within Rastafari, which influences every song on Note to Self, including the title track featuring Chronixx, the empowering rallying cry "Heaven (Ready Fi Di Feeling)," "New Race (A Way)" featuring British rapper/author/activist Akala, advocating unity over superficial differences, and the joyful "Love Has Found I," which references the exemplary marital relationship between Rastafari Messiah, Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie and Empress Menen Asfaw.