Jelani Lateef has built up quite a following in the Chicago hip-hop scene. His latest album, Cold Days and Dark Nights is a tremendously personal effort that sees Lateef graduate from artist to artist/producer. After the hardships he has encountered over the previous few years, Lateef launched his own company, Manhood Ent., meant to mentor young men that are in need of a strong influence in their life.
Lateef has been working hard and his dedication to his craft has begun to pay off. Lateef was kind enough to speak with us about his new album, company and the Chicago hip-hop scene:
Me: Manhood Ent. the company you started after becoming a single parent has an incredible mission statement. Can you tell me how and when you decided to create something like this?
Jelani Lateef: The idea came directly from my situation. When I decided to go back to making music after the mother of my child passed away, I knew I wanted to do something inspiring. Instead of just making a song or two, I took it a step further and started a company around the concept of manhood and the importance of understanding what that really means. Beyond music I’m using the company to do mentoring to young boys who need strong and positive men to emulate.
Me: The new album Cold Days and Dark Nights has seen you expand from being a rapper to now a producer. What was the production process like and did you encounter any problems that you didn’t foresee at the beginning?
Jelani Lateef: I have always been hands on with the music I make. Even when others were doing the beats, I was still involved in the arranging and mixing—which is all part of producing. It wasn’t difficult to transition into making the beats as well. The only problem, if any, was choosing the right set-up and learning how to work the beat machines and software.
Me: The album itself is being well received and your social media pages are gathering new followers every day. How important is social media in the promotion process of a new album and in interacting with fans, in your opinion?
Jelani Lateef: I’m still coming to grips with the importance (laughs) I wasn’t big on social media at first because I have somewhat of an introverted personality, but social media is the way we communicate now and there’s no way around it. There are definitely benefits to being able to interact directly with fans. For me, the challenge is being consistent because I have so many other responsibilities.
Me: Are there any songs on the new album that you consider to be the catalyst for the writing process to Cold Days and Dark Nights? Which track came first?
Jelani Lateef: The song “Book of Life” is what the album was created around. I’m more known for the soulful vibe, and I thought that song was a little bit darker for me. From there I kept writing music that fit that concept.
Me: Chicago has produced some remarkable artists in the past. Being a native, can you recall any that really caught your eye in the local scene while you were growing up?
Jelani Lateef: I remember Common (back then he was Common Sense) when he first hit the scene locally. It’s amazing to see where he is now. I also remember Shawnna before she had signed to Ludacris. Aside from them there are quite a few local acts that I’ve been inspired by. Prime Meridian, Ang 13, Wrath Entertainment and 2Die4 are a few acts that may not be known globally but are incredibly talented and inspiring!
Watch the video for “The Lyrical”
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