Jacquees knows a thing or two about good music, coming up as the self-proclaimed King of R&B. Insert ISSA, the rising star is currently paving the way for Jacquees’ FYB Label Group who arrives with that same passion, drive, and love for not only music, but feel-good R&B music.
With ISSA standing for “Chris” in Arabic, the artist, musician, songwriter, influencer, and father has been locked in the lab perfecting his craft. Hailing from Washington D.C. but moving to Atlanta at age 12, that’s when ISSA first started recording and taking his voice serious.
With his own mother behind him, ISSA went to Los Angeles where he met Jermaine Dupri’s father Michael Mauldin, who said, “man you got to come to Atlanta.” During a time when Atlanta was in the dance stage and starting to pop into the hub it is now, ISSA began pursuing his dreams — meeting lifelong friends and his wife along the way.
Fast forward to 2021, ISSA unleashed the official music video for his new single “Always” featuring Jacquees, which hit a million views within one month of its release.
AllHipHop: How you holding up in Atlanta?
ISSA: I know it’s been open this whole time during Covid. It’s lit, Atlanta’s Atlanta. It’s a party every day of the week, there’s no day of the week there’s not a party going on. Covid couldn’t hold down Atlanta’s parties, fasho not. [laughs] I’ve been staying in as much as possible unless I absolutely have to go outside. I make my rounds and what not.
AllHipHop: Biggest influences?
ISSA: Originally, my favorite rapper was DMX. When I was 9 or10, that’s my favorite rapper. My dad’s from New York, he had me always listening to a lot of New York up north music. Redman, Jay-Z of course, Nas. I can’t say they’re my favorites but I always had that in my head as influences, so it’s definitely in me. My favorite person influence-wise after DMX is Lil Wayne, for sure. Lil Wayne the GOAT, my favorite rapper of all-time. I gotta put Bob Marley in there, that’s one of my favorites.
On another note, people like Muhammad Ali were a big inspiration. I look at him because he’s an entertainer, but also a revolutionary. He stood for something, so that’s another person I look at as a big influence. I’m a lot like him: I’m an entertainer, but it’s also about the movement for me.
AllHipHop: At what point did you realize you could do music for a living?
ISSA: I always did, it was never a point where it clicked. When I was 8 or 9 years old, my dad had me rapping. I always felt like I could do it. He used to write all my raps. When I turned 12 years old, I started writing for myself. I’d developed such a skill for it. My dad had me looking in encyclopedias, looking up words in the dictionary at a young age so I had a natural skill for putting words together. I’ve been doing it forever, it’s my calling.
AllHipHop: “Always” with Jacquees out now, how are you feeling?
ISSA: I’m feeling good, we hit a million views. It’s a blessing. The video’s going great, the feedback has been great. Next step, we’re about to go to the radio with it. It’s time to push it to the radio, We got surprises on the way too, a whole lot of things coming. I’m working like crazy this month especially now that we got the momentum. We got the people, the eyes turning back towards me so it’s time to get working. I got a lot of more music coming.
“Always” is a record I had almost a year and a half now. Since then, I’ve made so much music I gotta get off my chest. I told myself this year, I’m not holding onto music. The last 2 years, I’ve been waiting for the right time feeling “oh I don’t want to put it out and let it go to waste, nobody hears it.” This year, I’m not doing that. I’m putting it out there ‘cause it’s not doing me no good. I got a lot of music about to drop, I’m dropping 3 projects this year.
AllHipHop: Bring us back to that studio session for “Always.”
ISSA: I remember I was in there with my guy SK, big shoutout to SK. He’s a superproducer, did stuff with Jacquees and a whole lot of other big artists. He gave me these beats, he set up the session too. I got a lot of love for SK, he set up the session for me to come. I pulled up to his spot, those were some of the first beats he played. I did that and another record in the same night. “Always” came and that sample hit me. I love soul, love listening to old soul music. Soul samples, all them Kanye samples, that’s the stuff I love to rap on. I went straight in the booth, I didn’t even write the record. I went straight in and started going in on it, I caught a vibe to it.
Jacquees heard the song a few months later, when I only had the first verse and hook. When he heard the record, he fell in love with the song. He didn’t even get on it, he didn’t get on it for a good 6 months, but he’d always play it. I’d be around and he’d play the song with an empty verse on it. Eventually he said “man I’m getting on this record.” He jumped on it, he just loved the song. It was already put together before he got on it but of course, he put the icing on it and made it even better. We shot the video, I wrote the concept for the video. I wanted to capitalize off the King of R&B thing. I wanted people to see him in that light, let them know that’s how we’re coming and that’s what it is. We painted that whole picture, it came out great. It came out beautiful.
AllHipHop: The video is so vibrant, best memory from that shoot?
ISSA: The whole day was a vibe, we’re vibing. We had a good time on set, all the energy was good. The director was great to work with. He had a real dope eye, that vision. I’m used to having to do a lot of things on set: having to direct, tell people what to do. This time I was able to be in full artist mode and do what I do, that’s the best feeling. I was putting my clothes on, they tell me when I need to get on set, what scene I need to do here. I did everything as a full artist rather than having I’m so used to having to do so many different things ‘cause I’ve been doing so many different things for so long. It felt like a relief. Shout out to the producer and director, they brought my vision to life.
AllHipHop: How did you & Jacquees link initially?
ISSA: We’re family, that’s my brother. We been linked up before all this stuff. Back before we’re 13 years old, been doing that since 13. We call each other cousins, folks don’t even need to know that s###. That’s my twin.
AllHipHop: What were you guys like at 13 years old?
ISSA: Man, we was goofy as hell. We were always laughing, always having fun. Life is serious now. We’re grown men now, it’s not as funny anymore. Back then, it was all fun. Even music was a lot of fun. We had our own little label, we’re the flyest n*ggas in high school. It was fun. Most of the time, I’m laughing. They had to separate us in our classes because we’re always so goofy. That’s how it was, being around us you’re gonna laugh. [laughs]
AllHipHop: What does it mean to be part of the FYB label group?
ISSA: FYB is great, that’s what we did. We started that when we’re 14 or 15 years old. It wasn’t a label at first, it was a movement. We’re a group of young n*ggas, young kids. We came out with FYB: Fresh Young Boys, Forever Your Brother.
AllHipHop: What is it you want fans to get from your story?
ISSA: That’s a good question. I want to tell my story and everything I went through, but with my music, I want to bring the best out of the listeners. I want it to raise your vibration. I want the music to affect your emotion, I want to raise your consciousness. I want to make you think, make you cry, make you happy, make you sad. I want to be a voice for my generation, that’s what I wanted to do. My story is my story but I want people to listen to my music, for them to find their purpose. My whole message to search for your purpose. We all have different purposes. I just happen to be a voice and a face, but we all do. God gave us all different skills, different talents. I want my influence, me as an artist, me as a person, to somehow help be a positive influence for this generation. We have enough negative, enough negative vibes and people leading us in a bad direction. I want to be something different. I want to be that one for this generation to tell the truth to the people, to my generation. Set a different type of example.
I’m going to give the ins and outs of my story, but mostly I want to bring the greatness out of my listeners. I want my music to affect my listeners. My purpose: I’m a voice, I’m an inspirer, I’m a leader. With my artistry and platform, I’m going to lead. We don’t have any leaders for my culture or generation leading us in the direction we need to be led in. That’s mostly what I represent, I can’t say that enough. More than a rapper or musician, I want to be an influencer and a voice. I want my music to affect people emotionally: make you sad, make you happy, make you think. I want it to affect you in some form of fashion.
AllHipHop: One thing you want fans to get from Summer Falls Reloaded?
ISSA: I want people to get the new vibes, wrap it up that I’m coming with new music. I want people to hear my story, to feel the vibes. I don’t want you to listen to the music and love it. I want you to at least love something on the album. If you walk away from the album in love with one song, then I’m satisfied. I’m happy. Nah I ain’t satisfied, I want you to love all the music. Everything I do, I put all my whole soul into it.
AllHipHop: 3 things you need in the studio?
ISSA: Some hot tea, an iPhone charger ‘cause my phone always be dead, and a good engineer. I need my engineer to be good and on point ‘cause I’m real funny about my sound and my voice.
AllHipHop: What would you be doing if you weren’t doing music?
ISSA: I’d probably be a full-time revolutionary. I might be a professor or a historian. I love history. I watch history channels, I read, I’m so in love with history. I could’ve been a historian. I could’ve been a philosopher as well, I love to speak and talk philosophy.
AllHipHop: How’s fatherhood? Your daughter just turned 9 right?
ISSA: Fatherhood is awesome. It’s great, it’s not easy though. It’s a blessing. Fatherhood has turned me into a man, fatherhood made me responsible. It made me as great as I am, held me responsible and accountable. For me myself and as a leader of my household of my home ‘cause I have people following me. I have a bunch of children that’s following me, as well as my wife. Fatherhood is great.
AllHipHop: Goals yourself as an artist at this point of your career?
ISSA: Yeah, I’m going Diamond. [laughs] I want to go Diamond, more than that. We need Diamond records. We need a lot of hit records, a lot of Platinum and Diamond albums. I’m not putting out more than 7 albums. I’m putting out an album every year starting next year, 2022 would probably be my debut. I’ll be huge by then. After that, I’ma drop an album every year for 4 years straight. A bunch of singles, bunch of hits, travelling the world. I want to hit the 4 corners. My goal is to gather all my people up, the ones who have ears to hear and eyes to see.
AllHipHop: Top 5 artists in rotation?
ISSA: Bob Marley, Lauryn Hill, Lil Wayne. Man I gotta put a soul singer, I’m trying to think of my favorite soul singer,. Sam Cooke or James Brown, somebody from the soul days. I love that, that’s my favorite music. Robert Johnson, he’s the one who created the blues. He’s one of the originators of blues music. His music went on to be the first strings rock and roll would play from, what he created. He’s a guitarist and a blues singer.
AllHipHop: Anyone you wanna collaborate with?
ISSA: I wanna collab with Erykah Badu. I wanna collab with all the rappers: Drake, J. Cole, Wale, Big Sean, all of them. All the GOATs of course, all those people.
AllHipHop: Anything else you want to let us know?
ISSA: Be looking out for the music. Get up to date with it, get on it now or you’re going to be late. I appreciate you for tuning in.