JayBee Lamahj Brings The PHONK to Bittersweet LP Nostalgie Supreme

JayBee Lamahj serves up the bittersweet taste of nostalgia on his third studio album, Nostalgie Supreme. Using dreamlike and jazz-tinged production – courtesy of his PHONK bandmates Amari Emàn, Roberto, and others – the rapper thoughtfully and effectively captures his past, while offering a hopeful, triumphant gaze into his future.

“From this project, I want people to take away just an appreciation of their life,” Lamahj says over the phone. “Also, in regard to what’s been going on in the world right now, just an accountability and respect for life and our relationships.”

From the album’s invigorating opener, “WAKE UP,” to the reflective anchor track, “All Growed Up,” Lamahj explores themes of self-growth, love, and childhood. After listening, he says he hopes fans will be inspired to reconnect with their “inner child” and rediscover “the things that brought them happiness when they were small.”

“I want people to be proud of how far they’ve come and be proud of how far they’re willing to go [to get to] where they wanna be,” he adds. “I want people to hopefully feel happy about where they’re heading, because I do. That’s kind of what this album is celebrating; it’s just the growth that comes with life, the loss that comes with life, and the love that comes with life.”

Lamahj’s self-growth, childhood, and future were clearly on his mind two years ago, when he and Emàn began recording Nostalgie Supreme. However, the album’s themes mean even more to him today, as next month the rapper and his partner will welcome their first child together.

“In the midst of [making] this album, me and my lady lost a child, so there’s a little bit of talk about that [on the record],” he says. “There’s also lines like, ‘Nostalgia got me missing things I probably won’t feel ’til I have a mini-me.’ That’s the opening line of the outro [song], and I recorded that last summer. And here we are now; my album’s dropping like a month before my first-born. So, it’s cool to see my words catch up to me.”

JayBee Lamahj
Photo by Mandy Di Salvo

Besides Emàn and Roberto, Nostalgie Supreme also features several other local talents, including Joness and NTRL WNDRS on the breezy “Braids In Da Summa,” Perez on “Deep End,” F.A.M.E. and Phonz on “Angels,” The PHONK on the “BluuMile Interlude,” and Paris and F.A.M.E. on “3Ls.”

“There’s a lot of special people on the album,” Lamahj noted. 

Earlier this month, Lamahj also released his music video for album cut “Can’t Tell.” Directed by Cincinnati-based NTNK Productions, the clip finds the rapper starring as a funky substitute teacher. 

Nostalgie Supreme follows Lamahj’s 2017 debut, Yllwbrkrd, and his sophomore effort, 2018’s Phonk Phoever. In the meantime, Lamahj kept fans fed this year with his Nostalgie Prelude Deluxe Edition – an offering of loosies that he made during the Nostalgie Supreme recording sessions. 

“It’s a taste of what was being made in the process,” he explains. “You know, we created a lot of music, besides just the album.”

Now that Nostalgie Supreme is here, Lamahj can’t wait to perform it. The rapper and his band, The PHONK, were able to play the album all the way through at Nostalgia Wine over the weekend, marking the group’s first in-person performance since February.

“I’ve been dying to get back out there!” he exclaims. “I’ve been missing performing. As soon as we’re able to perform again, we’re gonna be out there like six days a week.” 

Follow JayBee Lamahj and The PHONK on Instagram for ongoing updates.

PLAYING CINCY: Jay Hill, JayBee Lamahj & Ronin Halloway Collide on “Babs Forever”

Babs Forever

Ronin Halloway, JayBee Lamahj, and Patterns of Chaos alum Jay Hill teamed up on a high-energy single and video called “Babs Forever.” The three Cincinnati emcees spit bars at a fiery pace while maintaining their lyricism over the cascading SmokeFace-produced beat.

The video, directed by Bradley Thompson, matches the rappers’ energy with colorful lighting, quick cuts, and dizzying effects.

“Working with this lineup is definitely a dream-team scenario,” says Ronin. “Me and JayBee had been talking about getting a track with Jay Hill all the way since last year, so it’s super dope to have one with all of us out in the world.”

Babs Forever
“Babs Forever” cover art by Paul Kellam

“I think it’s a crazy song with three unique verses. Everybody snapped,” he continued. “I definitely hope to keep making songs with all three of us in the future. It’s an exciting moment – those guys inspire me a lot, and it’s crazy to think how much room we all have to grow from here.”

For Ronin, “Babs Forever” follows up his Smokeface-collaborated Pressure EP, which arrived earlier this year. The single comes in a series of musical output for JayBee, who previously released “Angels (Bron Bron),” featuring F.A.M.E. and Phonz, and appeared on Ronin’s The Icarus Trilogy. Jay Hill most recently hopped on Khari’s “Da Art Of Ignorance” remix and dropped his “40% Of Cops” freestyle. His group, Patterns of Chaos, released their debut EP, Freedom, last year.

“They’re two of the artists I admire most in the city and the collab itself was a long time coming,” Jay Hill says of the track, calling the collab “the first of many.”

“I love how none of us really discussed a topic for the song, yet all of us were able to tap into the same well of energy and deliver something this cathartic,” he said. “Shooting the video was a really fun time too, I couldn’t be happier about how it all went. We spent every moment between takes—sometimes during takes—joking around with each other and Bradley, and y’all see the result: three grown-ass kids making hard ass rap music.”

Check out Jay Hill, JayBee Lamahj, and Ronin Halloway’s new single and video, “Babs Forever,” below.

PLAYING CINCY: Ronin Halloway Soars for the Sun with Icarus EP

Photo by Bradley Thompson

For the past year, Ronin Halloway has been hard at work on The Icarus Trilogy. Released a few weeks ago, the EP is a musical collaboration with JayBee Lamahj, with a visual component directed by Bradley Thompson. Icarus takes listeners through a journey of growth, power, and spirituality, all while giving Ronin and Jay a chance to flex their rapping skills as well as their creativity. Here, Ronin talks about how addiction and sobriety played a part in the themes of this project and how they’ve impacted his upcoming album, Pressure, due in June.

AF: When you were first planning The Icarus Trilogy were you planning it to be an EP or an album?

RH: I think we both always thought it’d be shorter. Especially toward the summertime when we realized we have this song and that song, and maybe one or two more.

AF: And you have an album coming out, too?

RH: The album is my solo album, entirely produced by SmokeFace, and that’s coming out in June. It’s actually four years old. It’s taken a lot. It’s only six songs long, now, but in the same way we did Icarus, it’s gonna be a very visual album. Lots of fantasy stuff. I’m a very David Bowie-inspired artist, I love theatrical stuff, and even making stories that people might not get yet.

AF: What made you name your EP The Icarus Trilogy?

RH: There’s definitely the mythology thing and the title track is called “Icarus.” It kind of teases at the stories I’m going to tell. Of course, the story of Icarus is he made wings from wax and he wanted to touch the sun and his wings melted. The chorus of that song is “Don’t’ fly too high you might end up burning” and really what’s interesting, too, is a common message throughout my music has been my journey with addiction and what that’s been in my life, what self-medication means. Especially now – I’ve started a journey of sobriety – I can look back through a different lens. “Icarus” touches a little bit on getting older, the uses of substances and trying to cope with the world around you. Then “Elijah,” the second song, is a song about being powerful—that was like the flex track—just rapping as aggressively as we both could. And then “Paul” is probably both our favorite song. It’s a very spiritual song, just kind of summing things up like, “Okay, we’re gonna move forward and grab life by the horns.”

AF: Will some of those same themes be expanded or explored in your upcoming solo album?

RH: Pressure – that’s the title of the album – is really dark. It’s very dark, almost industrial sounding, so I think people will get the Danny Brown influence, Run the Jewels influence, maybe even a little Death Grips. What’s gonna be cool and kind of important will be to try to portray it within the context of everything. The videos kind of inform and give you some of the themes I’m talking about. It’s gonna be cool. Moving forward from that I’ll be starting to explore still the intensity of stuff, but also my more whimsical side. It’s definitely a dark record. It’s definitely very vice-driven. But I think people will see, especially with the visuals, [I’m] not speaking on drinking to glorify it, [I’m] reflecting, and not necessarily in a sense of regret but just realizing the gravity of it. SmokeFace and myself decided to step into sobriety together. In the days we started working together it was a ton of partying, so it’s very interesting to now be in a space where we’re looking back on that in a different lens.

AF: For sure, and since the album comes from different times in your life, it’ll have different levels. What’s coming up after that?

RH: So my song “Fruit Fly!” was produced by my good friend Seventeen. We are working on something that’s gonna be like 2020 stuff, but like his sound—he’s like Metro [Boomin] beats, like Southside even. So I’m really excited to work on my melodic side, to work on my catchiness, while still being me and having room to lyrically chop it up.

AF: Who are some of your inspirations?

RH: Kendrick is huge obviously. But I always tell people my favorite emcee is Jay Electronica. He’s my favorite. When Jay raps he doesn’t do a lot of adlibs, his voice is so deep, he’s like a wizard [laughs].

AF: How did you get started rapping?

RH: I grew up as a musician, playing piano. I kind of stumbled into this, meeting people who were really good at freestyling. Then I wanted to get good at it, but it was still kind of a hobby. And then I started writing and it just snowballed, and now it’s my life.

Catch Ronin Halloway’s next performance at the Live on Short Vine Music Festival Saturday, April 6th.