Rapper/producer Jai Nitai Lotus grips the reins on this edition of WIB meets. You already know we going in neck deep with this one. Sit back, relax and well read on.
For the benefit of anyone who’s been living in an underground bunker for the last ten years…who on earth are you?
My given name is Jai Nitai Chandra Das. I’m anMC, Producer, son, brother, husband, father and motivator. My artist name is Jai Nitai Lotus. I’ve been making raw, honest, experimental hip hop music for over 15 years.
How did you get started in music, and what drives you to continue?
Music has always been apart of my life. My father is a multi-instrumentalist who gave up band life in the mid-70’s. From that point on, he used music only for spiritual practice. So I was exposed to music with a strong spiritual purpose. I received a drum set at the age of eleven. Then, when Hip Hop came into my life at the age of 13…it just spoke to me and I’ve been obsessed with creating it ever since. First I started with rhyming, then shortly after started producing. Creating music is just apart of me … my heart, my expression, a flow of thoughts, sounds and vibrations.
Besides music, what other activities do you participate in?
For the last couple years I got more actively involved in videography. I’ve always been visual in the way I perceive music, so it felt very natural for me to pick up that form of expression as well. I enjoy it, especially in combination with good music and creative, emotional ideas. The vision just keeps getting bigger.
If a movie about your life in music was to be made, what interesting/strange moments and stories would you share to make the movie cool?
I would share with them part of my story because to understand what makes the music one has to understand what makes the man:
I grew up with real strong Eastern spirituality in my family. We moved around a lot as kids…so a lot of new school type situations. I became somewhat rebellious as a teen, hanging around with a lot people who came from different circumstances. One group of friends, mostly white middle class teens who were looking to cause trouble and to be cool kind of thing. Then another group of friends who were mostly visible minorities dealing with low income surroundings, no father at home, racism, drugs and all types of things that tend to affect people living in poverty. I really got a taste of a lot of the dualities from both sides, and was thrown into a lot of intense situations. The spiritual awareness that my parents instilled in me, in combination with my rapid love for music in general and Hip Hop in particular, really prevented me from straying too far. As I grew musically and artistically, most of the people around me began to change because I had different goals and I started hanging around people with more focused interests. My music evolved from simply going to record stores, to rapping for people who would listen, to cyphers, to performing at the Montreal Jazz fest for thousands of people and to hopefully touring the world with music, and sharing experiences of struggle, empathy and hope.
Are there any interesting facts about you that hardly anyone else knows?
Not a lot of people know that my first MC name was JEDI. It was given to me by some cats I used to hang around… they were sorta playing off my given name Nitai. So it went from nickname to MC name.
What is the greatest thing about working in the music industry? And what would you change if you had the opportunity?
The music “industry” is pretty strange. Having a voice that’s heard is a pretty powerful thing. Being able to have impact on people’s lives and the way they feel is pretty amazing…That’s why I don’t take it lightly. I wish the music industry would be more based on talent rather than hype, and represent more balance in terms of messages.
Looking back, what have been the most important moments in your life so far?
Being present while my wife gave birth to our daughter at home with midwives…was really something out of this world…Women are so powerful. I always knew this growing up with a strong, loving mother and 3 sisters, but this just cemented these feelings. There is a saying that the closest thing to the Creator’s love is a Mother’s love of child. Now I get to see this everyday.
Hip Hop coming into my life in the form of rap music was life changing because I was really struggling with school, hanging around a lot of people doing some wild things. Like so many young teens I really felt insecure about all the things that made me different from everybody else. Hip Hop gave me a lot of confidence and really opened my mind up to creative possibilities. Eventually a lot of what I had feared to share with people then became the focal point of my artistry. It really changed my life.
What has been your biggest challenge…and how did you overcome it?
Life gives us so many challenges. I’ve been through a lot, like most of us have, but it would be hard not to implicate others in the big ones. I do express some of my big challenges in my music, if you listen closely. I’m learning that a lot of life’s dualities and suffering are hard to understand when you are in the heart of it. Music, spirituality and a strong family have always helped me through the many challenges life presents. As Bob Marley said, “Every man thinketh his burden is the heaviest. Who feels it, knows it Lord.”
Who are your heroes? Why do they rock your world?
My parents are my biggest heroes. They taught me by love and example. They give all they have to all their children unconditionally, and embrace all of our individual potential. Musically, I have many heroes. John and Alice Coltrane, for using their music for spiritual exploration and devotion. Yasiin Bey for being such an authentic Hip Hop artist. Georgia Anne Muldrow for giving me hope thru her music… there are too many to list :) Most of my heroes tend to be people who seem fearless with art, words and actions… using there talents to promote change in the mind and heart.
Who have been the coolest, most memorable people you’ve met along the way, and how did they make an impact on your life?
I’ve been blessed to work with a lot of cool, talented artists in many different ways. You can see them in my videos and hear them in my music, both live and recorded. I’ve learnt a lot from each of them, and continue to learn. I’m surrounded by people who are passionate, talented and focussed on their art and music, which fuels my inspiration.
When you’re sitting on the porch age 97 what would you like to look back on and smile having achieved?
I would be satisfied knowing I stayed true to my artistic integrity, being creative in my musical pursuits, while maintaining a message that would inspire people to do better for themselves and others. A good example as a father, husband and human being.
What has been your most memorable or inspirational gig and why?
I can’t say there is one gig in particular. Performing at the Montreal Jazz Festival last summer with my 9 piece live band was a very special moment. I used to go to the Jazz Fest when I was a kid, so performing in front of my whole family and thousands of others was like a dream that came to be realized.
Usually it’s certain songs at gigs that stand out. When your fully experiencing what you’re saying, and realizing that its even bigger than you. I had two great album launches; first with “Something You Feel,” then recently with “Acknowledgement.” Both had really incredible vibes, love and support.
What has been your strangest celebrity encounter?
I don’t think I’ve had one yet. A couple in my dreams but I can’t remember the details.
Who would be your ideal dinner guest, living or dead, and what would you serve them?
Alice Coltrane, I would serve her a fully vegetarian meal. I would make a special Shahi Paneer dish, served with Palak Aloo, and basmati rice with peas and cashews.
What are the greatest songs, albums, books, movies, TV shows, websites you’ve ever come across?
SONG: Bob Marley – “Rat Race”, Curtis Mayfield – “Makings of You”, Mos Def – “Boogie Man”, Erykah Badu – “The Healer”, Bill Evans – “Piece Peace”, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan – “Manaqib Al”, OutKast – “Spottieottiedopaliscious”…
ALBUMS: Voodoo, Like Water For Chocolate , Journey in Satchidananda, A Love Supreme, Fantastic Vol 2, Kind of Blue, 36 chambers, Seeds, Illmatic, Black Star, Call of the Valley, Mulatu Astatke: Ethiopiques Vol 4: Ethio Jazz & Musique, Kid A ….
BOOKS: Bhagavad Gita As It Is, Autobiography Of Malcolm X, the Alchemist, The Gospel of Hip Hop, Invisible Man…
MOVIES: Hero, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Grand Hotel Budapest, Moonsoon Wedding, Malcolm X, Dave Chappelle’s Block Party…
TV SHOWS: Fresh Prince of BelAir, Seinfeld, The Office (both UK + US), Arrested Development, Boondocks, Family Guy, Flight of The Concords…..
Name 5 songs (yours excluded) that we would expect to find on your iPod or Music Player
Jai Paul “Jasmine”, Frank Ocean “Pilot Jones”, Ian Kamau “Black Boys”, Mulatu Astake “Tezeta”, Jay Electronica “Eternal Sunshine”
What special-hero type skills are you blessed with?
Ability to read people’s intentions.
Where can everyone reading this interview keep up with your adventures?
Any final thoughts?
Hopefully we can learn to see other people’s struggles as our own, and help to create much-needed change in this world…Peace!