Context, Creation, Come Up: Kiiren Jackson ’24
In this edition of 3 C’s, Kobe Thompson ’24 sits down with rapper Kiiren Jackson ’24 to discuss an upcoming project that’s been years in the making.
“I think that it’s my diary. I can’t lie. I am making it for myself.”
For this edition of “Context, Creation, Come Up,” I spoke with Kiiren Jackson ’24 about the “Context” of his rap career, how he’s grown with the “Creation” of his latest album, “Second Semester,” and some information about his new projects that are on the “Come Up.” You can find Jackson performing anywhere there’s a microphone, and you can listen to his discography on all streaming platforms.
Q: So, we’re looking at “Kiiren Aamer,” “Kiiren Jackson,” “Kiiren the Great.” Tell us about your names.
A: My name is Kiiren Aamer, like in real life. When I originally started rapping I had some wack [names]. I had K-Jax. I had Ace of Spades. I was trying to rep Green Dragon … I learned how to rap from listening to Wu-Tang [Clan], And it’s Pretty Tony, it’s Ghostface, it’s Ghost-Dini, it’s everything. Now I gotta embody this. Until I was like, “Man, these are wack. I'm gonna find a better one.” I listened to Kendrick [Lamar] and then he told me to stop having my head up the 90s ass — so I was like, “Oh, that Dot thing is cool.” … That’s how we got Double-Dot, which I was going for for mad long. I thought that was gonna be my shit. Then some dude that rapped worse than me was like, “Yo, Double-Dot? Like, I get the name, but like, can you imagine anybody saying ‘Damn, did you hear that new Double-Dot?’” Shit. I can’t. So I was debating the name change for so long, and I didn’t know what I was going to do. Until I finally got to Kiiren Aamer. Just go by my real name, right? I don’t have to be Kiiren Jackson or whatever … So right now we're at Kiiren Aamer. I can hear someone going “Oh, you hear that Kiiren Aamer?”
That’s how we got here: Kiiren Aamer — “Kiiren” means “dark hair, dark skin.” My mom was really in her Black bag when she named me. And “Aamer” means “prince,” so I really thought I was gonna play with that stuff too. I was gonna be “Prince Aamer,” “Prince Prince,” the next “Black Kiiren.”
Q: What are some of your influences?
A: It’s everybody that I’ve listened to. I’m so bad at finding new music that when I’m listening to an artist, like I'm [really] listening to them. They really become a part of what I do. Wu-Tang, of course. I wasn’t even up on rap for real until my mom showed me “Protect Ya Neck” and I was like, “Whoa, this is my shit.” I was listening to literally every album from that ’93 to that ’97 stretch. And Nas, being from Queens just to know I’ve been by Queensbridge like, OD in my life. I see it every time I’m going somewhere. He just stays with me, you know what I mean? So, Wu-Tang, Nas, [MF] DOOM…
Q: Do you feel like you’re reborn again, that this is also a debut album?
A: It feels like a debut album in the way that I can stand on everything I put into this album. There [are] some things that I wish I did better, even on this work — but it does feel like a reinvention because I feel like I actually did a good job. [My] original [first album], the original first first, it’s like the black sheep of all my work, “Simply Logic” on my SoundCloud. Some people really like it. It’s very much the last project of an era of me. I did that, and I was like, “No, I have to make something better.” So I started working on this Kiiren Aamer project.
It’s weird because, in a way, “Second Semester” is younger than this one — I knew I was gonna do this. “Second Semester” on its own was something different. It was Covid, and I was planning this but was like, “No, I just need something to write and put it on a beat and to let it out. I just need to drop it.” So “Second Semester” was born out of this surge of creativity. I have these spells where I'm just writing mad songs. That’s what “Second Semester” came for and out of, and I appreciate that. But this one is new because it’s meticulously put together. It's crafted in this specific way. That’s how you have to cut like 13 or 14 songs, these are just not going to come out. They’re not good enough. They’re just in the trash because they’re not good enough. This was my first time working and doing that specifically, and it’s a hard process. That’s why it took so long because it’s just been constantly trying to make it the best that it can be.
Q: I want to talk about the way that your background is incorporated into what you’re releasing.
A: I think that when I was learning how to rap so much I wanted to be Wu-Tang so bad. I feel like in a way I just wasn’t being me. I was going based on what I heard and what I liked. And it’s middle school, at a time where no one is really themselves. I want to be myself as much as I can all the time. I want to look and be like, “If I did this, I stand on it.” That’s who I am. In my music I have to do the same thing. I can’t rap about shit that I don’t know about. I can’t jack shit that I’m not from, I can't do that. I have to be authentic. I have to be real. Especially because I don’t know, I don’t think people care actually. Like on “Blue and Green” that’s the topic of the whole song … I know that I have to unapologetically be myself and jack everything that I’m from, and what I do, and what I like. It’s hard in a way. Because sometimes you just want to rap about doing BS or whatever. But I think that it’s my diary. I can’t lie. I am making it for myself.
Q: Tell us a little bit about your writing process in general, and how that applies to Kiiren Aamer, both as an artist and as an album.
A: I’m a listener to rap, first. You know what I mean? I’m a fan before anything else. I’ll listen to music like, “I love this.” It makes me want to create, and it’s inspiring. I’ll end up writing on top of those. The first album I ever wrote in the summer before eighth grade, every song could have gone on top of another song. My writing process always starts there. I’m listening. I just know that the song makes me want to write. So I’m writing that way. I’m trying to think how that goes into this specific album and project. But it’s hard because I’ve sat with this project for so long, this iteration has been like this for a year at least … In terms of the actual writing process, it literally just comes from my head. It comes from me, and I put it out there. It is what it is.
Q: What other stuff could we listen to and what are the projects that you have made?
A: Definitely keep listening to this and streaming this. I really need to get this out because this is something that you can actually listen to. It doesn't necessarily have to be a "Let me listen to my friend." It could just be like, “Yo, it's just fire!” … But while you’re digesting this, listen to “It’s Raining in LA.” I feel like that project is sadder. I wrote it in a grieving place but it’s 30 minutes of just cohesiveness and chillness and good wordplay. There’s that. “DGE.” I made that one with my best friend, my brother Nas. He produced every track on it. It’s another little EP. “ASILAH” is good. I think that there are some good songs on that, so listen to it. And catch me if I'm performing on campus.
Q: I want to talk about what's to come for Kiiren Aamer. What is next? You were in Album mode, are we still in Album mode? Mixtape mode? “Let's Relax” mode?
A: It’s a problem that I'm in “Let's Relax” mode. This side is the “Jackson Side” because I get my last name from my dad, Antoine Jackson. In a way it's me. But I grew up with my mom. This side, it's me rapping, it's me presenting myself at surface level. I don't want to do anything super deep and chill. There's going to be two sides with the same cover. [For] the first [side], the cover was going to be warm tones, completely. The “Carter Side” was going to be completely cool tones. And the best way to [describe] it is slower, not as many features. I don't know how the skits are going to manifest ... It’s going to be more introspective, slower, calmer and a bit more recent. Anything that's coming from [The Carter] side is this year, pretty much, or last year. The job is to record and really start that mixing process so that I can get something to y'all reasonably.
Q: I want to make sure people know where to find this stuff.
A: Everywhere. Literally everywhere. It’s a sound on TikTok, I promise. I used the new service, DistroKid. So it’s on everything. YouTube, Apple Music, Spotify, Deezer, everything. “Second Semester” is also everywhere under Double Dot. The best thing to do is to just go on Instagram type in K-I-I-R-E-N — that Linktree has everything.
Q: Where can we expect to find you performing this stuff?
A: Probably Coffee Haus, Harlem Renaissance. If we do Black Art Matters then Black Art Matters … We gonna try to be at Coffee Haus to try to be at Valcony, stuff like that.
Q: Do you have anything else you want to plug?
A: If you’re at Amherst, man, listen to Stanley [Jackson ’22]. Sik. Oh my gosh. I think on Instagram it’s the Sikmatic? He’s on this project twice. Man, he’s amazing. He’s such a good rapper. Like, I love finding people that I can listen to. Shout out to everyone on New Kids. Akilla — he’s on second semester. He’s great. Lando Love. He's on this project. He did his thing. A Swazi. It’s just heads, but anybody that I’m connected to. Literally anybody you’ve seen featured on my stuff listen to.