Ask around on social media or ask music fans about the best rapper most people haven’t heard of yet, and one name gets mentioned again and again: Lavell Jones.
Jones has released two mixtapes, “No More Shenanigans” and “Searching…,” both a glimpse at this young El Paso talent’s lyrical ability and musicianship. But on his first proper album, “Memento,” released in July, all that potential becomes a reality. As a standout member of El Paso hip-hop collective Rare Individuals, “Memento” blends Jones’ inventive flow with soulful beats and personal storytelling.
The album is available to stream on Apple Music, Spotify and other online services.
Q: Is there an overall concept or theme behind your album?
For now, I haven’t really given the theme away. I’ve let people take it for their own interpretation, whatever feelings and connections they get from it. I will say, however, it is very nostalgic and each song is meant to make you feel. It’s almost as if each song is a memory.
Q: How long have you been playing piano, and how does that influence your rhyming?
I was always very intrigued by the piano, it was my favorite instrument even before I learned how to play it. Long story short, I won the piano in a raffle at a concert when I was about 13 years old, and I literally taught myself how to play the piano. I would fall asleep on that thing some nights. As far as rhyming over a beat, I would actually attribute that to being a drummer, knowing the cadences to choose. I view myself as another instrument on a song. I don’t want to interrupt anything going on, I just gotta find the pocket and ride that.
Q: There’s been a lot of talk on social media about you being the best rapper in El Paso. Rap is a competitive genre. What are your thoughts on that?
I too have seen this chat going around the city. I mean, I’ve always expressed that I am a lyricist first and foremost, so people who listen to lyrics can see I really think out each and every line I put into a song. As far as being the best, I said a line in a song on the album called “Gold.” I say, “I don’t get gassed, I don’t get gassed up.” Meaning, I don’t get tired, but also I don’t get too high on the wins and compliments. Also, I don’t get too down on myself when it’s the opposite. I try to stay pretty even keeled. I’m very focused, and right now I have too much tunnel vision to really get caught up in all that.
Q: El Paso hip-hop has come a long way as far as being accepted by the local music scene. You see a lot more hip-hop shows at clubs. What has your experience been performing local gigs?
Being an artist in this city is a roller coaster, but I’ve enjoyed it. The culture of the music, in general, not just hip-hop, has really grown. I personally don’t view myself as a “rapper” per say – just an artist, a musician. I love all types of music; hip-hop isn’t my only love, by far. I love performing. It really is therapy for me, a kind of release if you will. Anyone who has seen me perform knows that. I love seeing the crowds’ faces when they realize, “Oh, I actually like this.” That’s priceless.