by Minister of Information JR Valrey, SF Bay View Oakland Bureau
There are rappers, game-spitters, storytellers and lyricists, and Oakland rapper Jelane Dugan fits into a couple of those categories, as hip hop fans will see if they check him out on his recently released debut album, “Kelly Made Me Do It.” In this era of mumble rap, on his new album, he rhymes in a phonetically clear manner, like he wants you to understand his every word.
The album is built around the theme of him losing a lifelong friend that he also made music with. The theme reminded me of the 1991 Oakland hip hop classic, Del the Funkee Homosapien’s debut album, “I Wish My Brother George Was Here.” As the late, revolutionary historian John Henrik Clarke used to say, “there is nothing new under the sun.”
Even hip hop trends fade, and decades later they come back to life, so I’m excited about how the next generation of rappers and wordsmiths remixes the rhyme patterns, cadences and clear vocal intonations of past rappers and builds on their legacy. There would be no Lil Durk or NBA YoungBoy without 2Pac and Scarface, and there would be no Pac and Scarface without Rakim, Chuck D and LL Cool J, so the circle remains unbroken.
As a younger cousin of the leader of X.O. aka Jmoe of the Oakland rap group Under Surveillance, Jelane was introduced to the Bay Area rap scene when it was in its toddler years, so he is definitely someone like the rapper Future, breaking out from under the shadows of his mentors, the Goodie Mob and Outkast, to make his own name. Check out what Jelane Dugan has to say about his new album, his career and missing his potna.
JR Valrey: How long have you been a recording artist, and what inspired you to get into the game?
Jelane Dugan: I recorded my first song in sixth grade, 2003, when I was 12, for the Shine CD. It was a school funded project album with all middle school talent run by our teacher, MC, and instructor David Maduli at Chipman Middle School – it doesn’t exist anymore – and I actually recorded more than five songs with various features and appearances including playing live music and instruments. We followed that up with “Shine 3” and then kinda blew up in high school off of “Go.” Me and my homies made “Fuck Vans” and some other hits.
JR Valrey: Who were some of the artists that inspired you? Why?
Jelane Dugan: My cousin J Moe is the first rapper with his own CD, “Under Surveillance,” that let me see ownership through rap was possible. My family was always big on music, down to mom and pops and my sister. I have played drums in church since I was three, so music and performing is in my blood.
Even though he is no longer with us, the joy I felt when having fun around Kelly can be enjoyed, everyday, through music and his memory.
I was influenced by a lot of artists, but my go to is Pac, because he speaks from my Oakland perspective, a lot. He provided eyes to see the world through, as a youngin. Ludacris, because of his creativity and energy. Also 50 Cent, for his hustle and strength in itself. Also the whole Aftermath really for those reasons also.
E40 is dipped in sauce and paid the cost to be the boss. He is the GOAT – greatest of all time – you feel me, the greatest hustler of all time, in rap. I look up to him. Jermaine Dupri and Puffy, because they really know how to party. Kanye, because he’s a creator and he creates good music. But there’s more to us both, than just bars or beats. These are just to name a few.
JR Valrey: Can you talk a little bit about this new album that you released? What’s the name of it? Why did you name it that?
Jelane Dugan: I wanted to show the impact that my brother Kelly Portis had, on the joy of making music. Since I was 12 I have been having fun making music with Kelly, Aldrin, Adam and Thomas, my life long friends. We rapped in studios, in schools, streets and at our houses. I wanted to show that even though he is no longer with us, the joy I felt when having fun around Kelly can be enjoyed, everyday, through music and his memory.
My new album is named “Kelly Made Me Do It.” It’s a double entendre which means it is open to two interpretations. On one hand, my friend Kelly Portis, who we lost in 2020, may he rest in peace, made me do great things by pushing me to be great and building with me on a daily basis.
“Kelly Made Me Do It” is available to stream on all platforms. Buy it today!
It’s real, when you work on as many things around someone as much as we did, you get better. Iron sharpens iron. But on the other hand, no one can really make you do anything. It’s up to you to make things happen, and it’s up to you to listen to the people who are giving you good advice.
So, Kelly made me feel great about things that we had learned, seen and understood, which gave me confidence to do a lot of things. In essence, “Kelly Made Me Do It” acknowledges Kelly’s impact on music and much more.
JR Valrey: What is your creative process like? Do you work on music everyday or when you’re inspired?
Jelane Dugan: I have the ability to get to my creative process when I need to. So no, not every day, but as often as possible. My creative process is DOE, go “Dumb On Everything.” Capitalize on all opportunities, especially if I’m in the studio and a hit is on the line. Like Beeda Weeda says, “Mack the situation, and Mobb on the opportunity.”
I mark down what hits me, when it hits me. Sometimes I will lock myself in the dungeon and cram until I have something I like. I try to capitalize on all catalysts of inspiration. And I always have something in the verbal clip.
JR Valrey: What kind of production do you like behind your rhymes? Why?
Jelane Dugan: I like in-pocket beats. I’m a drummer, so I like good drums. But I also like amazing sounds, electronically engineered sounds. And I appreciate music, vocals and instruments. So, cadence and arrangement is important. Less is more, so I like simple production unless I’m dealing with a certain level of talent.
Production gotta be a certain level for me to record on it and call it my song. But I’ll rap over anything and flame it. Lyrically, “it’s free smoke” over here. I got a hunnid kung fu rap styles that I can use.
JR Valrey: In the era of auto-tune and mumble rap, you vocalize very clearly, why?
Jelane Dugan: I’m an actual rapper. I grew up rapping in the Bay Area rap battles and winning. I like when the crowd can hear what I’m saying, and can catch my flow. No matter what you are mentally on at the moment, if I’m rapping or singing on a song I made it for you to hear and listen to what I’m saying. Go on this ride with me. Plus I have been told I sound good, so I use what I got.
JR Valrey: I know that over the last few years your family has taken a number of losses. How has the grief affected your music?
Jelane Dugan: My family has taken a lot of losses. Music has become a place to express the good things about those that I’ve lost. And I can live a part of life they knew and loved. Shit, I love it too. They enjoyed my music. I know they would want me to be doing my best and doing what I love. I love making music.
JR Valrey: How do you plan to promote your album?
Jelane Dugan: I am looking to work with people on exactly that. I plan on acquiring more placements and appearances for the album, as well as the songs and myself. Coming up, I’ll be performing at the Poncho Brotherz Dispensary grand opening on Cesar Chavez St. in San Francisco to promote the album. Also, interviews like this with JR and the SF Bay View Newspaper and Black New World Media to spread the word about my new album “Kelly Made Me Do It.”
JR Valrey: Where can people find your album, as well as keep up with you?
Jelane Dugan: To buy my album you can go to iTunes, Apple Music, Spotify, Tidal, Pandora or almost everywhere you stream music. Just type in “Jelane Dugan” or “Kelly Made Me Do It.”
I will also have CDs pressed, so you can buy my album when you see me and you can get a personal message written by me on it, if you want. Follow @godumonevrythng and @whoakou on Instagram and google Digital Orbit Ent. to leave a review, purchase our products or get informed.
JR Valrey, journalist, author, filmmaker and founder of Black New World Media, heads the SF Bay View’s Oakland Bureau and is founder of his latest project, the Ministry of Information Podcast. He can be reached at email@example.com, on Facebook and on Instagram @ministryof411podcast. Visit www.BlackNewWorldMedia.com to read more.