Student Artist Spotlight: Lila Jai

Photo: Instagram @lilajai

By: Chassee’ Palmer

21-year-old Los Angeles Native and rising artist Lila Jai is about to storm the Atlanta University Center and R&B world with her new single “Tug of War.” Sitting down with her in Lower Manley, I heard about her upbringing in Music, life influences, and goals while experiencing her calming and enthusiastic personality.

Jai, a Senior Music major at Spelman College, recounts how she got her start in Music, saying, “I’ve always been doing Music. “I grew up in the church choir and was always doing plays and stuff.” Her household always had some new musical instrument around, and her parents emphasized Music by constantly listening to it. One can hear the church’s influence in her rich and powerful vocals, and she praises the church for making her step out of her comfort zone and learn how to harmonize and understand different techniques.

Since she was young, she always has been singing and yearning to play instruments. Her first one was the piano, and she begged her parents to get her lessons. When it comes to her influences, she thanks women in the industry. “I’ve always been inspired by women in the industry and women making boss moves and not needing men to boost their careers. The Beyonces’ and the Rihannas’”. Women of that stature have shown her that you can be a woman of many successful businesses.

The way we express ourselves can provide peace but also anxiety. Lila describes how at one point, collaborating was something she wasn’t fond of. In middle school, people wanted to join forces with her, but she did not know how. Lila recalls being private when it came to sharing her Music. However, recently she has loosened the reigns by letting people write for her and bounce ideas off others. “It’s better to do things in company.”

It’s also very nice to have other people to bounce ideas off or just give you honest opinions about stuff that you’re doing cause sometimes people will sugarcoat.” She has started to love the collaboration process because it opened her up to new ideas and techniques she may not have done on her own

College has always been in the plans for Lila Jai as long as Music was involved. “It helps that music is my major because I use my voice on a daily,” she says with a slight chuckle. She loves that it allows her to speak and learn with others with similar goals and talents.

When first arriving at Spelman, it was difficult balancing the different workloads. She kept pushing through and was able to find a great medium. Another obstacle she had to come past was rediscovering her voice.

She sang classically daily, so her R&B sound was slowly fading away. It was frustrating initially, but she found a way to make it work. Isolating herself or putting time away just for Music helped to push her craft. The college experience also aided her songwriting by having situations to always pull from and helped her view the world in a more artistic way.

Lila’s newest single, “Tug of War,” was crafted through a pilot program called the Runway Academy taught by two Morehouse College professors, Grammy-nominated producer Justin “Henny” Henderson and Producer and Musician Kennard Garret. They did this by providing resources to nurture and cultivate students’ artistic abilities in a way the school may not but the industry could.

The song is a love story of mind and heart and has layers within the vocals and beat itself that emphasize that story and the duality of the two. She praises her fellow Spelman Sister, Senior Music major Avery Berkley, who inspired the beat. They had a conversation about how college influences life and how the Music she makes through the Academy will be about her time at Spelman.

When introduced to the Top Lining process, she heard the melody first and said the words that came to her almost naturally. “In this particular song, I’m talking about a relationship that I don’t think is good for me, but it feels good. Just trying to figure out what’s the mature thing to do.” This song is one of the truest to her; through the process, she learned more about herself and her boundaries of when to say no.

Lila’s introduction to the industry has made her have a strong love for it, but she wants to make some changes. She loves how there are so many talented voices, but sometimes you may not hear from them. The competitive energy overrides the need to collaborate and share each other’s talents. She emphasizes that there is room for everyone in many ways, especially regarding women.

During the summer, she started diving into her Music. She found albums she had never heard of and was stunned by her musicality and described it as “out of this world.” Since collaboration is a concept she isn’t scared of, Jai wishes she could have collaborated with the late Minnie Riperton. She appreciates Riperton’s musical ear and creativity. She only hopes to reach that same level of strong vocalist and musical mind with her musical journey.

The vocal powerhouse Lila Jai has much in store with an upcoming project through the Runway Academy, visuals for the new single, and so much more. To keep up with her, Music can be streamed on all platforms, and to keep up with her on a daily follow her on Instagram @lilajai.

Copy Edited by Kevin Williams