Sudanese rapper J.Mag on his early influences and collaborating with rising Chinese rap group Higher Brothers

Sudanese rapper J.Mag on his early influences and collaborating with rising Chinese rap group Higher Brothers

Growing up in the Middle East, he was the only kid rapping in English


J.Mag will be performing at Clockenflap later this month.
Photo: Kalnor

Sudanese rapper J.Mag is making a name for himself. He has released two singles, Workin’ and Yahh!, with rising Chengdu group Higher Brothers, and is dropping his own music at the same time. He took the time to speak to Young Post about working with the group, his new surprise EP, and his upbringing in the Middle East.

“My big brother was the first one to expose me to rap,” he revealed. “In the 90s, everyone had dial-up internet with one computer [in the house], which I was not allowed to use. He’d leave it on and I’d download music and videos. I saw 50 Cent, and that inspired me. He had the big budget music videos, the cinema, video games. I wanted to be like him.”

The rapper, who will graduate this year, moved to the mainland to study mechanical engineering. He feels this is where his music career really started to take off.

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“I was probably the only kid in Sudan who was rapping in English, and in the style of rap that I was doing. I didn’t have a friend that knew how to work a camera, record, or program in the computer."

“I had to get everything, and do all those things by myself. But there’s been a lot of opportunities for me in China. It’s great, and I’ve linked up with the best people.”

The 23-year-old was far more secretive, though, when asked about his next release.

“People are not going to expect it. The sound is changing, I’m softer, and more real. The songs are done, and we’re just finishing the visuals, so it will be out soon.” He also believes the six-track EP will get rid of any misconceptions about him.

“People presume I’m American or British, so I think when they hear the music, they will get who I am, and where I want to go with this.”

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Conversation moved on to his collaborations with Higher Brothers. He met band member MaSiWei at a rap show in 2015 in Xi’an, and got to know him through WeChat, exchanging song ideas, before collaborating and performing together.

“They had another show in Xi’an, and they invited me to perform one of our songs. It was just starting for them as Higher Brothers, but [even then] I saw [their success]. Their work ethic is crazy. Even before they got signed to a label, they would work super hard. That’s what I admire about them.” And will fans see another live collaboration? “I’m coming with them next month to Clockenflap, they invited me. We were just handling the visa a couple of days ago. It’ll be awesome!”

Even though J. Mag admits he’s still got a long journey ahead, he appears to have worked out the recipe for success.

“Just be yourself, and just keep working,” he said. “Don’t ask for recognition. You have to earn it. Keep releasing great stuff, keep believing in yourself, and do your homework. That’s what I did.

“Everybody’s got their own lane, and you’ve got to find yours, and perfect it.”

J. Mag will be performing with Higher Brothers on November 17 at Clockenflap.

Edited by Ginny Wong

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Rapping his way to the top


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