When Jean Deaux says she’s always creating, she means always. The rapper/singer/songwriter from Chicago has made it a goal to put out music every year after releasing her debut EP, Krash, in 2018. Jean Deaux has been like this her entire life in fact. As a kindergartener, she remembers trying to write chapter books. “It’s funny because it was about my Uncle Bo, but I said my uncle had a farm which was totally a lie. Even the teachers were like, ‘Uncle Bo’s Farm? That’s hard,’” she told Rolling Stone Radio co-host Jon Weigell. The artist hasn’t been able to turn off that creative mind since.
“I have a way of processing and experiencing the world and everyday life. I tend to feel like I’m in a lab—I’m observing a lot,” Jean Deaux said. “It’s like everything around me is already art, and I’m trying to translate that. If I go to the beach at night and the waves, it just sounds like a song. Or I see a lot of things that already look like a film, like beautiful people chatting in the distance.”
Jean Deaux at least took a temporary break from the lab this week to chat with Weigell and share her My Life in 10 Songs list on the latest edition of the Rolling Stone Radio on Amp, the live radio app where you can listen to top artists, creators, and athletes spin their favorite tracks and take your calls in real time. Her selections started with some undeniable R&B classics. Up first was Marvin Gaye’s “Distant Lover,” one of the best songs ever made by one of the best R&B artists ever according to Jean Deaux. In particular, she loves how much emotion Gaye really gives in the end of the song. “When they say people don’t beg and plead in R&B anymore, it’s true. But at the end of ‘Distant Lover,’ he’s pleading, like you’re far away and I really need you,” she said.
Jean Deaux then offered tracks from more recent heavyweights of the genre, SWV (“Use Your Heart (Interlude)”) and Amy Winehouse (“He Can Only Hold Her”). The artist sees SWV on par with Destiny’s Child in terms of R&B greatness and influence, and Amy Winehouse was that type of inspiration and more to her in particular. “I’m an OG Tumblr girl from high school, and my first post was an Amy Winehouse post. The first time I dressed up for Halloween, I was Amy Winehouse,” Jean Deaux said. “At the time, it was very alternative to be a black girl into Amy, which is ironic because her influences were definitely black girls. So being into Amy was kind of a full circle moment—she inspired the same type of people who inspired her. I had a deep emotional content with her.”
Jean Deaux next showed where her interests lie as a rapper by shouting out songs from Gunna (“Do Better”) and Twista (“Overnight Celebrity”), two artists where she hears originality. “It’s hard to make something new when there’s nothing new under the sun, so when someone has something of their own and becomes a platinum artist, it speaks for themselves,” she said. And the rapper contrasted that with an old standard she’s looked to for unexpected inspiration: Duke Ellington and John Coltrane (“Take The Coltrane”).
“When it comes to the classic stuff, I probably started discovering it in late high school. And if I’m interested in something, I want to know so much,” she said. “[With jazz], I’d do deep research. Specifically, my good friend’s grandmother had a building on the south side of Chicago with a deep vinyl collection. I’d go to her house, smoke a bunch of weed, and pick something from this deep vinyl collection and listen to it. Chicago obviously has a deep history with jazz, blues, and R&B, so I was hip to learn from the elders and OGs. Ellington and Coltrane, that’s like a no brainer, you know what I’m saying?”
Jean Deaux finished her My Life in 10 Songs list with an eclectic run of tracks. There was gospel from Karen Clark Sheard (“Jesus Is A Love Song”—”It’s incredibly long, we’ll be here for a whole church service,” Jean Deaux joked), then mainstream hip-hop from Snoop Dogg (“Who Am I”) and Little Brother (“Beautiful Morning”). But the musician wanted to end with a track from someone she called a first crush and one of her biggest, subtle influences: DMX (“Stop Being Greedy”).
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“I had a crush on him when I was younger and I wanted to be him at the same time, bisexual power,” Jean Deaux said about DMX. “He’s a beautiful soul and spirit, and he tells the truth in his music. I mean, this is a gangsta song about communism, but it’s still gangsta at the same time. I play this song when I want to feel like a gangsta, but I’m giving back to the community as well.”
Weigell and co-host Charlie Cooper will be back at it Thursday, 11/17 when Ice Spice joins them to share her Life in 10 Songs on another episode of Rolling Stone Radio (@rollingstone on Amp). Download the Amp app and tune in at 11 a.m. ET. Just getting started on Amp? If you want to learn more about the artists and athletes DJing on Amp and experience their shows live, head to onamp.com and just press “play.”