By D. Milan
A moment like this is rare. A glitch in time when we are able to witness a natural phenomenon; the rising of a talent. Jane Handcock, Oakland native described as a “musical medium” by her mentor, Raphael Saadiq, is the essence of essential R&B. The melodies we memorize, the choruses we cry to, the bridges that bear our soul. With a sound comparable to a cross between Missy Elliot and Jazmine Sullivan, Jane Handcock is the essence of R&B.
D. Milan: So let’s start with the basics. Where are you from?
Jane Handcock: I was born in Oakland raised in Richmond.
D.: I know you lived in Atlanta for some time. What’s the difference between the two, Atlanta and Cali?
Jane: It was a culture shock. There was so many people who looked like me [in Atlanta]! Growing up in The Bay, it’s so diverse. My mom always made sure I did multicultural things, so when I came to Atlanta it was like the movie! I loved it! I still love it. It’s literally like my second home.
D.: What made you fall in love with Atlanta?
Jane: Just the simple things. Waffle House. I love Waffle House. Midtown…we even did Magic City. Have fun, be crazy. Five points. I love it there. Stonecrest Mall. We lived in Lithonia when I lived out there.
D.: How weird is that that so many people you know are in the industry now? You do a lot of work with Adrian Marcel. You all went to high school together.
Jane: It’s weird. But I always knew. I knew it would be us. It was always just that group of people who just knew what they wanted, what they wanted to be. Yeah, so like Kehlani, she was young. She was like an underclassman. Like 6th grade. But she was always singing. Every time we saw her, we just wanted her to sing. She was dope. So Adrian and I, we started in the elite band together. We were hand selected, so it was like why don’t we make our own band? Make our own money, stack some bread.
D.: You and Adrian and legitimately friends, so the chemistry you have is on that level?
Jane: We have always been friends. That’s like my brother. We grew up together. His family is mine. Mine is his. His granny is mine. My granny is his. In band and outside, we just started kicking it. And we just kinida grew together.
D.: How long have you been involved with Raphael Saadiq?
Jane: About 4 years now.
D.: On the outro of your project, he speaks at length about his admiration for you. How do you feel that he speaks so highly?
Jane: It’s an honor. First meeting him. Then he wanted to work. Then he loved the music because he literally came from where we came from, and he made it out. And for him to put his arms around me…For him to work with me, I don’t take that for granted. He’s a legend to me so I take after his ways a lot.
D.: Anyone you would just love to work with?
Jane: I definitely wanna work with Missy. I’m trying to get up there. People already compare me to her and I definitely accept that because she is such a huge inspiration to me. I take it as a good thing. So my new music is bringing it back to what inspired me.
D.: You are very humble. You don’t feel like you’ve made it yet huh?
Jane: In my mind, I’m making it. I put a lot of pressure on myself. A blessing and curse. But it helps me to keep pushing. I’m always in my mind like I did this, but I gotta do that. It’s like a video game. Every time I accomplish something I’m ready to move on to the next level.
I’ve slept on floors, couches, I’ve been homeless. I hid that from my family. I didn’t tell them that. When I left home I struggled. When you’re broke, and you’re young, and trying to conform it’s a hold on you, but when I found myself I was like I can do this. So with “Truth be Told”, it’s so special to me because it was my transition to believing in myself. When I turned 25 this year, it was like a lightbulb went off. I wanted to be happy. I really work on being happy for real. So I can give people something they can feel, you know?
D.: What is your favorite track from this project?
Jane: It changes. It depends on the mood I’m in. As trappy as I may be, I still love Sade. I love “Reality” because I incorporated Sade into that. It changes by the day. Sometimes it’s “Nina’s Blues”. Sometimes when I have a lil… you know, you know…dude over it’s “Kiss Me”, “Tell Me”.
D.: Girl 100! I had to turn “Tell Me” off one time I had a lil dip over. I didn’t even want to send that message that I needed him telling me anything! (laughs)
Jane: I love to be ratchet of course. But when I’m done I want to get back to Reality. I’m either hella happy, chilling with a dude cupcaking, working, every mood I wanted to kind of portray.
D.: Where the hell did your name come from?
Jane: (laughs) Atlanta. Atlanta was like the turning point for who I wanted to be. My name is Mariah. I never really wanted to go with that. It was so much pressure when I was young because of the whole Mariah Carey thing. My manager was like “Yo, Jane Handcock. You write well. In every sense. You have a beautiful signature, you write well.” I was like…I’m gonna run with it. It’s crazy that people call me that. But that’s what we wanted.
D.: As fans, our ultimate goal is to feel like we know you. Connected with you. What’s something people don’t necessarily know but would make them feel connected to you?
Jane: You know what…I’m such an Aquarius. It can look lie I have a lot of people around me but it’s really when I feel like it. Ha. So I be out. I go to Vegas, go to Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, and then I’ll just come home and chill by myself. And then I go back out. Then I’ll go have fun and be like let’s go Disneyland. I can be a loner.
I’m really chill. It’s like what you see is what you get. Everything is so smoke and mirrors these days, but I really just wanted to be that around-the-way artist. I just want everyone to smile. Be happy. I’m very approachable. Mutual respect. I think people respect that. I don’t want to be anyone but me. I just wanna give all I got in my true form. Like back in the day, Anita baker. You never questioned that. Jill Scott. Never. Regular people.
It’s crazy because I think I started off…I envy some of my friends and peers because they have this studio voice and it’s so clean and clear and crisp. I started singing in the church and when I started listening to secular music, Jill Scott had just come out. And the heaviness of the singers I was listening to…I did want to be more tame at first. That raw sound, I just can’t help it. Working with Raphael I’ve learned to embrace that. I’ve learned to see it as strength.
D.: Conveying the transparency fans hold on to, you really have to be open. Do you ever get scared?
Jane: No I don’t think so. It actually helps me. This is like therapy to me. What I write is what I go through, what I been through. Either I’ve been through it or someone near me. That’s kinda how I deal with it. Writing about it, expressing it through song. Like let me wash my hands of this. Let me sing about, write about it and be done.
D.: I have to wonder, are there times where you’re speaking specifically?
Jane: So LA Nigga, I was like “should I really go here?” I was messing with someone out there and I was staying with Raphael, working at the time and I was like “Wow, should I really talk about this?” And I just decided, if people are really gonna know who I am, I have to give them the real. And it’s funny when I play stuff to my homegirls they be like “Oh my God! You’re talking about so and so!” One friend was like “You use these guys for songs!” At this point, I kinda tell em ‘you can really be a song. So watch how you act. Either it’s gonna be a love song or I need you to hear something and I need to look at the world see you hear it.’ But not even just that. I write about everything. I’m writing about, not even relationships, just me. Just happy. Writing about loving yourself. And understanding every day, it is what it is. But our commercial music is poisoning us. But if I could just get this platform and keep pushing, what’s good always prevails.
D.: What was the recording process like for “Truth Be Told”?
Jane: It was very simple. I had my set up, literally, in my room and I just would sit here all day or all night and record. And I literally made my room an office. It’s like my desk, my speaker, interface, all that. And if I need to go blast it out, I just go to Adrian’s house. And we started like that. A lot of what he produced for me was in our houses. We just wanted to keep it as real as possible. Yeah we could have spent money but I mixed and engineered everything, recorded. Sitting in my chair in my room, expressing my feelings. And when it was time to get the approval from Raphael, I would go down to la, I would bring my little kit. “turn this down, add this, make it sound like this”. He really orchestrated in a sense of let me put this over here and move that there. He’s like my sensei. My approval. My voice of reason.
D.: Random q. You refer to Adrian as a brother. I know what me and my brother go through. What kinds of things do ya’ll fight about?
Jane: You’d really be surprised. It’s really regular stuff. Nothing too big, but like “Did you take my charger?” or one time he accused me of eating his last piece of chicken, but I don’t care. (Laughs). It’s just regular brother sister shit.
D.: Do you realize how powerful your music is? It’s so clean and polished, like a seasoned artist. It sounds like you’ve been in the game at least…mm…7 years.
Jane: I’ve been recording about 7-8 years. Writing…about 10 years, 5 professionally. I dropped out of college and my family was like “What are you doing?” I don’t’ even know if I properly dropped out. I just stopped going one day. I had this lightbulb…and I was like what am I doing here. I gotta go. And I told Adrian I gotta get this going and fast.
D.: Who are you listening to right now?
Jane: Frank Ocean (laughs). And not because… I never really listened to him like that before. I did like Channel Orange, but it wasn’t like the fan who was mad we hadn’t heard from him in years. It was like if he has something new I’ll listen to it. He’s super dope. I just love how he thinks outside of the box. I love my trap, so I’m always on Gucci.
D.: Pause. So I have to ask. Do you feel like Gucci is underrated?
D.: Bet. Why?
Jane: Timing messed it up I think. To the point where any of these little guys that the younger crowd has been listening to have cloned themselves into little Guccis. Our generation never really pumped Gucci up like we should have. Now these young guys have the new generation of trap, to where folks are out here thinking that Fetty is better than Gucci. All of these Uzi Verts and all that, he [Gucci] fathered a culture. So when he went to prison, it was like the older cousin who went to prison who could have had it all. So damn, but he ain’t gone hurt.
I’m so 90s so I’m still listening to Total, Kelly Price, like it just came out last week.
Leikeli47. She’s amazing. She’s like a rapper, but she sings too. I love PJ. Jazmine Sullivan, I love her. I really, really, really love her. Future. Rae Sremmurd.
D.: What do you love about them [Rae Sremmurd]? I’m a fan myself. I’m always curious as to what others like.
Jane: They are just a new wave. They’re almost European to me. Their whole style is fresh. I’m into anything that’s fresh. And when you hear it it’s like omg I love these little dudes the beats, cadences, it’s just different. They just got a little more soul. Little swag about it.
D.: So tell me all the fun stuff about your new project.
Jane: Right now, I’m just dropping new music. So it’ll be more so, new joints that I drop. But I am gearing up for a new project. Idk what it’s called yet. But I know the vibe of it. It’s just groovy. I love to just be groovy. I love 90s music. I love 70s music. With the sense of making it fresh for today. This time even going a bit more musical. Going back to the old 19-year-old me as far as my love for the art of it. Time to go back in yourself. Going back in Mariah. Tapping into myself. l need to get back to that. Jill Scott, Billie Holiday, Marvin Gaye. I used to love listening to Missy. I still do. So tapping into that. I’m still gone have fun with it, rapping, singing…it’s just gonna be groovy…-
You can find more of Jane Handcock's music at https://soundcloud.com/jane-handcock. Also follow her on IG @handcockjay
D. Milan is a Writer and Music Curator for AB+L Radio. Follow her on IG @iammissmilan