Dri Jack: A Bright Light and a Rising Star
“Dance-in-your-underwear, twerk-in-the-mirror type shit. . .“
I’m going to start by saying exactly what I said to Dri Jack at the beginning of our conversation, which is: I don’t typically like new music. I don’t consider myself a connoisseur, but I have a set of artists I dig – across genres and around the world, and I wait for their albums to drop. I’m not all that adventurous with music because when I am, I don’t like where the adventure leads. But when I was introduced to Dri Jack via her new EP, The Other Side, I instantly knew I was a fan. Though the lyrics are rich with emotion and personal experiences, including hardships, there is a youthful optimism in the beats and melodies that makes me think of summertime, driving with the top down, and drinking with girlfriends during daylight. It’s feel-good music, the kind of jams that – even when you relate to the pain – bring you into a positive space filled with girlish yet rooted confidence. You know: dance-in-your-underwear, twerk-in-the-mirror type shit. Go ahead, you can put this down and go listen. . .
During our chat, Dri Jack’s College Park bedroom was dimly lit, and yet all I could feel was light radiating from her wide smile, from the bounce of her animated voice, and illuminating the path to stardom that seemed to unveil itself beneath her feet. I immediately felt a kinship, an ease, a pull. Dri Jack captivated me, just as her music did. She told me about growing up as a shy girl in the church choir, and how one of her instructors unexpectedly signed her up for a talent show. As her voice rang out and all eyes landed on her, she “fell in love with performing” and understood that her life would lead her far beyond the praise team at church. While she still names “having faith” as one of her dearest lessons through her journey and credits gospel singers like Yolanda Adams for bringing her inspiration, it seems like destiny agreed: the young star was meant to shine in the public eye. Her current accolades include singing background for artists like EarthGang, including during a live performance on Jimmy Fallon, and Teyana Taylor, and most recently receiving a grant from the Raedio Creators Program supported by Google to release new music and film videos. Dri absolutely bubbled with gratitude as she commented on the visibility her collaboration with Raedio and Google has brought, and she seizes opportunities in every new room. Her early years in College Park taught her to find resources when they were lacking, which often means approaching recognizable figures in the music industry, introducing herself, and suggesting collaborations. I’m sure it won’t be long until we see these collaborations come to fruition, perhaps with her favorite rapper, J.Cole, for example.
Dri explains that she named her new EP The Other Side because she is in a moment of healing and reflection. She can look back at past trauma, like losing her brother at the age of 12, and better understand her emotions, reactions, and the mental health issues she unknowingly dealt with. She hopes to pay this forward through her nonprofit and to always voice her wisdom in her music. And even though her career is taking off, she guarantees you can still find her on the mic at Red Light Special Karaoke in Atlanta, free and permeating her bright light.
Who are your musical icons and why?
I grew up in a church, so my first love is gospel music. So I would have to say Yolanda Adams, and when I got to school I learned about Aretha Franklin. These are my top two favorite artists because their voices really resonate with my voice. I have a big voice. They affirmed that I could have a big voice not only in the gospel world but in R&B and Soul music.
How has your upbringing in College Park influenced your music and your career?
It laid a base and foundation for me here in Atlanta because I knew of artists like Outcast who came from where I’m from. It’s a platform and a blueprint for where I can go. I went to the same high school that Kandi from Xscape went to, so it’s always been instilled in me that I can do anything I want to do. Whatever you put your mind to, you can do. . . as long as you have the resources. And that’s what growing up in College Park taught me: to find the resources, to have the confidence to really go up to people and ask for help and shoot your shot. That has really influenced my career.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned from your time as a background singer?
I’ve taken a lesson from each person i’ve sung background for. I recently sang background for EarthGang, and just seeing black men work together – and I work with a black female team – and to see the comradery, and the understanding, and the teamwork it takes to put out a product that represents you completely was such a beautiful thing to witness. I take that with me. And the experience reminded me to be prepared as well, to be prepared for whatever may come. We got booked to do Jimmy Fallon, and we flew out, and someone on the team got COVID. We were able to pivot and had faith that the show would go on the way it was meant to. So that was a big lesson, both being prepared to pivot and having faith.
What makes The Other Side different from your other music?
I think that The Other Side is different from my other music because I know what I’m saying. For the past few years, I’ve been living my music in pace with my life. But now I’m ahead of it, reflecting back. The Other Side shows that I’ve healed and I can talk about the things I’ve experienced. I can talk about the ectopic pregnancy that I experienced, and heartbreak, and grief and loss – losing my grandparents three years in a row – and then losing my god mom. I’m on the other side of the pain. I lost my brother in 2008, and I was only twelve. Being able to see how I navigated from that period in my life until now – and I’m currently 27 – is an interesting space to be in. I went through high school depressed, and I didn’t even know it. And now I’m on the other side and I can do that feeling work that I needed to do to process these experiences, and I’m in a better space where I don’t need other peoples’ opinions or validation.
Tell us about creating this EP, what was unique about the process? Did you have a favorite moment – writing or in the studio?
It was really fun. I’ve been recording for ten years now, and I’ve generally worked with multiple producers for my projects. But for this project, it was really fun to work with one team – The Breed. We were on zoom, and we were just laughing and joking, and they were like, “what’s your sign?” Because they felt like they knew me, and that really resonated when we got in the room together. I think my favorite moment was when (and let me remind you, I’m Atlanta through and through) I was talking to them, and they were like, “What? What did you say?” And I had to apologize, slow it down, and take my country twang off of my words. It was also just so amazing to work with producers who worked with Chris Brown, and they’ve worked with EarthGang too. They produced one of my favorite songs on EarthGang’s last album. I just felt like it was divine! It was meant to be, to work with them.
When they played the track for “Space,” I immediately had a melody. And it’s the melody that still remains on “Space.” It was beautiful to see how well they understood what I needed from them to finish the project and bring it all together. That, of course, had to be another favorite moment.
What was the most prevalent emotion during the creation process?
All the emotions you could possibly have! After winning the grant from the Raedio Creators Program supported by Google, all the emotions just continue to keep growing. I could cry today just thinking about how much my life has changed since I won. Being in the studio with writers who understand my language or can take my live dialogue and write songs from that while staying true to who I am was overwhelming, in a positive way. I was able to get my emotions out, whatever they were. They really pinpoint the situations that the songs describe.
How has your collaboration with Raedio changed your career and the production of this EP?
Visibility. Putting my face out there. Putting my name out there. Getting to meet the Raedio team. Getting to meet the other artists and teams out in LA, and getting to meet The Breed. . . that was all really life-changing. And getting to show who I am. Getting to show my personality, “The Princess of College Park.” It made me feel like, “I’M HERE.” I arrived. And I was able to do so without putting on a façade. I really felt accepted for ME. And let me say “visibility” again because they are hyping my name up.
If you were successful beyond your wildest dreams, what your life look like?
Well for one, I would definitely pay all of my parents’ bills off. I would be performing all the time all over the world. I would like to help kids with mental health issues. I have a nonprofit I’m working on for that. If that was successful we would have different events throughout the year – back-to-school events, yoga events. Anything that could help teens with their mental health processes. I, of course, want to record with the biggest names. Write FOR the biggest names. Write WITH the biggest names: Beyonce, Jhene Aiko, J.Cole. I do also have my own label, so I’d like to see where that could go. I’d like to dabble in musical theatre. All of it!
What are you favorite spots in Atlanta for nightlife?
Where is your favorite place to eat in Atlanta?
What’s on your getting-ready-to-go-out playlist?
“Space” by Dri Jack! And “BS” by Jhene Aiko and H.E.R, and J.Cole “Can’t Get Enough”.