Even if you haven’t heard of J Hoard’s name, you’ve definitely already heard his voice. His lyrical and vocal work earned him a Grammy for his work on the album Coloring Book, and has shared the stage with countless names such as Bilal, The Stepkids, Kimbra, Meshell Ndegeocello, and Pharoahe Monch. But his true prowess shines in his “Follow Me (Now) EP” released last October. The Brooklyn-Based singer-songwriter blends an eclectic mix of influences to produce his own soulful quality of work. Last Wednesday, J Hoard released the first music video from the project for the song ‘Pain on Repeat’.
J Hoard’s visuals resonate through its minimal design. With his signature hair wrap and flair, his vocals melt through the melody while the lyrics lay out a dark narrative familiar to all too many of us, one of pain and abuse. We got to ask J about the inspiration for the project and what’s to come from his next EP "Follow Me (Thru the Past)" set to release in October.
You mentioned part of this video’s inspiration was a clip from ‘Martin’, particularly a moment with the character Shanaynay. You describe it, “Shanaynay loses her man (that legit caused her physical pain) and cries in a corner ‘he'll be back’.”
I am intrigued by this side of Shanaynay you are referring to, where this otherwise strictly comedic character is allowed to show some real vulnerability and dimension, albeit one of pain and helplessness. Can you talk about how that scene in particular informed your lyrics and vision for this song?
I was finishing college at the time and hadn't watched "MARTIN" since childhood. My fresh adult eyes revealed how many of us make the similar mistake of Shanaynay and repeat cycles of pain. For those who aren't familiar with the popular 90's sitcom, Shanaynay is your typical/stereotypical ghetto girl and has "harsh", non-traditional features. Often times people like Shanaynay feel as though they deserve abusive, unfulfilling relationships because they have been discouraged to love who they are. My skin is dark, my features aren't "classic"; I look like a black man, no hiding it. I too have struggled with not feeling good enough, pretty enough, strong enough, gay enough, black enough- because I was raised in a country-world that has historically oppressed people who look and love like me. SO, I wrote this song to encourage the pretty, the ugly, the ghetto, the reserved, the gay, the asexual, EVERYONE, to love ourselves enough to NOT stay in painful, damaging relationships.
The video is striking in its simplicity. The two figures and yourself display such an intense array of emotions in each shot. It feels very personal and human in its scope. The choice to show the characters mostly as individuals, instead of couples in relation to each other, was also effective. The ambivalence of the woman’s expressions towards the end of the video was particularly poignant, telling and real. What were you thinking when creating the visuals for this project?
I consulted the director/videographer Roland Pfannhauser while touring through Europe this summer. I explained my vision, the whole "Martin" scene and everything. OF COURSE, she (me) wanted an extravagant set and storyline- beds to wake up in, doors to slam, parks to walk thru, etc. However, Roland suggested we keep the set simple, almost bare and "mirror" each character's emotions. This was executed by focusing on faces and aligning facial reactions to each person's cycle of pain. My character is omniscient, been there/done that, bringing the super machismo character to realize his toxic masculinity isn't the answer, and helping the female lead smile again with drink in hand ON HER OWN! In essence, myself and the two actors are looking into the mirror (camera) and processing our feelings of pain in an isolated space. My favorite example of this concept is when the female lead changes her hair styles and decides on her initial look because we ALL have done that! Essentially, myself, Roland and his DoP/editor wanted to make sure viewers feel inspired to be honest with themselves, face the person in the mirror and realize sometimes in order to love someone, especially yourself, you must provide space to figure it/yourself out.
How does this song and video relate thematically or musically as a whole to your upcoming EP, "Follow Me (Thru the Past)"? What can we expect from the project at large?
"Pain On Repeat" is from my "Follow Me (NOW)" EP released last year, however, all my music has a message of self-love. This upcoming EP deals specifically with the growing pains of life. By looking into the past I/you embrace the beautiful memories, heal and overcome the hurtful moments, and choose to learn how to love (myself/yourself) and grow (to love others). "Pain On Repeat" is exactly about that. Sure, you let him beat you- you let her talk down to and take advantage of you - you let them misuse and rob you of your joy and peace- IT'S OK. That was the past, let's go through it and mark each experience as a lesson learned to make space for an improved future. That's the theme of the project at large - with the energy and sonically inspired by Led Zeppelin and Stevie Wonder doused in 2020 production!