Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Just Jack
Just Jack Just Jack Just Jack Just Jack (live at The Astoria)

This year, in every gym, club, clothes store and restaurant you can’t have escaped the sound of 24 year old Jack Allsopp’s strange monotone rap/dance/hip hop hit with that funny refrain of ‘Why you wanna go and put Starz In Their Eyes?’. I caught up with Just Jack the morning after what he describes as a ‘heavy night’ in Dublin.

“I used to always get compared to The Streets because my first album came out about two months after his album. No one had heard anything like him before, and when I got signed people hadn’t really heard anything like what I was doing, so we just got lumped together, even though I don’t think the comparison is accurate. I definitely respect what he does though- he’s become a music institution in England and I reckon he’s inspired loads of people with his style. I tell you what if I could have half his success I’d be well happy!”

With the single ‘Starz in their Eyes’ reaching number two in the UK singles charts, and the album getting to number six, Just Jack is off to a flying start! It wasn’t always that way though. Few people realise that this is his second album, with his debut being released all the way back in 2002. So why did it take so long for people to start embracing Just Jack as an artist?

“My first album was quite a low key release and didn’t do very well. I guess it’s because my stuff is just that little bit different and a little harder to digest. But I reckon the industry has changed loads too, people seem to be a bit more open minded and to be fair, I think I’m a lot better now too! I’ve definitely grown as an artist and honed my craft more.”

Born and Raised in Camden, North London, Jack Allsopp grew up in the hub of it’s thriving music scene, mainly embracing soul, funk and Hip-Hop and even had stints as a beat boxer and DJ. There are only subtle hints of these genres in his own music though, and no overly obvious references on a dance driven sophomore album of what I can only describe as ‘electronic poetry‘.

“There has never been one particular person who influences me or that I ever wanted to emulate. Growing up I listened to a lot of old school rappers like Guru from Gangstarr and I was always attracted to people who were more about content over flow, and obviously my lyrics are pretty basic. I don’t want to confuse people with what I’m saying, I just want to get straight to the point. Other musicians I respect are people like Shuggie Otis who was just so soulful, and I really like how Damon Albarn works, constantly evolving. But I never really hero-worshipped them or anything”

Somewhat surprisingly, Just Jack is a serious hip hop head and we end up digressing about artists such as underground UK Hip-Hop MC Yungun, who he recently collaborated with. Which gets me wondering, does he see himself as an MC or a singer? How does he describe what he does?

“What I do is pretty Schizophrenic! The thing that runs through it is funk, and I think some of the songs are pretty soulful in an unobvious way. I don’t know, Hopefully it’s just interesting music. I don’t try to describe it, I just hope that people get a chance to listen to it and make up their own minds. With the rapping, it’s just a way to express myself. If I feel that what I want to express needs to be sung then I’ll do that instead.”

A song that typifies Just Jack’s unique take on music is ‘Starz In Their Eyes’, an unbelievably catchy dance tune with elements of all the above, and an almost cynical look at the world that ironically, the song has launched him into.

“Yeah, It’s about reality TV shows, the celebrity façade and the fact that the whole machine doesn’t really mean anything. All these kids want to grow up and live this lifestyle that doesn’t exist, really it’s just a bunch of people at parties getting photographed-that‘s it! And this then gets sold to people! I really can’t understand why people want to look at some film stars’ sweat patch or a pimple. It just doesn’t interest me at all, and I think it’s strange how people get so into it! So the song just addresses those types of things. Since the song came out I suppose I’ve had a little taste of it and I find it all a bit bizarre to be honest. Especially being recognised, but on the other hand I guess it’s a good thing because it means people know your music.”

And with UK and European tours coming up this spring, along with dates at all the major festivals including Glastonbury.

'Overtones' is OUT NOW on Mercury Records.
Words John Pitts

From Jazz Funk & Fusion To Acid Jazz

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