Interview with Itz Jaleel
Jaleel Cunningham aka "Itz Jaleel" is a rapper from Nashville, TN. He grew up on old school r&b because that’s the music his parents would always dance to. Early on in middle school he was introduced to poetry and that’s where he started developing his pen game without even knowing it. But poetry, at the time, was more like a hobby and he started playing school sports. Then in his Junior year of high school he released his first rap song on soundcloud. He then found liked to rap but it still wasn’t something he saw as “life-changing” for himself. So he'd release a song or two every now and then for awhile on soundcloud even after he started college in 2017. Then around his Junior year at Tennessee State a close relative passed away, and that’s what pushed him to become a rapper.
Jaleel then released his first album in 2020 and that project became the start for “Itz Jaleel”. After graduating from TSU in 2021 he's been spending his time working and making music. He's done plenty of shows around Nashville, with plans to do more shows in ATL soon.
His mentors are family and friends in or around the music industry like Malcolm Dewayne and Langston Hues. And his main goal with music is to provide for his family, and to become one of the greats in the game!
What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
After the loss of a close relative some years ago, I tried putting my emotions on a song and resulted in finding my passion.
If I’d never gotten into music I would most likely be somewhere working a 9-5.
What do you like to do when you are not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
When I'm not working on music, then I'm either with family or the homies. I try to keep a balance between life and work.
How long has music been your career?
I released my first song in 2016 on soundcloud…but a lot has changed since then!
Where are you based out of and how did that influence your music?
Growing up in Music City influenced my style of music by making me more open to different sounds when creating my art. The city showed me how people can all come together and have a good experience because of good music.
Tell me about the best and worst shows you have played.
One of my best shows was at EBCM in Nashville in last year in August ! My set was crazy that night with crazy energy and people packed in the venue!
I’ve had shows where only a couple people showed, but regardless I didn’t disappoint. I got my best lessons from those situations just building more confidence and owning my work.
Tell me about your favorite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you have not already?
One of my favorite venues to play at in Nashville is called Cabana Taps. It’s a small, hole-in-wall bar that used to have open mics. I performed there numerous times, but I always loved the positive,intimate vibe the venue has.
And one place on my list I want to play at that I haven’t already is the BET Awards.
If you could play any show with any lineup, who would be on the ticket?
If I could pick anyone I gotta make it crazy so I’d add like Kendrick Lamar, J Cole, Chris Brown and Lil Baby.
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into music?
Never stop creating.
If you could go back in time and give yourself advice, what would it be?
I’d tell myself to make a game plan and don’t be shy.
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
My single release in December titled “On Me” means the most because I wrote it for my Grandfather, who recently passed away.
Which songs are your favorite to play and which get requested the most?
One of my favorite songs to play and gets requested a lot is “King.”
What is the creative process for you, and what inspires you to write your music?
My creative process varies, but generally, I like to sit and write out my verses. Once I get the first bar or hook penned down, I’ll get zoned in on creating.
My inspiration to write comes from my everyday life, situations I’ve been through, and the people I know.
What kinds of messages do you like to get across in your music?
I like to get the message across that it’s okay to have a dream and if you really want to make it there, you gotta grind, know yourself, and know your worth.
Do you ever have disagreements when collaborating and how do you get past them?
Nah, I’ve never had any disagreements with my collaborators.
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that is coming up?
Currently I’m working on a few projects for the “Itz Jaleel” merch coming soon! And I want to spotlight my new single coming in December titled “On Me.”