What would you call a growing business as a music producer, strong relationships with some of the nation’s best young hip hop artists, and two credits on an album which recently debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard charts?
Jarvis Adams Jr. ‘22 calls it … a good start.
“For me, it didn’t really change anything because I’m still not where I want to be,” says the senior in reference to 7220, a studio album released in March of this year by the rapper Lil Durk. Adams, who goes by the handle JahDaGod professionally, has two writing and production credits on that album. The two songs he worked on also charted on the Billboard 100 for R&B / Hip Hop.
So where, exactly, does the soft-spoken but serious Adams want to be?
For starters, he wants to be at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, where Adams has family and can continue his study of music while also taking classes in the university’s sociology program. The Dorchester resident will attend there this fall.
“They have a great music program and are big on the arts in general,” says Adams, who is also working in the music production world as part of his current Senior Project.
Adams has 12 registered songwriting credits to his name, but he doesn’t involve himself with the lyrics portion of the process. What he does is create “beats” — think the instrumental tracks onto which the lyrics (the “rap” portion of rap music) are layered. In the days of Tin Pan Alley, the term “composer” would probably be used to describe the driven teen.
Adams loves to create original beats — piano, drums, you name it — and that’s where most of his effort goes. However, he can also “chop it up” or sample existing songs or beats. Adams uses music production software, known as a DAW (“Digital Audio Workstation”), to create his beats. The DAW also can handle VST (“Virtual Studio Technology”) plug-ins, essentially giving Adams a more comprehensive bank of instrumental sounds and effects.
Adams, who has attended Thayer since sixth grade, first encountered this world of music production in former Middle School Music Faculty Charlotte Browne’s seventh grade class when he first used the GarageBand app. While he describes that initial class project as “just messing around,” he doesn’t discount the effect it had upon him.
“Without that project, I wouldn’t be making music,” he says. “I started doing all this on my school laptop.”
Adams continued “messing around,” but by ninth grade, he needed extra room to do it. He credits his mother Felicia for letting him move some stuff into the basement; she also bought him a studio desk and a better laptop. And he credits a trip to Atlanta and visit with his uncle, a music producer who goes by the professional name of Marcus X, for showing him the ropes.
“That was my first time working with another person,” he says. “That trip to Atlanta increased my love of music even more.”
Adams dove into the music world. He spent countless hours on YouTube learning more and more about creating beats. He admits to constantly texting his uncle — “bugging him” is how Adams puts it — with question after question.
And pretty soon, the passionate hobby began to resemble a pretty savvy business move. Adams started selling beats to local independent artists and made his first $1,000 at age 14. He maximized his exposure via smart use of YouTube, Instagram, and a website.
Things really took off junior year when Adams drew the attention of JayDaYoungan, a popular hip hop artist who noticed Adams’s beats online.
“It’s crazy because I was making beats in the style of JayDaYoungan to try to attract people like JayDaYoungan,” he says. “I never thought he would actually see it.”
But again, Adams, who cites his own music producer influences as Metro Boomin and Zaytoven, still has places to go. He sets specific goals about artists with whom he’d like to work — such a partnership is known as a “collab” — and has set a personal goal of becoming one of the top 10 producers in the nation.
“I want to be on that list,” says Adams, who also has set his sights on one day having his own label with his own team of artists.
But Adams, aka JahDaGod, points to the sociology track he plans to take at Oglethorpe when he says that he wants to work with children and help young people the way so many adults helped him.
“You can go one way or the other in this world,” he states. “Kids need guidance.”
Adams says his sound is still evolving — “I love music, so whatever I’m listening to, it just comes back out but in my own way,” is how he puts it — but he learns more and more about the business side of the music world every day. He offers the sage advice, especially for an 18-year-old, to first find an attorney you can trust and then trust that attorney. He also remembers when he sold beats for short money or came close to signing terrible deals because he didn’t know enough about the system or, just maybe, he didn’t believe in his own talent enough at the time.
“Don’t sell yourself short,” Adams says.
Editor’s Note: Samuel Okunlola ‘22 co-interviewed Adams and arranged for the submission of photos for this article.