There was a time when R&B and soul music had a serious pulse. The golden age saw artists like Donny Hathaway, Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder making music that struck a chord in the soul and created sounds that sparked the birth of a genre. Today, with the exception of a few artists like Mary J. Blige, John Legend, and Anthony Hamilton, the feeling is gone.
Florida-born crooner j.winston hopes to change that.
The youngest of four children, Jameel Karim Winston grew up in Winter Haven, Florida, a town known more for its famed theme park, Cypress Gardens, than its accomplished musicians. “You could pretty much separate the whole city through one four-way stop sign,” he says. Growing up in what he called an “aggressive” home, j.winston was exposed to music through his father.
The bandleader of a local soul & funk band, j.winston's father had a piano, which he kept off limits to his children. With his curiosity nagging, a young Jameel would sneak to play his father’s piano while he was away at work. Mimicking movements and memorizing chords his father played, the determined young man taught himself how to play his father’s most prized possession. By this time he was already singing in the church choir. As he grew older so did his love for music. “I busted my head listening to Michael Jackson. I got scars on my body from listening to my Michael Jackson,” he says.
j.winston boasts that there was a lot “weird music” playing in his house. The sounds of Zapp and Roger, Double Dutch Bus, Frankie Smith, and P-Funk constantly played as the soundtrack of his childhood. As he tells it, “Music has always been there.”
While in High school, j.winston was a heartbeat away from saying goodbye to music. He was already talented on the trombone, trumpet and various percussion instruments, but after being twice rejected as drum major of the band, the teenager had an altercation involving his band instructor. The instructor accused him of hitting him in the back of the head with a piece of ice. “We had it out in the field in front of the whole crowd; I stripped out of my uniform and walked off.”
j.winston was officially kicked out of the band for a year, which gave him time to gain some perspective. “I had to make a decision on whether I was going to do music or whether I wasn’t going to do music. I could have quit all together because I felt like everything was stripped and taken away from me, for something I didn't do.” Fortunately, for the sake of good music, j.winston stuck with his true passion and got serious about making his own tracks in college. With access to some real studio equipment the psychology major at UNC, Charlotte originally made music for his friends. He admits his early sounds were heavily influenced by his then-current influences like D’Angelo, Maxwell, and the Roots.
Like Winter Haven, Charlotte lacked the musical fame of other southern cities. After playing gigs for local fraternities, sororities, and the school Chancellor, j.winston headed to Atlanta, where he met a friend that got him linked with the Nu South Playaz. From there j.winston would go on to rock crowds nation-wide with NSP and the likes of Pointe Blank Band, Between 9 and 7 and his current bands, g(A) (Genuine Article) and Gritz & JellyButter
g(A) & Gritz have performed throughout Atlanta and j.winston stands as the group’s bandleader and youngest member. When he’s not bringing down the house at Atlanta’s Apache Café or Fox Theatre, j.winston is working on his new material, which he calls “conscious” music, something that he says is missing from today’s singers. “I think conscious is telling the truth about what’s going on, not being one-sided, and having equal ways of telling the story and telling the whole truth.”
The truth is exactly what draws every listener to j.winston's music. Whether it is the triumphant, “You Can’t Fade Me” or the uplifting jam, “Soul Divine”, j.winston brings music and lyrics that speak directly to the human experience. Both tracks come from Just Me, his first effort. Currently, the slim, handsome, budding star is ready to record his new material, which of course he has written and produced on his own. He is literally, a self-made artist.
In an industry obsessed with packaged and processed vocal talents, j.winston looks to give his fans what they need to hear. It will be only a matter of time before the rest of the music world catches on. Either way, J. Winston is not worried. “I believe it’s the day to day grind that has gotten me to where I am and its going to continue to get me further along.”