Mark Twain once wrote that ‘there’s no such thing as a new idea’, Deji Ijishakin would disagree; the Londoner’s existence is a life lived in pursuit of innovation. Enamoured with music, science and Black empowerment, Ijishakin bakes his passions into an artful layer cake of jazz, drill, neuroimaging and Black British economic development. Taking a moment from completing his PhD, recording a new album and running his OWO forum, the Jazz Drill musician known as XVNGO takes LN-CC through a cinematic STORE MIX of brazen rhythms, complex chords and choral harmonies that both soothe and stimulate.
Could you introduce us to you and your world? Who is Deji Ijishakin and why do you do what you do?
I am a computational neuroscientist and musician. I do what I do because I love it, both science and music.
Jazz, drill and neuroscience could seem like unusual bedfellows. Was it always an obvious combination for you and did you ever fear that it wouldn't translate to others?
The connection really comes as a by-product of who I am. With the themes which accompany my music I try to show all the essential parts of my character. As a result, science and music are very naturally intertwined in the presentation of my art. I never really worry about whether it translates to others because it’s just my authentic character. I feel that people prize authenticity above all else when evaluating an artist, so it’s important trait to have.
You've previously spoken about being a less than hard-working student and coasting costing you a place at UCL. What keeps you motivated and disciplined now?
During the second year of my undergraduate there was a definitive point where I had realised how lucky I am to have access to the opportunities and resources that I am afforded simply by being a modern British man. From that point onwards I started to really work hard both in terms of music and science, to really capitalise on the situation I have found myself in. I feel that many young boys who show academic promise from early become apathetic and do not develop a desire to work hard, and I was a textbook case of that. This pattern is evidenced by the fact that young boys have been falling behind girls academically statistically in a significant way. I got lucky that I realised soon enough the value of hard work, but I am also happy that I didn’t go to UCL straight away, because if I had, I doubt I would end up doing a PhD there now and focusing on the work that I do currently.
Jazz and grime have a shared trajectory in that they're both rooted in freestyle and were born as a vehicle of expression for marginalised black youth. What's next for music as a weapon against oppression?
Jazz Drill is Next.
Having pioneered the merging of two disparate music genres, do you have plans to introduce more influences, is there a hi-life/drill/bebop mega mix on the cards?
I have begun to merge different genres outside of jazz and drill, such as drum and bass and dubstep. My EP, which is coming out soon, will feature these experimentations. I plan to keep pushing the Jazz Drill genre to its natural extension, but also to continue merging whatever music I like to listen to, whether that’s baroque style classical music or drum and bass.
Imagine you are the maestro of all musical pairings. If you could mastermind a collaboration between a grime artist and a jazz artist, dead or alive, who would you pick and why?
I have often imagined what it would sound like for John Coltrane to play over Drill Beats. It would have to be John Coltrane because he’s my favourite saxophonist, but he also was very forward thinking so I can easily imagine him embracing modern music. I would probably opt for a collaboration between a producer and Coltrane as opposed to a rapper. For me that producer would have to be 808 Melo as he is the prototypical virtuosic drill producer.