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Photography: Jaleel Brown

Jiffy Rockets Invented Herself

Rap’s newest talent is blending styles and building hype.

POSTEDBYNNEKA ANOZIE

You should listen to Jiffy Rockets. With spirited wordplay, memorable melodies, and natural streams of consciousness effortlessly mixed with edgy, experimental, space-age-like production, the self-taught rapper-producer sets the precedent for what confidence, ease, and artistic dedication can bring to music’s next wave of talent.

Jiffy speaks to Fizzy about her carefree upbringing as a friend of music collective The Rocketeers in Houston, Texas, her distinctive creative process, and her path to finding a sound that’s hers.

Fizzy’s favorites from Jiffy’s newest album In the Air Vol 2.5 are: "Don’t Mess with Texas," "Flex Washington," "Feels," and "Money in My Pocket." Hear our picks and the rest of the album below.



Around what time did you decide that you wanted to rap? 

I would rap with [the Rocketeers] for fun. When I got older, and went to Hampton University for college, everybody was making music and doing their thing. I was hearing people's stuff, and I was like, I have a different sound that I think might be cool. 

Were you more interested in solely rapping, or producing first?

When it comes to rapping, everybody in Houston freestyles. I'm not even the biggest freestyler, but my friends were. We would freestyle on Oovoo and Facebook back in the day. I never had any intention of being a rapper. I just did it for fun, and actually ended up being pretty good. 

The first time I produced, I got GarageBand on my computer, and I was like, I want to make a song. I was trying to rap, and was like, I have to make a beat so I can make the song. I don’t think YouTube had beats back then. I didn't have the resources, so I just made something shake. 

How did you come up with your rap name? I saw on your Instagram page that you have this highlight that just says "JIF." Did you come up with the "Jif" in "Jiffy Rockets" because of the word “JIF/GIF,” meaning a “moving image?”

That's so funny, I've never heard that. Everybody always goes straight to cornbread, peanut butter, or Jiffy Lube, but I like that better. 

The “Rockets” part really came first in my name. A friend of mine in The Rocketeers, Burner Celly said, “Change your name to Jordan Rockets on Twitter.”  I had no clue why. We were always so close, though, so I changed it. 

“Jiffy” has evolved through the years. I had this necklace with a robot on it. I would wear it every single day, and I used to call it Jiffy. One day, I lost the necklace, and I would tell people, “Call me Jiffy. I’m Jiffy now.” It’s so crazy how it really stuck– teachers call me that, my volleyball and basketball coach called me that, everyone at school... a lot of people don't know my actual name. I guess people were just like, “‘Jiffy’ takes too long to say.” So they started saying “Jif.” 

You mentioning how you would wear a robot around your necklace makes me think about how digital and spacey your production feels. It feels like it’s on purpose, especially with “Rockets” being your last name.

Right! I swear it’s not [intended]. I’ve always loved technology. When I was a kid, I was always on the computer– but I was on BearShare. My parents would see me on the computer all day, and be like “Oh, you love technology, you should be a computer engineer!” I just so happened to be good at math, too. For a while, I thought I was gonna do computer engineering, and went to school for it for a bit, but it wasn’t in the stars. That [vibe] is always going into my music for sure. I love everything that has to do with the future. I’m not that interested in physically going to space, but I like learning and knowing about it.

How would you summarize your rap style? The cadence, the bars, wordplay, all of that?

With everything I do, I try to make something that I've never heard before.

It’s disruptive. It’s experimental. It’s me being okay with sounding like someone that people aren’t used to. I’ll freestyle with a mumble vibe, but they’re still words. I’ll say [something], keep it, loop it, play off of it. I’ll have a melody in my head, and find random ways to go off of that. It’s the concept of me not thinking, just saying. That's what makes it feel effortless. It’s me trusting what’s in me already. 

I’m definitely still a bar person. I came up on Nicki, Drake and Wayne. I love making vibes, but I'm keeping you on your toes and saying some shit that’s gonna make you think. I also listen to a lot of mumble rap. I love Carti. Thug, too. I was just mentioning to my best friend and business partner Pimp Pink about how the whole Rich Gang Soundcloud saga had us in a chokehold. 

Texas rappers have, of course, put the culture on the map, with the likes of DJ Screw, UGK, Geto Boys, and more in the 90s and early 2000s. They’ve created a sound that people could always go back to— when you hear it, you know it’s Texas. Now, we have people like Travis, Megan, and Maxo Kream here, who always rep where they're from, but have a sound that is surpassing the city and solidifying pieces of itself within pop culture. From your perspective as someone who lives in Texas, and is part of the scene in Houston, what do you think the current local music scene is like?

It’s evolved a lot, even since I was in high school. That whole 90s and 2000s phase of Houston music influences every artist [here]. You’re lying if you say you’re not influenced by our music culture. The sound is evolving, and I give Sanman Studios the credit. There’s a lot of spaces [like Sanman] in the city giving creatives a place to come together and have community. We’re in a space where it's like, we’re gonna be back in that time, where Houston music was coming up as one [movement], because there are so many artists that are dope, and have that new evolved Houston sound that people haven't even heard of yet. 

Our friend Sierra sent me two songs of yours: "Wasscenes" and "Money in My Pocket (MIMP)." She’s had an amazing taste in music since youth, so I listen to whatever she puts me on to. She puts me on to a lot of young artists from Texas, and they’re always good. When I initially listened to your songs, and moved on to the rest of your music, I had such a strong pull to it because you ride the beat perfectly. You can tell when people are producers, and create their own music because it flows. The musicality is just there. As someone who both raps and produces, what has your process of creating music looked like so far?

[Creating] is mostly a fun game I’m playing in my head. I have learned different ways to make a song sound better over the years. Usually, I’ll go into it being like, this is how I want it to sound. I want it to sound like paradise, or a stormy night. I do that first, for structure. Then, I’ll make the beat. Sometimes I’ll make half the beat and am feeling it, so I’ll start recording, and make the beat over what I vocally did. That’s what I did for "Wasscenes." 

I barely remember the exact process, but the cool thing is, because I make all of my stuff from scratch, I have the files and can go back and see what I did. For the first In the Air [project], I did the majority of the songs in one weekend, in one take.

How did you get in the zone to create that so quickly? Did you know that you wanted to make a project before you started recording?

I honestly didn’t. That weekend was Astroworld in 2019. All of my friends were there except for me. I was like, this is gonna amp me up, because I’m trying to be in those spaces in general. I thought, if I’m not gonna be there, I need to be working my ass off. I get into those zones at least once a week. My mind is always telling me to go harder. I usually make four songs on a regular night. 

I was probably in one of those zones, and did it again [the next night]. At first, I had a playlist on my phone that was called “Astroworld is in the Air,” because that’s how I felt that weekend. That’s where the name of the album came from. 

When you’re making music and are in the zone, do you need to be in isolation, or do you like having people around?

I'm all good either way. I taught myself to never have writer's block, so, regardless of the situation, I’m gonna have a great time. I’m an only child— sometimes I like to be by myself because I can be as weird as I want. I’m [also] an active music maker, though. I like to dance and joke around. 

The way I started with the Rocketeers was only through collaboration. I'd never had any of my own music. Later, I started actually taking this seriously – I bought all my own stuff, and was just making music at home and was more solo dolo. I still love being around people. I feed off of the energy of my friends and other artists.

What’s the difference between In the Air Volume 1 and 2 to you? Did you have varying inspirations between the two projects?

It’s less of inspiration and more of a mindset change. It’s me being more myself and caring less. Like, my parents listen to my music sometimes. My mom used to be the police, always commenting on what I said. Now? Imma say what Imma say. 

Volume 2 is so much more complex. The beats are, the bars are. It’s me figuring out what my voice is.

Both [projects] show an evolution. When I make a bunch of songs at one time, it’s just me getting my feelings out right at that moment. You see the evolution of my thoughts in the daytime, nighttime, midday… It's like driving down [Highway] 59 in the day versus driving there at night– what I would play in the morning when I wake up, versus what I will play on a Friday night going to Sanman.  

Speaking of Houston highways! You love repping the city in your music, with bars like “Running from the H to the Mo,” in Volume 1’s “Not Right Now Cotty,” talking about that ride from the city to the suburbs. You also have the “Don’t Mess with Texas” phrase as a title for one of your Volume 2 tracks – the roadway slogan all Houstonians are bound to see when driving in the city. How else have aspects of Houston and Mo City life inspired you personally?

A thousand ways. I was born in Detroit, Michigan, and moved to Houston in the second grade. As soon as I touched down, I saw nothing but spinners and black people with money. On the radio, it’s “Still Tippin” and “Barre Baby" playing. Instantly, I was like, “I fucking love this place.” I have older cousins that used to babysit me. I always looked up to them. They’re who put me on to all of the music and culture. The art and architecture here, even. I’m living here everyday, so I don’t know how exactly it inspires me, but I just know. 

Mo City, specifically, is a little bit different. It's not a city vibe. I went to school with the same people from elementary to high school. Everyone in Mo City knows each other. It’s carefree. Travis [Scott] explained it so well once. He basically said, “It’s so nice, it looks so pretty, but people be wildin’ though.” I’m a really visual person, so I never take Mo City’s [beauty] for granted. 

You mention and show visuals online a lot, too. For In the Air Volume 2, what was your inspiration behind your photography and how you wanted to present it?

It’s definitely a huge part of what I love to do. I’m into marketing, so from that standpoint, I'm like, I need so much content. In my Jiffy brain, I’m like, Everyone on social media is just posting content just to post it. I want to tell a story, or make you feel like you’re getting something out of it. I love film. I’ve always wanted to hear my music in those movies. What I’m hoping is to [do] some of that with these amazing creatives – we can create smaller-scaled versions of TV scenes, movies, or even commercials. I’ve been working with 11th Power Pierre and he’s just brilliant. Andras knows a lot about cinematography, lighting... that’s helped me evolve a lot, being around those people. 

How do you know when your albums are done? How did you know what songs would make the project, and the ones that would be solo songs on Soundcloud?

I’ll make a playlist. When I make songs, I’ll add it [to that playlist], run it nonstop, and go from there – either they’re a Soundcloud song, or they’re on In the Air. I’ll share a private playlist with my close circle and see what they think. Half the time I’ll go with the original [song] idea, but those little notes [from my friends] change the whole album. 

I didn’t want Volume 2 to be so much “day to night” because it’s predictable. It started off like that, but it evolved to, “Imma make sure that everyone’s awake.” It’s a shift in what I wanted to listen to. I’ve been in a super amped up mood, so I wanted to have enough of that on the tape. I really wanted it to match my energy. 

Hopefully everyone sees that evolution. I’ve already started working on the next stuff, a lot of stuff that didn’t make it on In the Air. I don’t even know if they're ready for that. We got that after.

When did the idea of not ever getting writer’s block come up?

I went through one of those down moments in my life, and [entered] a phase of thinking, “I’m going to be better.” I learned about how important my thoughts are. I’m constantly convincing myself that [negative] stuff doesn’t exist so that I can trick myself into getting through it. 

I hear it so much because I’m always with other artists. They’ll be like, “I got writer’s block,” and I’m just like, That don’t exist. We’re not going to do "writer’s block" today. It sounds kind of patronizing, but I have to keep telling myself that in my mind. I’m like that with a lot of things in life, just trying to beat out my own thoughts. Now it’s really a habit. 

I used to write out sayings to tell myself on my wall when I’m in self-doubt. I still do have a vision board to stay inspired, but now, I’m at a point where I don’t need [the sayings] anymore. 

Credits

Photography by Jaleel Brown

Special thanks to Sierra Johnson

 

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