Local hip-hop artist Isaiah Smith, who performs as IMJLS, wanted to connect artists of all kinds to create, so he launched the Creative Collective, through social media, during the fall of 2015. The now-twenty-year-old is experimenting with his rap style and accompanying visual projects. Many of his recent collaborations are with people he met through the Creative Collective. We spoke with Smith about his hopes for that project, the importance of collaboration in art, and how his love of words and writing translates to his music.
Westword: What does the Creative Collective look like?
Isaiah Smith: It’s a grassroots movement right now. It's been dope, because even middle-schoolers and high-schoolers know my music and know the collective. I’ve watched it influence a lot of different artists into making art their thing and what they need to do. It’s a community; it’s on all social media. On Instagram, no matter what kind of artist you are, I have them send me three different visuals that would work well together and do visually pleasing things with the feed versus the single picture. I put it through the Collective. I'm working on a Snapchat now. I want certain artists I’ve worked with to be able to access it and share it with the group, but at the same time, I don’t want it to stray from the art side of it…. As far as the Collective [goes], I’m focused on myself to make it prosper more.
Focused on yourself in what ways?
Making more art and building the right relationships. I’m not a cocky person, but I’m confident. I know that the type of music being made right now is something that will prosper and do great things. I’m trying to master that craft. My voice is something that’s different, so I’m trying to advance it and make it more dynamic. There aren’t many rap artists that have a vibrato with a growl [laughs]. That’s some weird shit. So I’ve been trying to get that down and open up to my sound. In addition to that, I’ve always been an instrumentalist, and I’m at a point where I’m advancing in that with my ear. So I’ve been picking up more instruments and trying to open up any way of creation. That’s what I want to do; I don’t want to be working at a part-time job.
What is your current perception of creativity and artistry in Colorado specifically? What do you hope to contribute to that as an individual and part of the Creative Collective?
I believe Colorado’s music scene is missing something when it comes to community and the overall support of one another. There is by no means a lack of talent or creativity; the state flourishes in all aspects. The reason I feel we see a lot of talent go unnoticed is because of ignorance, also almost a “race”-style mentality. Who is gonna win? Who will be crowned? When in reality, when you’re gone, to me, that isn’t very relevant.
As an individual, I hope to bring a spirit of duality and unique sounds to the people who enjoy my art. There are many artists who spoke to me when it felt no one else was. All I’ve ever wanted to be was that for someone else. The Creative Collective, though, is something I believe is truly bigger than myself or anyone as an individual and as a network. I envision it helping and providing tools for artists all across the globe.
Why do you find connection to be important to art? Especially if you feel you're an introvert, how do you feel connection enhances your work as an individual and within the collective?
Artistic expression is not simply an expression of art, but of one’s soul. People bleed through art, like paint would through a thin piece of paper. I think when you lose the connection, you’re simply losing the ability to convey yourself properly — which in turn would simply be another artistic expression that exemplifies the disconnect from self.
Music gives me the platform I am comfortable expressing myself to the world through; I struggle with being manic and overly anxious in a crowd. But say I am to perform? I feel better and more ready than ever. The collective and creation in general truly bring me out.
How do you think your love of studying English in school and words has played into the development of your more musical-artist side?
Speaking articulately and with purpose is something that’s been instilled in me from a young age. Many mentors and many family members and friends enhanced my ability to speak fluently. It’s just a part of me. I like to speak, and I like to do so in a manner many wouldn’t. It has really helped me grow into an artist that is unique and has kept me from running out of material. I write to write, convey things to my own self, and grow. IMJLS, 6 p.m. Tuesday, October 31, $15, Dickens Opera House, 300 Main Street, Longmont, 303-834-9384.
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Riley Cowing has been writing with Westword since July 2016. She is originally from Kansas City and graduated from the journalism school at the University of Missouri-Columbia. She enjoys connecting with local artists, drinking all types of espresso and loves any excuse to watch The Devil Wears Prada.