Jean Dawson Is Open To Interpretation
Photo: Aidan Cullen

Los Angeles-based Jean Dawson’s debut EP Bad Sports isn’t exactly true. It’s not that the singer-rapper was bad at athletics or, really, a bad team player, he just wasn’t a fan of authority.

Dawson and his older sibling played every sport imaginable, but the singer says he would often quit or get kicked off the team because he was “not super good with authority.”

“[Bad Sports] came from kind of being an athletic kid,” he told ESSENCE. “Me and my elder sibling played every sport imaginable. I played soccer for a long time, then I played basketball and I play football and stuff like that. I have a love for them, it was like kind of just my mom, being a single parent, taking us to every game and practice. But I just never really liked getting yelled at by people for stuff. I’m not super good with authority.”

Listening to the EP, Dawson’s influences are clear. There are sonic and visual nods to Outkast, The Cure, Kid Cudi, and Kanye West with the singer-songwriter’s taste later being informed by groups like Disturbed, N.E.R.D. and random CDs purchased from thrift stores.

“It started off with just CDs, random CDs I would buy at the thrift store that had cool album cover art. Then my brother, who was always this tech-savvy dude, was just like, ‘Yo, there’s this thing called LimeWire where you can get anything you want.'”

“I spent hours upon hours downloading music that either somebody told me about or I’d make a list of stuff that I would hear and I’d have to Google. A lot of it was LimeWire and YouTube. I’d use a converter to convert YouTube links and mp3 files before they had all the licensing policies.”

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Dawson has turned himself into a student of music, revisiting old favorites, discovering new things, and fully diving into various genres, sounds and production.

Lyrically, the singer-rapper loves a little uncertainty.

“I hate the idea of absolution. I’m super into the idea of… I love when something gives you that afterthought, like ‘What the f–k were you talking about?’ A lot of times I’ll overcompensate or feel like I have to make everything black and white for the audience. I think the funnest thing about music is having that interpretation. Everybody can have that be their own world and nobody can tell you that your world is wrong and their world is right.”

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Now, with Bad Sports out, Dawson is turning his attention to an October micro tour, where he’ll do shows in these California cities: Los Angeles, San Diego and Santa Ana.

There’s no timeline on new music just yet, Dawson remains committed to moving at his own pace instead of letting the energy of the industry dictate what he does.

“That type of urgency to be heard by everybody is something that I don’t necessarily have. It’s like, if people find my music and like it, they’ll share it themselves. They’ll share it if they like it.”

He points to a lesson that his mom taught him: “I have to take it a day at a time because of all that I’ve been given in the moment.”

“As a kid, I had this admiration for foresight. I want to be two steps ahead of what you think of that right now. Or five, or six, but I have to live in today. Now, I try to practice that mindfulness of just being in today.”


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