Jneiro Jarel and Khujo Goodie? Who would have figured?
On the surface, the two couldn’t be more different. Jneiro is an acclaimed rapper, singer, and producer of bleeding-edge beats. In fact, he usually adopts a different alias for each album: 2005’s Three Piece Puzzle as Jneiro, 2006’s Brazilian-inflected Beat Journey as Dr. Who Dat; and last year’s space-hop adventure Craft of the Lost Art as Shape of Broad Minds.
Meanwhile, Khujo Goodie is one-fourth of the legendary Goodie Mob, the Atlanta quartet behind the groundbreaking 1995 classic Soul Food. His inimitable baritone and Southern wisdom is recognized by hip-hop fans the world over. He continues to be an underground force, releasing a well-received solo album, Mercury in 2007.
Together, the two are called Willie Isz.
“My dad’s name is Willie Gilyard, and his dad’s name is Willie Knighton. And they’re both from Georgia,” explains Jneiro. Meanwhile, the “Isz” comes from the 90s MTV cartoon The Maxx, where little carnivorous monsters called the Isz plague the titular superhero. It’s inspired by Khujo’s trademark growl: “Khujo’s got a monstrous type of approach where you’ve got to take him seriously.”
They both hail from Georgia, but Jneiro currently calls Philadelphia, Pennsylvania home. It’s their mix of sensibilities – Jneiro’s urban futurism and wildly unique vocals alongside Khujo’s classic Southern rap — that powers Willie Isz’s Georgiavania.
“We definitely want to keep that Dungeon, Goodie Mob, OutKast vibe. A lot of hip-hop is lacking that soul that Dungeon Family used to bring to the table. We’re holding on to that,” says Jneiro.
“But we’ve got some new elements. When we put out that ‘Georgiavania,’ man, people were like, ‘Man, I can’t believe Khujo spit on a beat like that! He’s snapping on the beat, too!’ I want the people to see Khujo in a different type of way. This dude is incredibly talented. I want to showcase his diversity.”
“It’s that vibe,” says Khujo. “The type of music that JJ is blessed to sit in the room and come up with is the vibe that music is going to go.”
Georgiavania’s title track, a Gothic mix of bounce-rap and that crazy “Rrraagh!” sound from De La Soul’s “Ego Trippin’ (Part Two),” is definitely on some other ish. But it only hints at Willie Isz’s eclecticism.
“It’s very musical, and it’s very electronic,” says Jneiro. “You’re going to hear guitar and live instrumentation, and there’s only one sample on the album. It’s a whole ‘nother perspective of my approach. People know me for being extra weird, but I bring it more down to earth with this record. It’s a good balance between the two.”