A Talk with J.Plantana
J.Plantana is a Michigan rapper whose latest album, Better Upset, is an eclectic blend of hip hop and electronic sounds which separates her from the rest of the underground. This year, she’s already started work on new music, such as the New Demeanor EP set for release in early March.
Plantana spoke on the creation of her last project, Better Upset. She said: “For about a year and a half, I struggled with writing a full song. For whatever reason, I just couldn’t do it. I then had a mental breakdown of sorts in late 2021, and as I was recovering, my creativity was pushed into high gear. That’s where the album name comes from – I realised that I can write better music when I’m upset.
“The album touches on themes of mental illness, obviously, but I wanted to do it in an artistic way. My OCD gets worse when I’m bored during summertime, which is where the concepts for ‘Lemonade’ and ‘Jungle’ came from. Speaking of ‘Jungle’, I used that song to close out the project on a positive, recovery-based note.”
While Better Upset is only a seven-track mixtape, each song is packed with detail and meaning for Plantana. She said: “Better Upset was originally going to be a five-track EP. But as I kept finding more instrumentals that matched the tone of the album, I just said, ‘Fuck it,’ and decided to turn it into a mixtape. There’s stories behind pretty much all of the tracks; ‘New Crew’, for example, is quite literally about me weeding out negative people in my friend groups during high school. It’s kind of a lame topic on paper, but I hope I turned it into something interesting through my lyrics. ‘Special Soup’ was, by far, the most fun track for me to write. It’s about not blindly trusting authority, and although it’s not tied to my own life in a super significant way, I think it’s something that we all ought to remember.”
Since Better Upset, Plantana has been busy working on new music. She said: “I just recorded a four-track EP that incorporates indie rock, experimental trap, and other alternative jams that I usually focus on. I wanted this project to have both old school flows and more contemporary influences … I think I’m gonna call the EP New Demeanor.”
Aside from her solo work, J.Plantana is part of More Than They Thought, an underground collective of rappers. She said: “I’ve always wanted to join a rap collective as I used to be a huge Brockhampton fan, so it felt like a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, I haven’t been as involved in leading the group for a while as I’ve been extremely busy, but I did drop a verse on our new single, ‘Protagonist.’ It’s a banger, and I highly encourage everyone to check it out.”
Plantana went on to speak about what inspired her electronic style of rap music. “I’m from Metro Detroit, and I discovered that techno was founded like twenty minutes away from my hometown, in a place called Belleville … Me and my mom tend to bond by listening to electronic music, and I’ve been to Movement Detroit twice. Basically, techno and electronic music is personal to me, and I absolutely love the sound. There aren’t too many techno rappers out there right now besides Channel Tres and a few others, and I’d love to contribute to that genre.”
She added: “I was always looking for a hobby where I could unleash the creative energy I had. But when I tried drawing, writing stories, and even playing instruments, it never really felt right. For my entire life, I was searching for the perfect creative medium that I was good at, and that was fast-paced and engaging with a lot of room for error. I finally started listening to hip hop at age sixteen, and I started to think, ‘This is what I need to do.’ Embarrassed at being a female rapper, I tried to only make beats instead, but my heart did not lie entirely in producing.”
Plantana spoke more about the pressures of being a woman in the rap scene. “I felt that a lot during high school, as that’s a huge time of insecurity and uncertainty … But as I moved away from home and started to get involved in the local scene, I’ve begun to flourish and bond with some really amazing artists. People on the internet can be ruthless, but people in Lansing have really made me feel included. I want to work towards making hip hop an inclusive space for all women from all different subgenres.”
When it comes to future collaborations, Plantana has a few names in mind: “I’m gonna work with some local folks soon, like Sean Mic and Duncan Graham. I hope I can collaborate with some of the producers I admire like Peejay – a Korean producer – and maybe even work my way up to The Alchemist someday.”
Plantana touched on her plans for the new year: “Besides releasing my EP, I’ll be working on conceptualising my next album and getting some of the pieces together. Also, I’ll be shooting a music video for ‘Jungle’ in March!”
With New Demeanor scheduled for release in early March and a new album in the works, 2023 is looking to be an even busier year for J.Plantana.