Let me start by saying I am by no means a social person. I try to avoid interacting with people at all costs, and this includes my Lyft drivers. I think they're nice, it's just I'm super awkward. But recently I met someone who was genuinely interesting, and my Lyft ride turned into something much more inspiring. I was able to meet an up and coming artist by the name of oriJanus with some kick ass music, and a story that captures attention and intrigue.
After a grueling weekend at Anime Expo, my companion and I ordered a Lyft to take us to the airport. The drive was going to be about 2 hours, as we had picked the wrong airport instead of the one close by. Still mentally kicking myself for that mistake. As we got in the car, my companion, of course, started a lively conversation with the driver. I dodged any interaction like I was a writer dodging deadlines (which I am), letting her take control as the social one in our two man party. Considering the last time I had a conversation with a stranger giving me a Lyft ride I started crying from anxiety, you can understand why I wasn't too eager to pipe up, instead opting to half-listen.
But our driver, Chris, started opening up and sharing an incredible story of how he got to where he was today. I couldn't help but stop what I was doing to listen as he told us his story with complete, open honesty. He spoke with a sincerity and a wisdom that seemed unusual for a stranger. Normally, when people talk to someone they don't know, there's a certain barrier between the two of them, a cordial friendliness that they don't particularly mean, they only give out of obligation. But the conversation with Chris felt very real and raw. He didn't hold back on what he wanted to say, he just openly told us, the way you would talk with a childhood friend. It left a very deep impression on me how he seemed so genuine. It wasn't a random Lyft ride, it was a conversation, a connection between human beings.
He started out in Bakersfield, California, a place known as the home for shady individuals. He talked to us about the gangs, and what life was really like in that area. As one might imagine, and based on what he told us, once you get involved in that area and settle down, people generally get stuck there. Whether it's because of family ties, gang obligations, or the fear of the unknown, it's like a one-way ticket when someone goes there. Chris himself has been involved in gang related activities and was living what was considered the typical teenage life in that area.
As time progressed, Chris started to move away from these activities due to an uncle, someone who served as a big influence on his life and ignited a passion for music in him. His uncle started buying him equipment when he was around 13 years old, encouraging him to stay in the house to make music instead of going out and getting in trouble. The first song Chris produced in his childhood was when he was 11, sampling a song by The Miracles. He always had a musical and technological inclination, but his uncle was able to help him take that to a new level.
Bakersfield, the place where it seemed everyone stopped to settle down, too afraid to leave what they have come to know in the town. From there, the place where no one seemed to return from, Chris grew up and finally emerged, seeking a new life, embracing change. He started producing his own music under the pseudonym oriJanus.
Even as he started along his own path, he didn't forget the situation he had found himself as an adolescent. He worked with an organization called School's Not Prisons, which was a tour visiting college campuses throughout campuses to speak to troubled youth in an effort to reach out and improve lives. Chris was a speaker at three of their tour stops, and was able to speak to those who listened about his own personal experiences. He didn't just come to them as an adult telling them how to live their lives, he spoke to them on equal footing and honestly told them that if he could turn his life around, he knew they could too.
At a certain point, Chris actually turned on some of his music in the car, and I was silently eager to hear what sort of content he was producing. Generally, the music reflects the artist, and with such a fascinating creator I was curious as to how it turned out. To say I was impressed is an understatement. His music was so freaking good, all I wanted to do was to sit there and soak it in. It wasn't a genre I particularly like, I generally avoid Hip-Hop, Rap and electronic music. Most songs in those categories are either very bland or insincere. They also tend to all the sound the same, there's nothing that distinguishes them from the mass. But listening to his work actually completely changed my point of view on how good these genres can be when approached the right way.
His music seemed to personify him very well, reflecting the warmth and energy he seemed to emit, making him seem like much more human. I was taken by the song OG-1, which I don't believe is on his Soundcloud. I also particularly liked A Moment, Her. In all honesty, I loved all of his songs. They ranged between upbeat, pumping me up and sparking determination, to smoother jazzy songs that I often listen to later at night when I'm grappling with writer's block and drinking a cup of tea. There was variety, each piece containing its own unique traits while retaining the qualities that make them his. Bataan is another favorite of mine, like his other work it flows very well. There's something about his music that seems so distinctly personal, it doesn't feel like something that he just throws together as an afterthought. Each song is like a little piece of him that he translated into something that the whole world will be able to listen to and understand.
Someone had once told me that music is the pinnacle of communication, a language that not only is universally understood but something that touches on aspects of ourselves that are too deep for us to reach on our own. In a society where the majority of people have closed themselves off from others, invested in their phones or drowning in negativity, it has become normal for us to experience a gap between ourselves and those around us. Logically it's easy to understand, but how often are we actually exposed to music that pulls on the foreign sensation of human connection? Most songs are mass produced and don't hit on that feeling, but something from someone as authentic as Chris really touches that.
If I had to use a word to describe oriJanus, as both an artist and an individual, it would be dynamic. Positive, full of energy and new ideas, and constantly changing. His songs are almost like a chronicle of his life. There's the influence of his early life, but the willpower to use it as fuel to do better. Full of energy, full of life, constantly changing and getting better and becoming something that leaves a mark in people's monotonous lives, bringing zest and something previously unknown.
He has the drive and potential to make a name in the world, in fact, he has already started. He DJ's, and already has an impressive amount of followers on his Soundcloud. He's an artist who will continue to grow, evolve, and produce more good content and music that stands out from the rest of the crowd. I will be keeping an eye on him, and look forward to seeing more of his work in the future.