Free Samples: Jamiah toasts her friend and collaborator Lauren McClinton and Larry Jenkins spells out how the AOB owns popular tunes

WNXP is debuting a new weekly series called Free Samples. Sampling has always been a part of hip-hop creativity and culture; people borrow from the classics to create new work, and pay homage and situate themselves in stylistic lineages in the process. In that spirit, we’ve asked an array of Black music-makers, who’ve done a lot to define the sound of Nashville, to speak about the musical sources, influences and experiences, the predecessors, peers and collaborators that have enriched their work. Whether they’re talking about literal sampling or using that as a metaphor, they’re going to help us hear meaningful connections and give credit where it’s due.

Jamiah, a Nashville-based pop and R&B singer and songwriter who’s supplied elegant hooks for hip-hop tracks you’ve heard on WNXP, reminisced about sharing a bill with fellow artist Lauren McClinton, and building mutual respect, a co-writing connection and close friendship from there:

“Hello, my name is Jamiah and I am a singer-songwriter based here in Nashville, but I’m originally from Augusta, Georgia. I came to know Lauren McClinton from a show that we had together, I believe, in 2018. But then she started dating my best friend and we just got super close because she would always come around. Just got to know her. And we have just been basically best friends ever since.

Something distinct about her writing style or her singing or her strength, I would say is, one, I love her writing and I feel like she just knows how to really say what she’s feeling in a beautiful way. And it sounds good. I feel like she says things in a really clever, witty way. I feel like sonically, her music is super R&B, super soulful. It’s calm, but she can definitely take you there and get you turned if you want. It just feels really good. It feels really warm. And I do think her being from L.A. does give her naturally just a different sound, because she’s been exposed to so many different things and cultures and even just how she was raised and the music that she listen to. I definitely do think that that plays a part in her sound and how unique it is.

“We’ve definitely collabed together. We have a song that we wrote together, recorded years ago that was our first collaboration. And then she went on to help me co-write a couple songs on my very first project. I feel like I had a lot of the songs written for my project and all the missing blanks that I needed. She just easily and quickly and perfectly filled them in and said exactly what I needed, what I was trying to say. So the last song on my project called 22, I just remember her coming into my room when I was writing that and me being like, ‘Help, I need this word. I need a word. What should go here?'”

Listen to Jamiah toast the songwriting style and contributions of her friend Lauren McClinton; intro instrumental by @popeyesyesyall

Larry Jenkins, Assistant Director of Bands for Tennessee State University’s Aristocrat of Bands (and member of former Nashville Artist of the Month Brassville), spoke with authority about how the AOB puts its show-stopping spin on popular material, and holds its own against other HBCU bands in the process:

“Hello. What’s happening? My name is Larry Jenkins. I am a professor and an assistant director of bands and arranger for the Aristocrat of Bands at Tennessee State University. So my role with the band is really rooted in the sound of the band and the music that the band is playing, even though you know each band director, we all have our hands, I think, in everything. One way or another, arranging music and rehearsing the band, shaping the sound and making sure that our sound is characteristic to us is a big part of what I do and a big part of my role.

When it comes to the AOB, one thing about us, we’re known for having a book. What I mean by having a book, that means we have a lot of songs, and diverse songs, to choose from. So if we’re talking top 40, we’re talking your rap songs, we’re talk R&B, the ones that get you up singing. We’re talking those songs that are just unique to us, unique to TSU. We’re talking movie themes. Anything you can think of, we’re putting in the book, because we want to make sure we give the audience an experience, but we also want to make sure that we’re prepared.

You know, we’re talking HBCU games, so there’s another HBCU band there. We want to be prepared to take the win. It’s just one of those things culturally that is very important when you come to a HBCU game, is to have the music to reflect how we’re feeling, have the music to set the mood and set the vibe. Because yes, it’s a football game, but when you come to a TSU game, when you’re around the AOB, when you’re at a HBCU game, it’s more than the game alone.

“So no matter what song we’re playing, no matter what the arrangement is, we want to make sure that we have our TSU signature sound attached to it. That’s just something that we’re very proud of. If you close your eyes and you heard a few bands playing the same thing, we want you to know from the arrangement style and from the sound of the band which one is TSU. And I think this year, one of the songs that we really just showed our range on was the ‘Loki’ theme. When you hear the way that we play it, and even in some of my approach to arranging it, you’ll still hear the actual theme almost the same way that you would hear it if the show was coming on, if you were watching TV. But with this arrangement and with the way that we did it, you get a little bit of a difference in the drum beat. You get like this hanging concert F that almost makes your head tilt because it’s so shrill and intense. And you also get the fullness of our sound and the balance. You get the tubas that are that are punching these walking quarter notes. So all these different elements that add to the ‘Loki’ theme in regards to the way that we wanted to sound in the marching band realm.”

Listen to Larry Jenkins speak about arranging popular tunes that showcase the AOB; intro instrumental by @popeyesyesyall