EPISODE 77 – KENNETH MEJIA FOR CITY CONTROLLER

For our 77th episode, we sit down for a chat with Kenneth Mejia, the millennial Filipino-American who is trailblazing in his race for the L.A. City Controller’s office. Kenneth and I discuss his upbringing in Los Angeles as the youngest of a single-parent household in the San Fernando Valley, as well as how he came to develop a passion for budgets over a decade, leading to his and his community’s special attention to the L.A. City budget today. We also discuss the actual meaning of “defunding the police” as it relates to public safety, as well as how folks out there interested in supporting his campaign can get involved. A can’t miss-session for voters everywhere in Los Angeles, but especially those in SFV, K-town, and then some.

J.T.

Music in L.A. with Jon Quest

“My roots are stronger than they’ve ever been,

I think it’s time I branched out.”

JON QUEST tells a Cuento. As an L.A. bred artist with a passion for music as a motivating force, there’s a distinct quality about what he does with his music that anyone who can place just a few things into perspective will appreciate: Los Angeles is one of the entertainment capitals of the world, music is a major part of that ‘capital’, and Jon plays an active part in these worlds by creating his own, original content, posting it up for free online for virtually anyone who wants to hear something other than the mainstream. This is no easy task, but considering that his music is also in the mix with industry giants, not to mention artists from across the country and all over the world, I had to stop, reflect, and ask Jon a few questions for The L.A. Storyteller:

1. What is one of your earliest musical memories?

Basically anytime I was helping around the house with cleaning, handiwork, yard work or cooking, music was there. My parents both had very extensive music collections on cassettes, including CDs and Vinyl, and so I grew up listening to Al Green, Marvin Gaye, Parliament Funkadelic, the Isleys, Earth Wind and Fire, and other stuff like what I remember from riding in the car with my folks.

2. What is it about Los Angeles that makes it a special place to be for music?

As a teenager, I remember when I first started noticing that a lot of things I saw on TV were filmed or based right in the city, and feeling a kind of pride in that. My parents would also tell me about where certain events took place and other memories of the city and I loved soaking up the history too.

Now, I see Los Angeles as just a hub, filled with all kinds of chill people who work on our own time; the weather is always great and that helps with productivity and the mood.

But at first I actually resented L.A. for being such a hub, leading to all kinds of people moving out here and raising the prices of everything around me and my folks. It actually got to the point to where I couldn’t find a job out here after high school, leading me to move away for about six years until I got major homesickness. I used that feeling to get myself back here and now I’m loving L.A. and my work in it again.

3. When and how did you begin rapping?

I was actually working on becoming a musician before I began rapping. Somewhere in middle school I really fell into alternative music and when I got to high school that evolved into a love for punk rock, which led to me being a part of a few different bands in my teens. Eventually I had been in a punk band called “Nobody Good” for about three years when I ran into some old childhood friends of mine. Catching up with them I learned that they had started experimenting with music too, though with rap and hip hop; I started hanging with them, listening to B.I.G. and Nas, and sooner than later started trying to rhyme like them. All of it led me to evolve into the artist I am today.

4. How do you construct a rhyme?

My rhymes have become very personal. I used to sit down and actually structure verses out, and sometimes I still do, but nowadays I feel like I have so much to say and when it starts to come out I do my best to give it room to freely flesh out. The feeling I get from an instrumental is crucial to me; the vibe of the beat really helps me find myself and the direction of what I have to say. I also write rhymes without beats and even freestyle with friends once in a while. I just try to stay busy and on top of everything so that when inspiration strikes, it finds me working and ready to listen and communicate what the muse is telling me.

5. What does rapping ‘do’ for you; as in, how does it affect your emotions?

With some of my best verses, I feel like it wasn’t something I did alone, but like they came from some unknown place for me to be like a vessel or tool of the universe for translation. I’ve learned a lot about myself with music and the people in it, and now I just want to make music that supports others with the same. Music is a tool for getting to know yourself, and I believe that getting to know yourself is the number one way to finding happiness. You have to know yourself and love yourself before you ever have a chance at getting to know someone else or loving them, and to me that’s what my music is about, or what it does for me.

6. How long did “The Girl Tape” take you to complete?

About a solid year. Around this time last summer, my (roommate/Producer) Ashley (Brown), started making these instrumentals using some sampling techniques he was exploring at the time. One day he came into my room and said he wanted to drop a project called ‘In My Feelings,’ and if I wanted to be on a few songs. We worked in that direction for a solid two months or more, but then Drake dropped ‘Scorpion’ with the song, “In My Feelings”, which went viral with the dance and everything and which also killed our vibe for that title; we had to pivot then and essentially kind of simplify everything.

We picked the strongest songs that sounded well together and focused on them. We talked them out, I wrote a few versions of a couple songs on the list and tossed them out, and once we finally began to “hear” the tape and realized the meat of it was about relationships, we came up with the name ‘ t h e g i r l t a p e ‘. The rest was fairly simple: I reached out to a few graphic designers for visuals and sought out someone to mix and master the songs. That’s where Sal Diandria gets into the mix. I was sold that he was the guy to help complete ‘ t h e g i r l t a p e ‘. I re-recorded all my verses at his in-home studio. The rest is history. We released it this past September on Bandcamp.

7. What can listeners expect next from Jon Q now that The Girl Tape is out?

I’ve always been a fan of dropping songs on SoundCloud, so we have a few we’re planning on releasing there. Our next project, entitled ‘ W H I T E B R O N C O, ‘ is what we’re trying to release on all streaming platforms sometime early next year. But I’m always down to talk and feature with someone else on the grind as well. The hustle continues.

8. What words of wisdom would you share with a young aspiring artist today?

If you’re young and reading this for some reason, I just want to tell you to be yourself. Get to know yourself. Learn about your bad habits and learn from your mistakes. Stay humble, don’t worry about what others have and what you don’t. Just do the right thing and try to keep that Positive Mental Attitude because that shit is crucial. Find what you love and chase it with a passion. Let whatever you love consume you, drown yourself in it, and find yourself.

To listen to Jon Quest’s latest release, The Girl Tape, find it for FREE on Bandcamp HERE.

J.T.

Get Literary, Los Angeles


Following another lightning round of work at the shop for the day, it should have been just another chill bike ride home. But a force came over me as I decided it was time to give something else a try.

Just as I was about to make the swerve onto the ole block, I decided to keep going in a stroll through la vecindad. I’d gotten an idea. When I came across intersections through the neighborhood where I could find an outpost for the free literature, I stopped, took off my backpack, searched through the folder inside which contained a couple of prints, then grabbed the prints, took them out and dropped them into the boxes. I did this at nine (9) intersections throughout the neighborhood, and the results led to printed copies of JIMBO TIMES’s Los Angeles Students at the following cross-streets:

Virgil and Normal (1 Post: 2 copies)
Virgil and Monroe (1 Post: 2 copies)
Virgil and Clinton (1 Post: 2 copies)
Vermont and Clinton (1 Post: 2 copies)

Melrose and Vermont (3 Posts: 6 copies)
Vermont and Normal (2 Posts: 6 copies)
Vermont and Santa Monica (3 Posts: 6 copies)
Virgil and Santa Monica (1 Post: 2 copies)

Virgil and Lockwood – (1 Post & The Mini-Library: 2 & 2 -3 copies)

Halfway into making these ’rounds,’ I realized something. It was a job. A job that used to exist in days before I came onto the scene, when the world was a slightly more literary place. Or at least before all of it became digitized, relinquishing the power of the print into the depths of the past.

Rather than dropping off copies of the New York or L.A. Times, however, I dropped off copies of these JIMBO TIMES. That’s when something else hit me: I want to make more of these rounds for The L.A. Storyteller, one day, with my very own newspaper for the block!

I imagine the path towards such a dream is probably quite long, but then, how could I not give it a shot? During all these years blogging, the power of the written word has only grown on me, convincing me once and for all that reading and writing are mediums by which a people or pueblo can become aware of their environment in ways that are invaluable to them.

And even if Los Angeles never quite had much of a literary Intellegentsia, as Mike Davis has noted, the past doesn’t represent a world we’re confined to forever, but a possibility incumbent on those of us present to uplift for different worlds in the future.

We’ve got to do it, then, don’t we, Los Angeles? As with all things, one step at a time. We’re not afraid of a challenge when we know it’s in our veins to take it on. Indeed, that’s why we’re here.

Let’s make it happen, Los Angeles. Let’s get literary.

J.T.

J.T. the L.A. Storyteller Turning Four

It’s been nearly four years since the formation of JIMBO TIMES. During this time, the site, like its author, has undergone a number of transformations.

When J.T. first began the premise was simply a dedication to Los Angeles, entailing an effort on my part to capture pulses and characters of the town that I felt were being overlooked or passed over for the city’s more glitzy and glamorous developments. Looking back at that first year in business today, no dedication from the time speaks more to this intention than Dear Leo, which addresses the tragic loss of a young life in the community in the form of a letter to the deceased teenager. In just ten days, it will be a full three years since Leo’s passing, and while the community he left is still (t)here, there have also been more losses to come to terms with since.

In the second year with JIMBO TIMES, J.T. became wrapped up in the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles, and therefore with its people. A wonderful road trip to Miami for VONA was quickly followed by work, community, and then more work. And as a still-fairly recent college graduate at that time, getting used to managing these different elements of work for J.T. was a learning curve. Nevertheless, in Bah’!, I declare my love for what serving in Los Angeles as one of its baristas showed me about myself. Today, as a result of the time I’m at a significantly better place with managing the different work environments I’m now a part of. The second year of JIMBO TIMES was also the Year of the Quartz.

In the third year for L.A. Stories, an affinity for photographing L.A. became enmeshed with a need to address the political climate of the time. This was no more clear than with POC Today, a video-interview project which saw me working with different peers and colleagues of mine to take our engagement with the community to the next level. Our third year also included a trip to Japan, through Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, and even Hiroshima, all of which I tried to capture to the best of my ability in Never Alone.

Then, as if not to be outdone by the wonders of the East, Mexico called out to me once I returned from Japan, pulling me into its glorious stretches. And so just a few months later I flew out of LAX again, this time for Ciudad Mexico, Puebla, Mexico, and finally, Oaxaca, Mexico. Nearly one year later, POCT is on a hiatus, but each colleague from the project and more are still circulating through The City with me, and somehow none of us doubt that we haven’t seen the last of the project yet; POCT is still with me, just as Japan and Mexico are still with me.

Finally, in this fourth and most recent year with J.T., everything from traveling abroad to protesting in downtown Los Angeles or MacArthur Park, to videographing for POC Today up and down L.A., and to sitting down to read and further my analysis of all of these actions, has expanded my understanding of the world in a way I couldn’t quite formulate four years ago when I first launched the site.

There is also more throughout these four years that’s developed to a milestone point, like time with the Inside Out Writers visiting different juvenile detention facilities throughout Southern California, or time with the Plus Me Project visiting different schools throughout all of Los Angeles. I’ve now spoken with dozens of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated young people, and even thousands of students both at the grade and university levels, in and beyond Los Angeles; in the process I’ve learned how this work truly matters to me, and how, if I don’t get it done, there isn’t quite a guarantee that it will get done.

To make things more interesting, in the same light speed with which the last four years have gone by, there is one more trip on the horizon for JIMBO TIMES ahead. At the center of the trip are the people I’m set to meet, and just how they’ll inform me as every character and environment throughout this journey has done. Because in actuality J.T. has never really been about meeting or ‘capturing’ people just for the sake of it, but about learning from them to see how I can bring it all back to the pueblo. Nuestro Pueblo, Los Angeles.

Moreover, because I’m now aware of the different interests I have when taking part in excursions like the next one in a way I couldn’t quite see four years ago, it’s only more exciting for me and my community to witness. Of course, in true L.A. storyteller fashion we can’t quite reveal the exact location of the next trip until just the right time. But we will get there, Los Angeles, and we will once again utilize the experience to elevate our vecindad.

What I can say is that in the fourth year of JIMBO TIMES the intention is to expand my analysis once again so I can also challenge and grow that of my peers and those after us; I can only do this with the information that’s out there, and so let us get to more of the work we need to to find it, Los Angeles.

The future is waiting on us,

J.T.