"J.Keen, after a hiatus, returns with "Gold Medals," a self-assured anthem celebrating determination and global influences, crafted alongside the acclaimed Bailouni, and hints at his upcoming track, "San Marino."

Let's pull back the curtains and get into the gritty.

You see, the onset of that unending, seemingly apocalyptic COVID lockdown, that was the backdrop. Amid this bleak canvas, he crafted "Modern Day", "Patiently", and of course, the pièce de résistance: the song we’re dissecting right now — "Gold Medals."

J.Keen enjoying the afternoon sun. Photo supplied.

It's no shocker that with the world teetering on its axis, many of us, myself included, were in a whirlwind of doubts, questioning our paths. Cue the track's ethos: a reminder echoing, "All this uncertainty was creating self-doubt and a bit of fear, and I needed to remind myself that, 'Hey, I’m good.'" Nestled in the song, there's this line that keeps looping – "Never second guess myself cause I want gold medals". It's not just a catchy hook, it's the anthem of the song; J.Keen's unabashed quest for the pinnacle, his hunger for the gold.

And here’s a slice of irony: With the world locked down, encased in four walls, J.Keen was churning out more passion and tunes than ever. Who needs the bustle of the outside when the muse is within, right? That’s the vibe that led to, “Self-heated product, so I never need a kettle”. A nod to the fact that, pandemic or not, the internal fire keeps raging.

“Self-heated product, so I never need a kettle”.

Recording and post-production with the one-and-only Bailouni, was more like diving headfirst into a sea of unrivaled vibes. The first roll of the dice with 'Gold Medals' was back in 2020, but something gnawed at J.Keen's mind, whispering: "You can crank this up." Their initial meeting, mediated by the ever-reliable Zoom, had Bailouni catching his drift faster than a superfan catching a stage dive — the beat was alive and kicking within hours. Then came the in-person magic, the very first face-to-face rendezvous. Let’s just say, the track went from a rough sketch to a Picasso.

Pinning down J.Keen's favorite lyric is like trying to decide which guitar riff has shredded the hardest over the decades. But, if arms be twisted, that first line he scribbled down, "I've been gone for a while but now I’m right back like Garry Neville" — hits home. J.Keen dropped 'Gold Medals' last June, but before that? Radio silence. And just to clear the pitch, though the name-drop Garry Neville, famed Right Back of Manchester United, J.Keen is not exactly painting his face with their colors each game day. Neville's name? It just had the right kind of sound mojo.

"I've been gone for a while but now I’m right back like Garry Neville"

The second verse kicks off, wearing its heart on its sleeve and juggling dual meanings like a seasoned circus act. Born in Lebanon, and brewed in the UAE, the rapper has been shaped by a tapestry of cultures, thanks to his stint at a French school, globetrotting escapades, and multi-continental family. That line, “Middle Eastern blood, but my mind is international?" It's more than a catchy lyric — it's the GPS coordinates of his life's journey, flagging his roots and shooting up the flagpole of his global aspirations in the world of music.

Sure, there are lines in that song that pack more punch than a heavyweight champion, but the personal resonance of these? It’s off the charts. For those who like to jam while diving deep into lyrics, check the track out on Genius. You're in for one hell of a ride.

Diving into what sets this tune apart? It's like comparing apples to, well, even more exotic apples. While J.Keen has always been one to dance between sub-genres, to tinker with the gears and springs of sound, "Gold Medals" is its beast. Think of it as the power anthem of a repertoire – all about envisioning those champagne moments and reveling in being the best goddamn version of oneself.

Flashback to "Patiently", the predecessor to "Gold Medals". It was a soul-baring tale, tracing the tender scars of past romances, showing off a softer, more vulnerable side. It's like switching from a roaring guitar solo straight into a soft piano melody.

Now, here's the curveball: "Gold Medals" brought J.Keen face-to-face with a producer — in the same damn room! A rarity, given his track record of long-distance collaborations with maestros spanning continents. Previously, the 'jam sessions' were more about hitting 'join' on a video call than "vibing" in an actual studio. It's a refreshing, tangible shift and, hell, does it show in the music.

The emulation game.

Now, J.Keen has never been one to sport someone else's shoes, even if they're high-end Jordans. But, if JKeen is being real, a myriad of artists have sprinkled a dash of inspiration here and there in his work. He's had the odd listener draw parallels between tunes and some big names. And hell, why wouldn't he take that as a sterling compliment? But while flattery’s nice and all, at the core of it, he's always chasing his echo, trying to carve out a niche that sounds unmistakably, unapologetically J.Keen. He's on a quest, not just for rhythm, but to stitch his life, his tales, his very essence into every note.

HOMEGROWN is musivv’s segment dedicated to featuring UAE-based artists. Features under this segment are eligible for a nomination under this category in the Musivv Awards’ annual recognition.

August 10, 2023

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