Back in 2010, soulful R&B artist Jason Jet released his debut album, Love Boulevard. The collection’s title tune tethered Afrofuturism’s digital pulse to smooth pop and the organic heartbeat of gospel, and in the process, Jet invented the nu soul genre.
No one has credited him with this, of course. When Queen City Nerve tells Jet we think he’s the father of nu soul, he simply chuckles good-naturedly. Today the inspired songwriter, in-demand producer and, as of January 2021, GrindHaus studio owner, is focused on his role as educator and mentor for Charlotte’s young musicians.
On Sept. 24, Jet is teaming with his close friend and Season 12 American Idol alumni Will White to launch A Night with Iconic Youth, an invite-only event hosted by Jet’s Young Icons organization at the Visual Arts and Performing Arts Center in Uptown Charlotte.
“We’re coming together to celebrate these kids and their families,” Jet says.
The kids in question have gone through the 36-year-old musical polymath’s Young Icons program, a summer camp series he launched in 2017 to mentor Charlotte youth and teach them how to create music and write songs. Although it’s curated by educational nonprofit Young Icons, the event at VAPA will be a primarily invitation-only celebration for the summer camp graduates and their families, Jet says.
He’s even rented out a limo to drop them off for a red-carpet walk.
“It will be a great immersive musical experience,” Jet says. Speakers like Mecklenburg County Commissioner Mark Jerrell are scheduled to attend and guest star Nige Hood will MC the event. Songs that the campers wrote and recorded in Young Icons camp will be showcased as well.
After years of hard work, success came to Jet after the release of Love Boulevard. He opened for R&B legend Anthony Hamilton at the Fillmore Charlotte, garnered Best New R&B artist at the Carolina Music Awards, and moved to New York to pursue his career. In New York, Jet met Charlotte native White, who was working in the city’s fashion scene as well as pursuing music.
Flash forward to 2017, when Jet launched Young Icons in Charlotte. He recruited White, also recently relocated to Charlotte, as a camp coach. White then became a partner as the camp moved into its first year. Jet characterizes the first two years of summer camps as a series of beta tests to see how well the program would work. At first, Jet and White offered the camp to middle-class kids, some of whom Jet knew through his side gig as a music tutor.
After going dormant for two years due to the COVID pandemic, Young Icons came back last year as a newly formed nonprofit catering to the city’s underserved children.
“We’re providing platforms for kids that would not normally get this [training],” Jet says “We want to just shower them with love. This is larger than music. This is an experience that we’re giving kids to really own their creative gifts and talents.”
In the meantime, Jet opened GrindHaus Studios in December 2020. Inspired by co-working spaces, GrindHaus rents studio space to musicians at reasonable rates. In addition, Jet has recorded artists like Fantasia, R&B crooner Dexter Jordan and Anthony Hamilton at the facility. (Jet has spent much of the past year touring with Hamilton, as a front-of-house sound engineer)
A year later, Jet expanded the successful studio to a 7,000-square-foot space at VAPA where GrindHaus could host events. Jet, however, has decided to leave the studio’s space at VAPA so he can turn more of his attention to what he calls “the mothership,” the original GrindHaus location on Latrobe Drive. He’s also begun work on some new solo material.
“I’ve already started shooting some music videos, 2023 is going to be a big roll out.” In the meantime, Jet puts the finishing touches on A Night with Iconic Youth, an event he deems necessary.
“There are not too many programs that [show] appreciation for young talent,” Jet says. “A lot of [the children] know they’re valued with Young Icons, and that we see their greatness. That’s the biggest takeaway. That’s the why behind it all.”
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