Jamael Dean: On Black Music, Art Education, & Spirituality

Today for Royal State of Mind, I’m presenting a conversation with Jamael Dean — a jazz pianist, composer, hip-hop producer, and rapper out LA. Jamael is the leader of “Jamael Dean and the Afronauts,” plays with the Pan-Afrikan People’s Arkestra, has toured and played alongside Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, Thundercat, and Kamasi Washington. Dean can also be heard on Washington’s 2019 album “Heaven and Earth.” Playing music since he was young, Dean is now in school at the New School.

Dean’s affinity for cosmology and astrology is evident all throughout his music, from his album art to song titles. Perhaps due to this, listening to Dean’s music often makes me feel like I’m in outer space, floating by myself but being pulled — maybe lured — by the music: a swirling stream of sound and rhythm that ebbs and flows and beats and cracks and relaxes; a lulling sonic journey led decisively by Dean’s graceful keys. And yet, although Dean’s piano provides constancy, his music is effortlessly expansive, intertwining expressions of spiritual and free jazz with vocal-enhanced ambience and beats reminiscent of Ras G’s Ghetto Sci-Fi. The limitlessness of Dean’s musical orbit can be heard on two of his more prominent releases: “Black Space Tapes,” Dean’s tight, 38-minute debut album from 2019; and “Oblivion,” a 30-minute project Dean recently released this past April.

Jamael and I spoke on April 26, 2020, and we touched on a wide range of topics: Dean’s musical origins and influences; the role of art education in Black community and life throughout history; how his spiritual practices inform his life, compositions, and creations; the relationship between music and unknown ancestry; Dean’s recent release, “Oblivion”; and more. To listen and buy Jamael’s music, visit his Bandcamp page here.


This show also aired on WKCR-FM in NYC on May 7, 2020, for the News And Arts show.