Chattanooga songwriter and poet Jerison Qualls doesn’t offer easy answers. His music (recorded as Qualls) is filled with aching insights and subtle revelations; his songs are born from weary experience and memories he might like to forget. Emotions skip like stones across his vibrant beats and affecting arrangements, attacking our expectations and exploring a hip-hop complexity that’s all too often looked over for easy sentiment. Qualls isn’t interested in bland platitudes—he’s looking for honesty and communal associations.
While attending Middle Tennessee State University this year, he released a couple of memorable songs online that speak to the darker instincts that bubble up inside his heart. His music is a complicated mixture of pop, hip-hop and R&B methodologies, a swirling brew of influences that collects bits and pieces from the past three decades of musical history. He doesn’t see the need to stick to one genre or aesthetic for inspiration; his rhythmic perspective is so much wider than that.
On his new EP, called “Will,” Qualls manages to make introspection look easy, as he examines identity, desperation and the need for validation across six tracks of affecting hip-hop. Opening with “90s,” he uses the past as a lens through which he refines his outlook on the present and future. It’s a way for him to acknowledge both the taken and missed opportunities in his life and use them as fuel for his unbounded determination. Clattering beats and haunting piano lines roll around inside a personal devastation that feels a bit voyeuristic in its emotional proximity.
Tracks such as “Nani/Caress Your Mind” and “Angel” (which features singer Vanna Moua) reveal his ability to work deeper emotional connections into his extended beat-driven landscapes. There are no superfluous moments, only the quick and eager momentum of a musician comfortable in his skin and ready to show the world what he can do. The EP ends with “Telescope,” a fantastic track that samples Johnny Cash’s version of “Hurt” and finishes Qualls’ melodic experimentation on a high note, with the music disappearing into some shadowy place until he has need of it again.
Joshua Pickard covers local and national music, film and other aspects of pop culture. You can contact him on Facebook, Twitter or by email. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.