Music wasn’t part of Jaboukie Young-White‘s plan. “It just kind of happened,” he tells Billboard with a laugh.


The 29-year-old performer spent the last few years carefully building his profile as a comedian, writer, actor and professional Twitter (err, X) troll. Between standup, writing for Big Mouth, working as a correspondent on The Daily Show, getting banned from the social media platform for impersonating CNN and starring in Disney’s Strange World alongside Jake Gyllenhaal and Gabrielle Union, Young-White has seen his star rise immensely over the last five years.

As he tells it, music was a hobby that kept him occupied throughout the pandemic. “I had been making instrumental music since college, and it was mostly something that I kept to myself,” he says. “Fast forward, pandemic hits, and I was working on some animated stuff during that time. I had a vocal setup in my apartment, so I was like, ‘You know what, let me just do this.’”

Three years later, those quarantine sessions have transformed into All Who Can’t Hear Must Feel, the star’s debut album out Friday (August 25) via Interscope. On the expansive project, Young-White (performing under his first name, Jaboukie) hops into the nebulous spaces between genres like industrial hip-hop, bedroom rock and hyperpop to deliver immediately catchy insights on his life and his occasionally intrusive thoughts. And yes, the album is also very funny.

The album also nearly didn’t happen. Young-White says that he never had any intention of releasing music until he began working on a script for an upcoming animated film inspired by Juice WRLD’s music. When pitching himself to Interscope Films as a writer-director for the project, he was asked if he had any experience with music that he could share.

“I sent a few little songs along, thinking that they were just gonna be like, ‘OK, this man is competent. He can write, he has taste,’” Young-White says. “Then [John Janick] offered me a record deal, and there just wasn’t a good enough reason to for me not to do it. I knew I would regret not doing this”

With a major label’s resources now at his disposal, Young-White could have worked with high-level producers and songwriters to put his first project together. The album does have plenty of assists — Grammy-winners Alex Tumay, Neal Pogue and Mike Bozzi mixed and mastered All Who Can’t Hear, respectively.

But in terms of production and songwriting, Young-White knew that creating an album that felt authentic meant doing it all solo, with the occasional help from his brothers Javaughn and Javeigh. “Because I’m so new to releasing music, if I got in the studio with somebody, I would want to be like, ‘Whatever you want to do is good by me, because you’re so great!’ I needed to put my stake in the ground first before I start inviting more people into the process,” he says.

After a beat, he can’t help but go for the punchline. “Listen, [Jack Antonoff] was so desperate to get in the studio with me,” he says, smirking. “I was like, ‘Hey, I’m so sorry, but it’s a no, Jack.’”

That urge to go for the joke is still present on Young-White’s album, but not in the same way that fans of his comedy would expect. While bars declaring himself a “midwest hoe, churning out magnum opes” on songs like “BBC” certainly land with laughs, All Who Can’t Hear is not a comedy album; it just so happens that hip-hop has always been naturally funny, Young-White says.

“Rappers have been some of my favorite comedians,” he says. “Young Thug is one of the most f–king hilarious surrealist comics alive. Wayne is so funny. There’s a Nicki song on the radio right now [‘Red Ruby Da Sleaze’] where she says ‘I don’t f–k with horses since Christopher Reeves,’ which is insane … for me, it’s not difficult to hold something as being sincere and funny at the same time.”

Even the album’s title is a play on words — All Who Can’t Hear Must Feel, taken in its most literal sense, states what listeners can expect from the album’s sonics. “I was putting so much weight in the low end of these songs. I wanted you to really, truly feel this, and let it be a physical experience,” he says. “I was just alone in my apartment and my neighbors were probably mad as hell, but I was like, ‘I need to feel something, I gotta dance.’ That was the conversation that I was having with myself — I was trying to wake something up.”

But the phrase is also a Jamaican proverb — Young-White was raised by Jamaican parents in Harvey, Ill. — about learning from consequences after not heeding warnings. With his Saturn return in full effect while penning his album (“You could start and stop with that explanation alone depending on how good your astrological understanding is”), the comic says he couldn’t stop thinking about the oft-cited expression.

“There are so many lessons where no one can tell you what it means; you really do have to experience it for yourself,” he says. “That’s what life is like — you can be given so much advice and be told so many things, but there’s so much that will not be real to you until you feel it.”

One of those lessons Young-White simply had to experience was what it meant to have a career in the music industry. Despite his rapidly-building profile in film and television, he says that trying to figure out how to be a signed recording artist came with a significant learning curve.

Some of the lessons have been more positive than others — Young-White found creative output came much easier to him when writing songs. “I wish I could be as prolific with writing jokes as I was with music — I probably had 40 or 50 songs written for this album,” he says. “You really gotta go up in front of a bunch of audiences to work out a good joke. With songs, so many of them will suck, but every once in a while you hit on something and just say ‘OK, let’s run with this.’”

Other lessons have been harder to explain, like showing up on time to meetings when no one was expecting him to. “There have been people who were like, ‘Wow, you showed up? I didn’t think you would!’ And I’m like, ‘What do you mean? We had a meeting, I said I was gonna be here!’” he recalls, laughing. “You feel like such a goody two shoes in music just for being punctual.”

With his lessons learned, Young-White is now confident that a career in music can officially join his growing list of professions in entertainment; he’s already started planning out where he wants to go next. “I did industrial, I did experimental, now I want to do something that’s really pop, catchy, clean and glossy — kind of in the Charlie XCX blueprint,” he says. “Honestly, my ideal pop song kind of sounds like Animal Collective. Structurally and lyrically, it’s like, ‘This is a pop song,’ but then the sounds are absolutely wild, like kitchen appliances fighting each other.”

The rising star is quick to temper his ambitions; he knows that “everything is so a la carte” when it comes to music consumption nowadays, which makes marketing an entire album that much harder. “I know damn well you could be listening to any-the-f–k-thing after you listen to this project,” he says.

But that inherent understanding keeps Young-White’s music — and for that matter, his point of view — as fresh as it is. “Why would I stay in one lane when I can just give you everything right here?”


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