Jelani Aryeh counts Wilco and Roxy Music among her enduring musical fascinations for Private Playlist

Private Playlist is a listening session with Southern California’s most notable musical personalities in their private creative environments.

Like so many early artists, Jelani aryeh grew up surrounded by music. His uncle produced hip-hop tracks in the adjacent bedroom of their San Diego home. And his dad exhibited it to countless artists while in the backseat of daddy’s vintage Jaguar. Aryeh’s own influences are both vast and ever-changing.

His debut album, “I’ve Got Some Living to Do”, takes the momentum and shimmer of ’90s indie rock through 21st century pop sensibility. And while he’s already received his garlands from most of the usual critical neighborhoods, he’s got a real musical and emotional intelligence that is making the rounds of the hype.

For KCRW’s “private playlist” Jelani aryeh takes us on a tour of his most enduring musical fascinations, from the timeless pain of a Roxy Music classic to the inspiring innovation of Childish Gambino.

“What brought me to music [was to] give people another place to reside for a bit if the outside world is too present. – Jelani Aryeh

It was definitely a weird headspace after the conclusion [my] first recording. At the moment, artistically, I feel a little empty. I absorb a bunch of influences and try to build a new frame or a different mindset for the next project. I’m receptive in a different way that I can’t quite pinpoint, especially with all the changes happening: moving to LA, being 21. Even listening to the same songs that I have listened to, I will hear different messages that I would never have heard before and that are meant for me right now.


I discovered Wilcos “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” last year during the height of COVID. It all seemed crazy, and in a weird way this album made it feel like everything was going to be okay. I think that’s the way Jeff Tweedy writes. It’s very honest and real and a little sad. I think in my music too there is a slight tinge of melancholy. I really understand and feel this music in my bones.

What I like about “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” is the number of genres it crosses. There is psych-rock, folk-rock and a bunch [of genres] that I couldn’t even name. I like how you can go from a song like “Heavy Metal Drummer” which is super bright to a song like “Kamera” or “Poor Places” which is a little slower, more serious and straightforward. I want to offer people a similar thing: to exhibit it there, simple and clear, but in a fun way, with great and moving instrumentation. That’s what Wilco did really well.


Kanye west“The College Dropout” from “The College Dropout” is the first album I remember listening to. My dad is a huge Kanye and Jay Z fan, and he always played that in his Jaguar. He had an old Jaguar S-Type and he was still bumping into Kanye, and I was in my little car seat in the back, looking out the window, absorbing young Kanye’s words. I think it was the first time that music really had an effect on me. Some lyrics caught on and I was able to form my own perspective on what Kanye was talking about. I love the way he writes on this record, and I appreciate where he was at the time.


I found Childish GambinoIt’s “Because the Internet” in my sophomore or freshman year of high school. He had this character of The Boy, and it was just him who was navigating his life through the internet age. He was meditating on very existential things. Donald Glover at the time was, I guess, really going through this. I think he was super depressed. And I’m grateful that he laid out everything on this album in such a beautiful way.

But what really attracted me to this album was the world he was able to create with: the website, the scenario, and the short film. And I think that’s what brought me to music, to be able to create this world. I wanted to do this for people and [to] give them another place to reside for a bit if the outside world is too big. Escape is definitely an important theme in this album and in my music. I don’t know if this is a good thing or not. But I want to create worlds for people, and I think that’s what “Because the Internet” did for me at the time.


Roxy Music‘s “More than This” makes me feel like I’m flying over the world and seeing life unfold before my eyes, or seeing memories pass by. And, of course, it reminds me of “Lost in Translation” and the scene with Bill Murray singing to Scarlett Johansson. It’s one of my favorite movies, so I think I just tie it to that. I don’t even really know how to describe “More Than That”. I would love to channel that energy onto the new album I’m making.


I imagine Angel Olsen“Whole New Mess” is a stripped-down version of his 2019 album, “All Mirrors,” but I heard this one first. I love the rarity of this one, although it doesn’t seem sparse. It’s just her, the microphone, her guitar, and a church for that natural reverb. She just sings these songs. Each one is so heartbreaking and very visceral, and I can feel it all over my body. It gives me the same feeling that I have when I listen to Grace Slick and Jefferson Airplane. This powerful, bloody, wavering voice does so much. He has such a cosmic and universal quality. I [like to] going through Malibu at night blowing it up and crying, because that’s kind of a record. It’s nice.

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