Verbatum Jones: “Use Slang, Be a Little Arrogant and Misspell Things.”
Image of Verbatum Jones (left) and Aime by Brittney Bowers. Text by Sofiya Ballin.
See the companion story about Verbatum Jones’ mentor, Aime, here.
“Yo, it smells like shit!”
Verbatum Jones’ face contorts until he points out a mound of manure fertilizer being used at a neighboring park. His attention shifts as the door opens behind him and he’s greeted by producer DCypher.
Jones walks into the apartment alongside friend Kayin Malcolm with self-assured uncertainty.
Posters of the Boondocks, Michael Jackson, and Kermit the frog decorate the walls.
Jones seats himself on the futon, elbows rested on his knees, hands articulating each word.
“I’m at the point in my life where I can make bad decisions,” he explains.
DCypher, seated at his computer, nods his head in agreement.
Jones is laying the groundwork for the EP titled “Verb” and he’s eyeing a mid-summer release.
“The songs need more mixing,” Jones says as the first track plays. “I came up with the sound of the EP yesterday.”
All three heads begin to bob in unison.
Dressed in a sweater, khakis and moccasins, it is clear that this rapper has a style all his own.
“You’re probably not going to like the shit I have,” DCypher says.
“No it’s cool,” Jones assures him. “I’m not trying to get locked in a sound too early.”
His full name is Garry Dorsainvil. The moniker Verbatum Jones was born on a car ride to a concert with a friend.
“I was rapping and she said I should come up with a name,” he recalls. “So I threw out a few silly names. Then she said, ‘Verbatim.’ It sounded funny alone so I added Jones.”
The spelling was due to the need to differentiate from a record company but also for ritualistic reasons.
“As a rapper, there are a few things you have to do to be cool,” he states. “Use slang, be a little arrogant and misspell things.”
Jones was raised in Cheltenham, in a religious household where hip hop was not allowed.
“I discovered hip hop really late,” Jones says. “Because of that, I’m always in the past and the present at the same time. The Black Album by Jay-Z was the first album I ever heard in its entirety.”
“Not a bad album to start off with,” DCypher interjects.
“It wasn’t until I was around 16 or 17-years old that I really began to embrace hip hop,” Jones says. “But I never felt I could do it. I was nerdy. I never cursed. And I had a big head.”
When he was a freshman at Temple University, Jones would often walk by a group of people crowded around the bell tower freestyling.
“I went at first to laugh at them,” he says. “I freestyled as a joke and my boy Mic Stewart said I had potential. So I went every Friday. I was so bad. It’s like they made a bad movie re-play every Friday.”
Jones got better with each Friday and caught the attention of fellow rapper Aime. Jones credits him with being the first person to help him write rhymes, explain the concept of writing bars and teach that fewer words is more.
“Working with him was really cool because he was doing all the hard work,” Jones says. “Now, I understand stage presence and connecting with the audience. He was young too and he took me under his wing. He didn’t have to do that. He’s an awesome dude and so funny too. Oh! Aime records barefoot add that and embarrass him.”
Like Aime, Jones’ parents are Haitian immigrants who instilled in him the importance of education, family and religion.
“My music is very personal and very honest,” he says. “Is that cheesy? I’m not preaching. I’m reflective about things in my life. Hopefully it brings self-awareness to others.”