Let's talk about your new single, "Bed Peace." How did that come together?
I had “Bed Peace” recorded and I left a verse free because I felt like it could use a feature. I wanted to find my John Lennon for that song because I had the vision for the whole thing in my head. I sent it out to a few people, and everyone’s busy and there were a few people who were definitely on board to do it but it was just scheduling and I would’ve had to wait for them.
Who were some of the people you were trying to work on it with initially?
First, it was Drake. In our initial meeting, I played him two songs and I was just like, "I could hear him on [that]." I played him one song that’s not "Bed Peace" and it was the one that I really heard him on. I was like, "You can listen to everything but I wanted it to be something you like."
When I played all of them that’s the one he loved. But with his album and everything, and me being on a timeline it was just that our collaboration [on NWTS] was our song. Not to toot my own horn but it wasn’t just a feature, so I feel like its sort of both of ours. It didn’t really matter if he didn’t end up on "Bed Peace."
What ended up happening was, I was performing with Big Sean on Jimmy Kimmel and my publisher took me out to eat afterward. Childish Gambino came because he’s friends with one of my brother’s friends. That’s where we met, and we just talked and clicked. I really know him from his acting, from Community, and I knew that he rapped, but I never really listened and then, of course, I did my homework and I was like "You’re dope."
In middle school my friends used to call me J-Henny because J-h-e-n-é, if you separate the J from the rest you can pronounce it J-Henny. And as I got older, Hennessy was my drink of choice, so I was like “J-Hennessy on the track” or whatever, just playing around.
We sent him the song maybe the next day, and he sent it back within the same day and he was the only person who did that—the only one that was excited about it. I told him my idea about John Lennon and Yoko Ono, and really just creating, like "You have to know that this means you’re my John Lennon now" and he was down. He’s really cool. We’re good friends.
Do you have another project with him in the works for his upcoming projects?
Yeah, we worked on a song for his project. He’s super creative with his writing and stuff and he gets very specific and it’s a really feel-good song. He’s singing and rapping on it and I’m singing.
What is this rap alter ego I’ve heard about?
For me, a lot of people don’t know that I’m very goofy. In middle school my friends used to call me J-Henny because J-h-e-n-é, if you separate the J from the rest you can pronounce it J-Henny. And as I got older, Hennessy was my drink of choice, so I was like “J-Hennessy on the track” or whatever, just playing around.
I’ve always freestyled for fun, that’s just something me and my friends do when we’re bored, or we were drunk, or high we’d just freestyle and turn into rappers. I say when I get more into my lyrical and get more into my flow and I feel like there’s a singer Jhené, and I’m not going to call it rapping…but it’s more like a Bone Thugs-N-Harmony type of rap but not as fast. But it’s not really focusing on how I’m singing, it’s focusing on what I’m saying and the flow. And so yeah, it was between JC Penny and J-Hennessy. JC Penny is probably the rapper.
For me it’s joking a little bit, but I do feel like I have so many different personalities, why not give them a name, like yeah, that’s J-Hennessy. And also I always sip on a little bit of something before I perform and it’s usually Hennessy so that’s who's on stage.
Did you happen to rap for Drake?
I didn’t but I would. That’s one thing when he listened to everything he was like, "Wow, you have bars." As a writer, I know that he understands that just because I’m singing it doesn’t mean that they’re not bars. But I didn’t [rap for him], I wasn’t that comfortable.