Backyards, Basketball, and Ghost Stories: The Visual Storytelling of Syd Jones

Photo Source: Syd Jones.

Kat Kelly with questions by Anna Leary – In the late 80’s, MC Lyte broke barriers by becoming the first solo female rapper to release a full-length album and just a few years later became the first solo female rapper to be nominated for a Grammy. She had a fresh style, almost raw, but very smooth, and different than what any other artist on the scene was doing at that time.

That may be why when I first heard Atlanta rap-artist, Syd Jones, I was reminded of the early days of women busting onto the big rap scene. In today’s mainstream, when many of the messages of women artists can seem homogenous and shallow, Syd is fresh and delivers conscious, authentic rhymes, that give a glimpse into who she really is, what she has overcome, and the kind of world she hopes for.

I first discovered Syd’s music when researching for an event. I came across a few of her videos and showed some other folks who quickly immersed themselves in Syd’s music. Imagine my surprise when I saw her standing alone at the event a few days later! I tried to play it cool, but I fangirled awkwardly, despite the fact that I am probably older than her mother.

Syd was amazingly gracious and we went on to have a really amazing chat.

When I asked her if she would be open to being our first mini-interview in our #5KeyQuestions series, I was thrilled when she said yes.

Here she is in her own words:

VXT: What makes you feel inspired?

Syd: I feel really inspired when I create something that I believe is really creative. And, when I come up with cool ways to express that art. I get really excited when I can daydream and visualize my ideas coming to life and people enjoying it.

VXT: What is your favorite book/movie and why did it speak to you so much?

Syd: Favorite movie that spoke to me? I enjoy a movie with a message and there are plenty. But out of all of them, “Ghosts of Mississippi” spoke to me clearly. As a biracial child, I took an interest in how the movie showed the history of race and the differences in how they were treated.

I had two grandmothers that I loved greatly – one was white and one was black. Talking with my black grandmother, I would find myself asking her questions to understand how poorly she was treated because of the color of her skin. And when I would talk to my white grandmother, I found myself asking her questions with the intention of learning how her being white, provided her special privileges. I learned that even though she was white, she grew up poor. But, from some things she told me, I could not deny the fact that she never had to go through what my other grandmother did.

The movie gave me a visual of what times were like during segregation. I felt a sense of fear. I felt sad. I felt confused. But most importantly, I felt what it was like to be loved by two grandmothers of different races. And the love they showed me was the same. They loved each other!

I saw two races getting along and loving each other. I felt like love was possible in any form. Hate is taught.

VXT: If I asked you when you were 5 what you wanted to be when you grew up, what would be your answer?

Syd: If you asked me at 5 what I wanted to be when I grew up, I’d probably say a basketball player. I played basketball everyday – for recreation, in the driveway or at my grandma’s with my cousins in her backyard.

I always had a ball in my hand. When I think about it, I see how practicing something every day can really make you great at something.

VXT: What is your favorite childhood memory?

Syd: My favorite childhood memory…hmmmm. I have plenty, but I’d have to say being able to grow up with my cousins at my grandma’s house.

We got off the bus there together and would stay until our parents came to get us. I feel really blessed to have been able to go to her house after school instead of having to go to an after-school program.

‘Til this day, the bond I have formed with my cousins is one that is unbreakable. We are still as close as we were back then. We used our imaginations to play games on her porch, we had drawing contests, we played every physical education sport/activity there was in her front yard, we got in trouble, we laughed, and we cried. I’m thankful for those memories.

VXT: Do you believe in past lives? Why or why not?

Syd: Ah, that’s a tough one. I’m a Libra so I feel like I always see two sides of things. But I’m going to have to say, I do believe in past lives.

I just feel as though no one’s spirit ever truly dies. And I have these deja-vu moments and where I’m like, “woah this has happened before and how is this possible?” So one day I came to the conclusion that maybe that happened before in a past life.

Bonus Questions (thank you, Syd):

VXT: What do you want people to know about you?

Syd: I want people to know that I’m just like them. I go through the same things they do. Circumstances may be different, but I’m human and so are they.

We all want to feel loved.

VXT: How would you describe your music?

Syd: I would describe my music as real. I express my emotions in my music. I express the deep dark stuff too, that 3 years ago, I would’ve never wanted anyone to know about. I try to be as transparent as possible.

This is my art and I should tell my story. I feel like that’s why I’ll never run out of things to say because I’m speaking on how I feel at that exact moment in my life.

VXT: How do you describe yourself as an artist?

Syd: I would describe myself as an artist as a storyteller. That may sound cliché but by the time I finish writing a song, I’ll realize that I somehow told a story without meaning to.
My lyrics can be cohesive. It’s like once I channel in on a subject, I go on this rant seems like.


Look for Syd Jones around Atlanta and we can definitely expect to see more of her on a bigger stage soon. You can find her music at Syd Jones Music, Soundcloud, and Instagram. Her EP, “Jones Street” is out now.