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From Fort Knox To Indie Pop: Musician Jhameel Ditches Basic Training For Art

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It's hard to imagine that Jhameel, a 24-year-old L.A. transplant hailing from the Bay Area, was once on a path to becoming a military officer—even studying Arabic in preparation. The Asian-American indie-pop musician whose vocal styling has been compared to the likes of Michael Jackson and his songs tinged with dreamy melodies, can oftentimes be seen on stage with black streaks of makeup striped across his face paired with earrings. He seems to be such a natural in music—with having the know-how to play at least 14 instruments under his belt—that it seems like a distant past where he was going to live a straight-laced military life. He returns to the stage at the Troubadour on Nov. 20, his first performance in L.A. since his month-long residency at the Bootleg Theater back in Dec. 2012.

His absence from performing can be blamed on how busy he's been working on Lion's Den, his full-length, nine-track album—an even balance of fun and heavier songs that reflect upon the ups and downs of life.

"Sometimes life is like a lion’s den—you have no control, you can’t do anything, you’re frustrated, [and] you’re going through some sort of trauma," Jhameel told LAist. "But if you escape, if you survive that state of life, basically you can do anything. You’re a much better person for it. I want people to get that sense, that theme [in this album]."

Although there isn't a set release date yet, Jhameel feels the album is perfect and ready to go. After dropping several EPs including his popular "Shadow of a Man" and linking up with rapper Hoodie Allen for "No Faith In Brooklyn," Lion's Den is Jhameel's more polished album.

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The musician trekked out to L.A. a year-and-a-half ago to advance his music career. However, he has some qualms with the city and plans on moving back to San Francisco one day. "90 percent of people in L.A. are tough to deal with, but the ten percent...," he said, "are the greatest talents in the world. There’s a lot of social wisdom in L.A. that I didn’t see as much as in the Bay Area. The good people here are particularly good."

It's been a journey for Jhameel, who grew up in Minnesota, and had wanted to become a military officer until he went to Fort Knox. After spending a month-and-a-half there, he was exhausted and tired of the verbal abuse. "Being exposed to that culture... I was like, 'Oh my God, I can’t do this with my life," he said.

His father was a professional violinist, so Jhameel had been exposed to music at a young age. Since then, he's picked up instruments including the cello, trumpet, drums, guitar, and violin, saying he hasn't come across an instrument he doesn't know how to play. His parents never forced him to learn how to play music, which made him all the more interested. It's paid off in the end and taken Jhameel to a new path he never would have known he should take had he never made that first step off of military grounds.