“Do what you love to do, be yourself, and don’t let anyone tell you different.”
For 18-year old Jason Washington – aka ‘Messenger’ – music is in his blood. His parents met while singing with their college glee club, and they always had music playing in the house. As a child, Jason sang in his church choir and had aspirations of singing professionally. “It was a way to express myself,” he explains. “Music made me happy, it made me sad. I could experience all the emotions through music. I knew at a young age that I wanted to be a part of it.” During middle school, Jason began creating YouTube videos of song covers and original material. But when his voice began to change, he decided to pursue rapping and started experimenting with remixes and hip hop. He released his first EP Misguided while he was a high school freshman, and since then has released two singles and three albums.
Jason’s attraction to rap stems in the creative use of lyrics. “I enjoyed how artists would come up with metaphors and similes and creative ways to take something simple and say it in their own way. I thought that was really dope.” His own message in his music is simple: “Do what you love to do, be yourself, and don’t let anyone tell you different.”
He has learned this lesson in his own life. “I was bullied in middle school,” he explains. “I felt isolated and alone and I thought that I wasn’t loved. I was dealing with growing socially, and I had struggled with caring a lot about what other people think and being comfortable in my own skin.” Growing up in South Atlanta, Jason attended a predominantly African American school and though he had always been surrounded by black people, he at times felt out of place and found himself questioning his own racial identity. “I would often ask myself, ‘Am I black enough?’. This was a difficult and unfortunate time in my life. I was a quiet kid and I didn’t know how to voice how I was feeling. Music became an outlet for me to grow socially and become more accepting of myself.”
When he started high school at a predominately white, Catholic prep school, “to say that it was a culture shock is an understatement,” Jason laughs. “But the experience was what I needed in order to expand my views and to be aware that there are others that are quite different from me.” When asked if there was one thing he could change in society, Jason responds: “It would be for all people to learn as much as they can about people from different backgrounds in regards to race, ethnicity, sexuality, and other identifying factors. If people learn from others, then there will be room for change to occur. If we can do this, I feel like we can have a better society where we all feel comfortable in it, and no one needs to feel like an outcast.”
During the summer of 2020 when the country was grappling with the death of George Floyd, Jason performed an original piece entitled “Invisible Man” at a rally for racial justice, reflecting on what it’s like for him to be black in America. “I think George Floyd’s death was the inevitable boiling point,” he muses. “But something powerful can come from tragedy. It was a moving thing that a lot of people came together – funny enough, when they weren’t supposed to come together [due to the pandemic] – physically and online to fight for a cause that may not have benefitted them, but they still did it anyway. And that’s really, really dope. It gave me hope that the future can be a safer place for the next generation.”
As for Messenger’s future? Currently a freshman at Loyola University in New Orleans, he wants to perform in more shows and eventually go on tour. He is excited about his latest project Delivery, released earlier this year, which he believes is his best work yet, reflecting his growth as a person and as an artist. “Writing songs and producing allows me to be myself unapologetically and feel confident. I just hope that I can leave an impact on the world through music and encourage other people to do what they love.”
Connect on Instagram @messengermusic813.