“You just grew up so much in such a short amount of time,” SiriusXM host Mina SayWhat tells Trevor Jackson before interviewing him on air last month. The two reminisced about the first time they met, back when the budding artist was only 16 years old. Jackson, now 22, joked about how the only credit he had scored at the time was a role in a Disney Channel film Let It Shine. “I remember I was like, ‘I’m working, I’m working. I swear!’” he laughed.
Years later, he was able to come back to the station in 2019 with a few more accomplishments worth showing off, including an NAACP Image Award nomination thanks to his role on the hit TV series, Grown-ish; a lead role in 2018’s Super Fly film; and a buzzing music career, with new project Rough Drafts Pt. 2 released on Tuesday (June 4).
Rough Drafts, Pt. 2’s single, “SPAM In A Can,” is a fiercely honest tell-all of Jackson’s feelings about the world of fame. “It represents humble beginnings: people have a perception of what my life is like, and I just wanted to be raw and real,” Jackson tells Billboard about his reasoning behind the track’s title. “I still eat spam occasionally, but from the days where I was eating spam heavily to now, there's like an image that people see, and then there's things that really go on. I just kind of wanted to represent that journey from ‘spam’ to now.”
A standout line from the song comes midway through, as Jackson expresses how he constantly has to deal with disingenuous people that come into one’s life after rising to fame: “People saying that they’ve been there, like they kin to me/ Everybody got they mask on, too many frenemies.” In order to navigate through the facades, Jackson has sought refuge in his faith.
“There’s a prayer I pray all the time,” he explains. “I pray to God: I pray the things that are of you, keep them in my life and people that are not of you and that aren't conducive to helping me in my life, remove them from my life. And I feel like He's done that. The people that are real have stayed real and people who are not God as revealed in that they're not people I shouldn't have in my life.”
The second track on the project, “Warning,” was a vehicle for Jackson to show off yet another skill he brings to the table: directing. As a way to fuse his passions for film and music, Jackson began directing music videos, and the result was a concept-driven, well-executed visual for his album that has cracked over 1 million YouTube views.
The "Warning" video is Jackson’s take on the realities of racial profiling. “I wanted to represent how I feel like a lot of minorities are viewed in America, regardless of how they dress, regardless of how they talk,” he says. “There’s always kind of like a stigma, so I wanted to play on that. So within the video, you'll see that I have shoulder pads on for football, a basketball jersey, because there's so many times when people will ask me for pictures, and they'll be like, 'Wow, is he a rapper? Does he play ball?’”
To bolster his new love for being more involved behind the scenes, Jackson’s even delving into directing visuals for other people’s songs. “I definitely want to dive more into it,” he says. “Even my friend Jacob Latimore, who's an incredible artist and actor, asked me to direct one of his videos, ‘Tru Shit,’ so I did that as well. I want to eventually do film and everything.” Luckily for his fans, Rough Drafts, Pt. 2 will have visuals for almost every track — and of course, all are directed by the singer himself.
Around this time last year, Jackson’s ability to delve into his spectrum of talents was leading him through an incredibly busy time in his life. He had just wrapped up shooting Super Fly, and had a week in between to prepare himself before heading out on the road to tour with Justine Skye.
A full 12 months later, the triple threat is working even harder than ever before, balancing his huge workload while always thinking of his next move. “I’m always trying to take trying to take each moment, but I feel like a gift and a curse about me is that I'm never satisfied with anything,” he says. “So all those amazing were things are going on, I was constantly like, ‘What’s next, what’s next, what’s next?’” Current day Trevor Jackson is more determined than ever to take it to the next level.