Domestic abuse and rape rhymes are often spun by rappers without a second thought. Being true to himself, Los Angeles-based Jehuniko is coming on a different tip for "20 Years Old," the lead single off his newly released album Bittersweet ."They say that 97% of rapists are never incarcerated / I hate it / How can this be?" he sounds off on the Spooz produced track where a soulful Middle Eastern bamboo flute soars over boom-bap.
The music video for "20 Years Old' gives the anti-domestic violence/rape message a global echo with Jehuniko's fans holding "Respect Your Sister" signs from all over Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and even SanTana!
"I was born by a woman and I'm a father to a daughter," Jehuniko says. But what really prompted the song is the number of women who shared stories of rape and domestic violence with the artist. "It really broke my heart, man."
The rapper was so moved by women's testimonies that he felt compelled to write a song on the issue. "I wanted to make sure that I was speaking to men first and foremost because I think they are the ones that need to hear this message," he says. "I've seen the aspect of domestic violence in my home. It does have a certain root in my upbringing."
Knowing where he was coming from, though, Jehuniko had women review the lyrics before ever stepping into the recording studio. Then he reached out to another confidant who works at a women's shelter. She gave her blessing and he put up crisis hotline numbers at the end of the video. The day it dropped Jehuniko recalls reading articles on femicide in Mexico driving the point home.
And speaking of home, the rapper spent a good part of his formative years in Costa Mesa and SanTana developing a love hip-hop while going to elementary and high school in OC. He moved around from the Inland Empire to Los Angeles but eventually came back to attend Santa Ana College when he was 20–the backdrop behind the biographical title of the track.
"I was going to SAC and involved in MEChA," Jehuniko says. "It was all a snowball of my awakening." Santa Ana College professor and poet Donato Martinez played a pivotal role. "He was really instrumental to getting me on stages in Orange County for spoken word," the rapper says, comparing Martinez to John Keating from Dead Poets Society. "I was just a student in his class and he saw some spark inside of me."
Jehuniko returned the favor featuring Professor Martinez in the music video for "20 Years Old," where he holds up a "Respect Your Sister" sign. The rapper solicited his followers to do the same and the response has been tremendous.
"It's really humbling to see all the participation from around the world," he says. "We have so many different people from different walks of life. I'm just really thankful and honored that they took the time to send the message in."