words by John Dayo-Aliya, photos by Shane Wynn
The Downtown Metro Transit Center buzzes with kinetic energy at night. The faces of folks spanning the entire spectrums of race and sobriety crowd inside the small building. These faces suggest many stories: stories of adolescent mischief, hard work, and bleak realities — it’s the kind of place an artist could go to have a field day. Standing in the middle of the transit center, having his photo taken for this article, Akron rapper/producer J.E.T Swade, 22, is taking it all in.
“This is where the people are. Real people. This is kind of like school for me. I was homeschooled most of my life so the transit is kind of like the school of the streets for me.”
J.E.T (his stage name means Just Educating Truth) is an endearing mixture of hip-hop swag and shy choir boy. He is certainly a rapper for the post-gangster 21st century. While many of his peers are looking to mumble rappers like The Migos and 21 Savage, J.E.T creates socially aware, musically complex lyrical opuses more akin to Talib Kweli and his hero Lupe Fiasco. Although he is aware that his approach to Hip-hop is not necessarily the most popular style of music in Akron, he insists that his sound and vision are Akron through and through.
“I caught the bus on a regular basis for four years. Most of the time when I was catching the bus I would have my Laptop out and I would be writing lyrics or making beats. Sometimes people would talk to me and their stories end up in the lyrics or imprint the beat in some way.”
Jet thinks of the Transit Center as a part of his experience of black Akron because black people in Akron persevere.
“A lot of people here don’t have a lot of money. But they get out every day and they hustle to do what they have to do. To me, that’s Blakron, and at the transit center you see those people. It don’t matter if they are tired, or sad . . . they keep it moving. That inspires me.”