evolution of the nine

Note to Self (2020)

If Jah9’s last album was an open note to self meant to encourage listeners to do the difficult fire work of slashing and burning the negativity that can eat away at our roots, then her newest work is the welcome of cool rain. And if her last album was dedicated to the fire work of shining light in the darkest corners of ourselves, then this first single of Jah9’s upcoming album is here to show us what can grow from fertile, well-tilled, well-watered soul soil.

Mad Professor Meets Jah9 In The Midst Of The Storm (2017)
9 (2016)
New Name (2013)

Not all singers are poets and not all songs play by storytelling’s rules, but Jah9 is and her songs do. Her albums build from one to the other. And as we are introduced to the not yet titled new album, themes and messages that were presented on Note to Self, return like echoes on “Open Heart,” out today. Fear of the unknown, unresolved hurt, the injury of self-doubt, and trusting that everything we need is already inside are all themes that 9 revisits and, perhaps, has gratefully resolved on this newest project and in this new phase of her life.

Jah9 (2023)

When the pandemic shut down global travel in 2020, Jah9 opted to maroon herself in Tanzania. She remained there for three years, physically detached from family and friends in the West. She faced the challenge of loneliness head on and, unexpectedly, found freedom. Rather than wrestling with the frustration of her oneness or railing against the distance, Jah9 found freedom in the deepest isolation. She opened her heart to Tanzania and filled herself with the goodness and gentleness of East African hospitality. She opened her heart to Tanzania and fed herself with the abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables. With a focused mind, she cleared her conscience and opened her heart, freeing herself to love, to create, and to live in balance and harmony. In Tanzania she softened as she stepped into her new self. In Tanzania she planted her own roots and found new breath, new color, and new grace. With “Open Heart” we hear the journey of Jah9 and we see how she in coming into full bloom.

Jah9 (2023)

While some musical artistes’ albums are disjointed and do more to connect to pop trends than they do to connect to their own catalog, for Jah9 each album acts as a new chapter in a larger narrative, ever-building and ever-unfolding a grander message on the unselfish importance of self-development.

So, before entering the Iotosh produced “Open Heart,” we should refresh ourselves and recall what came before on the 2020 Note to Self album. I wrote an extensive annotation about this album in 2020, but I’ll highlight just a few songs here for how they light the way to “Open Heart.”

Remember these lyrics of the opening track, “Ready for the Feeling”:

What is in an open road
That should frighten you
And make you lose your composure
The mind can be your greatest foe

When you do not know
What’s lurking over your shoulder

But inner Chi will light your way
It’s not accidentally in the life of a soldier 

In this battle for a brighter day
It’s of yourself you slay
The thing that try to hold ya 

So just forget about the past mistakes

And all that didn’t take 

And all the non-believers

Recall the lyrics to the title track, “Note to Self”:

Words may not say exactly how I’m feeling
The hurt and the hate and the love I’m receiving
I’m gonna be okay I tell myself while I’m breathing
It’s gonna be okay remember say Jah not sleeping
Jah no sleep

Remember lyrics from “New Race (A Way)”:

We who have emerged out of their history of violence against us

Now we’re fully cognizant of how Jah bless us 

and we’re finding a way 

A way a way a way over

A way a way out

And recall the album’s closing song, “In the Beginning”:

To cast the seeds of my imagination and know with certainty that fruit is on the way… there is a way. 

It takes knowing to trust the unknown 

So faith is not belief… it’s knowing 

“Open Heart” is the fruit of the hard labour of self-work. It is the culmination of reflective work. Jah9 has written her abundant experiences into song. “Open Heart” is about having the confidence to know exactly what one altruistically wants and manifesting it through self-actualization. Indeed, it’s this altruism that makes Jah9’s take on vision-boarding so special. Carefully read the full lyrics and read her journey to fulfillment.

A focused mind, clearing my conscience

And an open heart… (ooh)

-Verse 1-

Everything comes if I concentrate 

When I focus on the right thing

I either shut out the world and release the hate

Or focus on the far thing

I don’t have to follow no trends or justify no ends by a stressful means

I just have to visualize what I want and know that I have to create my dreams

I actualize

It’s not a hope and pray thing

Because I see how thoughts manifest what I want 

And I know that my mind’s not a play thing

I can bring my own damnation if I judge and doubt what I do

Or I can build a whole damn nation and make all our dreams come true


With a focused mind, clearing my conscience

And an open heart… (ooh)

An open heart

All I need is

A focused mind, clearing my conscience

And an open heart… (ooh)

An open heart

-Verse 2-

To everyone who’s hurt me and for everything I’ve lost

Yes, all of the trauma meant to break me down 

And the peace of mind it cost

I give a round of applause in this moment

Give thanks for bringing me here

Cause I’m now full to the brim with potential 

And nothing I’m left to feel

Adversity is a teacher

And the present is the greatest gift

And the strength that I gain when I overcome

Is the power that I need to lift myself

And courage is a weapon of skillfulness

And when all these things combine

All that’s left is to prepare myself 

Because anything I want is mine


With a focused mind, clearing my conscience

And an open heart… (ooh)

An open heart…

All I need is a focused mind, clearing my conscience

And an open heart… (ooh)

An open heart

-Verse 3-

Love, money, best sex ever

Wisdom, courage, a team that’s clever

Land, gold, clean fresh water

A powerful son and a brilliant daughter

Wealth, success in every endeavor 

Beautiful beach days, perfect weather

The richest of soil and original seed 

And a partner that satisfies all of my needs

Peace in my headspace

Ease in my lungs

Strength and flexibility for whatever comes

Peace and endurance to master myself

And compassion and tolerance for everyone else


And a focused mind, clearing my conscience

And an open heart… (ooh)

An open heart…

All I need is

A focused mind, clearing my conscience

And an open heart… (ooh)

An open heart.

lyrics to “Open Heart” by Jah9
Cover image for “Open Heart” by AI artist Marc Joy Media

Even as the second verse of “Open Heart” recalls, for me, Beyoncé’s “Formation” (read: I see it, I want it, I stunt; yellow bone-it/ I dream it, I work hard, I grind ’til I own it) and Ariana Grande’s pop hit “Thank U, Next” (read: I know they say I move on too fast/ But this one gon’ last/ ‘Cause her name is Ari/ And I’m so good with that (so good with that)/ She taught me love (love)/ She taught me patience (patience)/ She handles pain (pain)/ […] Ain’t no need for searching/ And for that, I say/ Thank you, next” ), Jah9’s “Open Heart” also simultaneously takes a wide step away from Beyoncé’s more capitalistic visualizations to instead urge listeners to “see” and manifest the wealth of nature and the fulfilment of repatriation. And “Open Heart” extends Ariana Grande’s capacity to see the silver lining in broken relationships with Jah9 offering a round of applause to trauma because her “focused mind” and “open heart” have cleared a path for healing and a naturally rich life.

In a hyper-anxious digital world, our thoughts easily spiral out of our control. We are distracted by the bell-notification of a work email or a ding-notification of a text. Reminders sound when superficial influencers that we subscribe to post new content. We click and sit glued to our screens, consuming images and audio without blinking or thinking. Transfixed by the busyness of our modern tech-centered lives, we increasingly depend on AI to regulate our dangerously sedentary lifestyle. We program alarms and pay for apps to remind us to walk more and to drink water. We keep plugs in our ears while our dominant thumb slides mindlessly across the glass of a device screen. (By the way, if you’ve reached this point, perhaps you might want to pause for a few well-deserved blinks and stretches.) We’ve become so detached from ourselves and our natural world that we have forgotten how to focus our minds. Jah9’s “Open Heart” is that critical reminder that focusing on other people’s stats and greedily focusing only on money will not secure us a life of wealth. Rather, we must open our hearts and focus our minds on positivity and regeneration by vividly centering positivity and regeneration in our thoughts.

Listen to the original or the disco version of “Open Heart” now. And check out the Ash Mswaki directed video for “Open Heart” below. Spend the few minutes with it. Study the words and the images and see how this song can help you to study yourself and better know the restorative power of the African continent. This is the evolution of Jah9.

Jah9 will take the stage at South London’s City Splash Festival this weekend. If you are fortunate enough to be going, know that she will be performing with dub pioneer Scientist. Go with an open heart and enjoy yourself.

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