Dapper Rapper - James 'Jammy' Patrick McKenna

Sophia Loren once said: "You do not become a star, you are born a star. A star is born with that indefinable extra something."
Tommy Alfred
July 17, 2023

One such rising star, James ‘Jammy’ McKenna, born in 1990 in the market town of Burnley, twinkled bright in the celestial fields of musical aspiration where bands of the day such as Eminem, Snoop Dogg, Linkin Park, Blink-182 and Oasis - a blend of bands with a rich blend of styles, set his talents in motion. Influential as these bands were, Jammy was finding his own style at the age of 12 and took to the rap scene with an insatiable appetite.

As the years honed Jammy’s talent for writing lyrics and singing his own songs, it wasn’t long before he purchased his first guitar after watching a performance from Blink-182. And it’s here we leave the traditional route of the rap culture and all its expected musical apparatus, and discover an emerging talent, that is simply and uniquely Jammy. This is the indefinable extra something that belongs in the trails of a shooting star where rap and self-taught acoustic guitar blend with rhythmic melodies and staggering lyrics, projected out of heart-breaking experiences.

Traversing from his late teens to mid-20s, Jammy’s songs have lamented emotionally sensitive truths, and suggested mental anguish that has seen him battle inner demons and giant monsters. It seems, the more Jammy suffered, the more poignant and suggestive his music has become. However, there is also a spiritual edge to many of his songs that bring hope and healing to his personal stories of suicide, self-harm, addictions, depression, and the other mental tortures. Jammy says he ‘doesn’t believe we are the penultimate thing in the universe’. There is suffering. There is God. There is hope.

He bought his second guitar which he dragged around Thailand, a reflection of a life that has been largely lived through tourism, bars, travelling and meeting a host of people along the way.  He describes himself as a bit of a lone ranger and free spirit who likes his own company, but also enjoys meeting fellow travellers and hearing their stories. At 26, Jammy returned to England, leaving his beloved guitar hanging on the wall in a reggae bar in Rasta Mountain, Patong.

His journey brought him back to Burnley for a while, and you may have witnessed him gracing the open-mic nights around town and in Manchester. He humbly accepts the accolades, and there are plenty. He also learns from the critics and understands those who might be offended by his hard-hitting words that churn up dark, mental constitutions that are relevant not only to his own sufferings, but words that will no doubt disturb the sturdiest hearts of his audience. But Jammy is insistent that his words are meant to relate and not to trigger an emotional backlash.

What next? A one-way ticket! (Well at least for three months). He is off to Marseille then onto Lyon with the intention of meeting up with friend and famed French artist, painter, Kim Noiret (Melf illustrations). A purely inspirational stopover - a brief encounter he hopes will have a lasting influence. The journey will eventually take him to the cultural city of Barcelona. Here he plans to join the local busker circuit and is intent on making his mark, and also take advantage of the open mic at lively bars and grace the chilled lounge scene. Jammy also plans to further develop his longer set, with 2/3-hour performances: which include a combination of songs he’s favoured over the decades.

James 'Jammy' Patrick McKenna
James 'Jammy' Patrick McKenna

His album, Bars of a Scarred Heart ,is yet to be appreciated, but you won’t find him on any social media platforms. In that authentic true-to-character determination, Jammy refuses to be lost in the milieu of attention-seeking fame. He doesn’t need, or want, that kind of promotion. He believes the only way is the traditional way - with local backstreet producers - and he has already piqued the interest of one such person in Cura Rankin (Bruno/Aguilera), who is very interested in his style of music and his songs on adversity.

The first track on his album, ‘It wasn’t like you’, written from the thumping loss of cruel love, courts a pain that has taken some time to heal:

It wasn’t like you,

To act the way you did

It was sly cause he’s a sly guy

but who am I to kid?

You’re better than it all,

That’s what hurts and you know it,

You said you regret your actions

You just took your time to show it,

Now I’m here writing this 6-thousand miles away,

but I can’t exactly say that I wish,

hope or pray

we recuperate

cos the cut run too deep

The mountain I’d have to climb’s too big,

it’s too steep

Jammy says: “It takes a long time to work through the emotions, it takes a short time to write the words.”

He frames this melancholic thought with the illustration that each song, when completed - is bottled, and labelled. Each bottle in his metaphorical bar has a different taste because of all his experiences and battles.

Jammy is an extremely likeable guy - intelligent, difficult to tie down but full of self-belief. He is not a star in the making, he is already here, and with his own style of rap and guitar, he has the tentative ear of the public and the world at his fingertips.

‘Buena suerte’