Twenty-five-year-old Javon Townes (a/k/a JV Darapsinga) shows up for interviews as if he were about to hit the stage — as if he were expecting someone to call with a gig any minute. When we settle down to talk, he’s fully outfitted: new black baseball cap turned backward, black doo-rag, slightly faded black jeans, designer black shirt, bulky black leather jacket. Oh, and his goatee is meticulously groomed. His cellphone is nearby and he keeps a close eye on it.
REBORN: Jail time forced JV to reassess.
His chosen clothing color is a reflection of the darkness he’s endured over the past year. Last winter he was on top of the world, thanks to the “Party ain’t a party” hook he sang on the Dre Robinson single “Get Right,” a tune that also had raps by Mobb Deep. An R&B singer in rap clothing, JV was in a prime position to break out on his own. But in March he found himself in jail. Already on probation for driving with a suspended license, he was picked up after being accused of rape by a woman who later recanted. He spent several months behind bars before being cleared in time to perform at the June 17 Mass Industry Committee’s inaugural Boston Hip-Hop Awards at John Hancock Hall.
JV came out angry, but he focused his energy on reasserting himself as an R&B heavyweight in Boston hip-hop. He has a new mixtape, The Construction (Hoodsingaz Entertainment/Hitmakerz Entertainment), that he released at the end of August and has been giving away for free at shows. And those around him have observed that he doesn’t joke around quite so much; outspokenness has given way to a more reserved and deliberate demeanor. He used to hang around at events trying to make new friends; now, once business is concluded, he heads home (where he’s a new father). His songs used to attack other artists; now they promote unity in the Boston scene. He’s dedicated himself to being a voice from the streets, but he wants his writing to inspire inner-city youth to challenge themselves.
“It was a tremendous metamorphosis,” he says of his time behind bars. “The difference from then to now, I’d have to say, is the maturity. I’m back to business, and I’m on my ‘A’ game. It’s really serious this time around. I’m getting too old, you know what I mean? I gotta make sure I can set myself up for the future and I can’t just do this anymore for play or for fun. I have to be a professional about it. It’s all about keeping yourself grounded, into music, into entertainment, not getting involved in the other things that are out there.”
Townes, whose current address is in Dorchester (in his youth he spent time in Mattapan, Hyde Park, Dorchester, and Roxbury, but he considers Roxbury home), took his name from his unusual mixture of R&B singing and hip-hop rhyming. His mother and aunt had soulful voices and used to sing around the house; he was performing back in kindergarten, Michael Jackson glove and all. He has the voice of a Bobby Brown or an Usher, yet like Nate Dogg he often takes on street-wise issues, and he’s known for knocking out catchy choruses for local rappers — hooks like the one in “Get Right.” That song got national airplay and earned him an award for Collaboration of the Year at the MIC awards back in June. He was also recognized for the hook he added to the IroQ & John Doe single “I Believe,” which got Single of the Year. These accolades, along with his ability to sing and rap, led to a deal with Hitmakerz Entertainment, CEO/rapper Lou Armstrong’s Lawrence-based hip-hop/R&B label.