Young hip-hop artist releases mix tape after receiving support and mentorship from Boys and Girls Club of Calgary

Genelva Gibbs, stage name Jaynova, pulls the mic close to her face.

The words spill out passionately. Though she’s in a small vocal booth in a basement at the Beltline Youth Centre, she raps as if it were for a stadium full of fans.

“Music is power,” the 18-year-old rapper said. “It’s an opportunity to show others that someone else went through what you went through and you don’t have to be scared to talk about it.

“I want to be the voice for someone else.”

Gibbs found a passion for writing after attending the centre shortly after it underwent renovations in last July. The studio, run by the Boys and Girls Club of Calgary, offers recording equipment along with mentors who share guidance and encouragement.

Gatluat Bichoik, who goes simply by G, is a youth specialist at the centre. For Bichoik, having the studio means that youth from the Beltline area of Calgary have a place to express themselves through music and art in a culturally relevant way.

“I want to help them contribute to society in a positive way,” Bichoik said, noting that hip-hop is often fixated on subjects like killings or drugs.

“For others, when you listen to their lyrics, you can tell they are telling their life stories. You can become role models for others through that.”

This development of negative themes to positive ones is something the instructors at the Beltline hope to instill in the artists who record at the studio.

It’s a process Gibbs went through.18-year-old Genelva Gibbs, stage name Jaynova, said that hip-hop helped her find herself.
Photo by: Joel Dryden

“My whole outlook on life is different,” Gibbs said. “Being here, to just let out what I had to say, saved me from going out and chilling with people who were probably doing bad stuff.

“I like that I can come to the centre and just be me. I can go into the booth and maybe write a crazy song about my life that’s maybe not so good. Or I can go write something that’s really positive. And they accept both of them,” she said.

Gibbs’ lyrics evolved from the typical hip-hop standbys — money, cars, and fame — to a message she didn’t first recognize was there.

The more mature lyricism came when a friend asked Gibbs what she really wanted to say with her music. It challenged Gibbs to go deeper and get more personal, discovering and delving into themes specifically important to her.

“I want to empower women, because they’re not coming together as females as they should be,” Gibbs said. “I think women should come together and shine some light.”

Bahar Abubeker, another youth specialist at the centre, said he observed that it was through writing that Gibbs turned her negative outlook on life to a positive one.

“When she came here, she was a very strong girl,” Abubeker said. “But she didn’t really know what she wanted. Right now, she’s a different person.”

After months of production, Gibbs is planning on releasing her first mix tape in March entitled “Beat by a Girl.”

“It’s all about how the media tries to belittle us,” Gibbs said, sporting a sly smile.

“But, sometimes, we have better lyrics than the boys do.”

jdryden@cjournal.ca