We had the good fortune of connecting with Jabari Alii and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jabari, is there something that you feel is most responsible for your success?
Seeking challenge. I learned early on that if I only do what’s easy, what I already know how to do, I’ll never level up. I’m constantly seeking opportunities to improve through projects that are challenging and require skills I don’t have or have not fully developed. Having this mind set drove me to learn media music production and orchestral composition. This opened the doors for me to to write music for films, games, trailers and eventually working with Facebook as a sound designer. Having this mind set drove me to teach my self coding, which led to me developing video games, working with AfroComicCon, speaking at events, and now working with Hidden Genius. Having this mindset has also given my brand a seal of excellence, where I can be trusted to deliver high quality and never shy away from a challenge.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I’m a jack of all trades. The road was not easy, but I have enjoyed the journey. I started out playing the piano when I was five. I studied music education at Howard, and learned an array of other skills working as a freelance graphic designer and a community organizer. After college I worked as an educator, music producer, and songwriter; traveling to Atlanta and the UK. Following this I returned to the bay area and started composing music for film and games. Eventually this led to me exploring the project management and design for games, and finally coding for games as well.
There is no all encompassing rule for how I overcame the challenges I faced. Sometimes it was pure faith and diligence. Other times it was having the right mentors and colleagues in my corner. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is only start something you have the passion and strength to finish, and also don’t be afraid to travel the difficult path.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I live in Oakland, CA and I love it here. First we’d go for a hike at Joaquin Miller. Then we’d go hang out by Lake Merrit for the farmer’s market and grab some food at Vegan Mob. We’ll take the ferry to SF and visit Golden Gate Park, the botanical garden is incredible. Also in SF we have to hit up Emporium a 3 floor arcade bar. Back in Oakland we’ll go to a reggae day party with AfroSocaLove and we’d finish off the trip with some live jazz at Yoshis in Jack London.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I have to start by giving thanks to my mother Monica Hand. She’s with the ancestors now. She was always, and still is a cornerstone in my life. My ambitions were never too great, her support was there through it all. As a fellow creative she showed me what it looked like to be devoted to your art and take risks. She showed me defeat is temporary and success is a mindset.
And I want to thank my father Damu Alii for teaching me to be bold and unapologetic. For teaching me the piano which was the catalyst of my artistic journey. For instilling in me integrity and an open mind.
I also want to give thanks to some mentors I’ve had along the course of my career.
David Earl, who introduced me to the gaming industry and believed in me before I believed in myself.
Pryce Jones, a mentor who quickly became a close friend.
Olivia Cueva, who gave me that foot in the door and an opportunity to shine.
Carl Varnado, who never hesitates to congratulate my success and praise me publicly.
Hodari Toure, who went to bat for me and brought me in to the most rewarding job culture I’ve ever had.
There is an image of my mother, Monica Hand, reading her book Me and Nina. There is also an image of me and my father Sudi Alii in the studio. The black and white photo of me sitting at the grand piano was taken from a video shot by Na’im Beyah.