In the first scene from Jaas’s new video, “Why,” the Chicago-based R&B singer kneels in the dark, one arm held over her head by a rope tied around her wrist. As the camera zooms in on her, the shot cuts to Jaas paddling a canoe on bright, quiet waters.

The video switches between these two scenes, which symbolize the relationship she recently walked away from and the rebirth and solitude she’s enjoyed since. “To me, water represents a rebirth,” Jaas says. “When I made the song, I was obviously in a very loner state—I ain’t want to be fucked with.” 

“I’m like, ‘Where would I be in the world if I could just be secluded with no one else?’” she continues. That question brought to mind a lake—the Skokie Lagoons, to be exact, which is where the canoe scenes were shot. 

Jaas says the most “valuable” aspect of the visual is the fact that only one of her hands is tied. “‘What you doing here? You ain’t really stuck,’” she told herself. “That’s the message of it all. Instead of questioning why things are going the way that they are, why don’t you just get the fuck up and leave? It’s OK.”

“Why” is the first song and video from Jaas’s debut EP, Unavailable. It’s the first release from the new Humboldt Park-based label attached to Chris “Classick” Inumerable’s famous Classick Studios, in collaboration with South Loop production facility LSD Studios. It’s also the first track she’s released in six months.

Jaas Unavailable EP release party
Hosted by Bree Specific of 92.3 FM and Vicki Street, with a DJ set by Sky Jetta. Sun 10/17, 8 PM, Blind Barber (back-room bar), 948 W. Fulton Market, free (RSVP at jaasxx.com), 21+

Jaas grew up on the east coast—she lived with her dad in Maryland, New York, and Washington, D.C.—and then came to Chicago in 2010 to live with her mother during her sophomore year of high school, attending Hyde Park Academy. She says the move gave her some “freedom” and helped her delve into her “creative side.” After graduating, she took classes till 2015 at Northern Illinois University and then Harold Washington College. She never really pursued a traditional nine to five, though: “Music kept pulling me,” she says.

Between 2019 and early 2021, Jaas dropped a string of songs—including “Ice On,” which features a verse from Lil Zay Osama, and the freestyle “Laugh Now Cry Later”—but then she went quiet. Her family and friends started wondering what was going on with her, and that’s the moment at which Unavailable begins: on the opening track, titled “Voicemails,” we hear her grandmother and a few of her loved ones checking up on her and asking when she’ll release more music. Jaas admits that she was “distracted” and “tied up” by relationship troubles. “You can’t rush art,” she adds.

Jaas recorded the title track, “Unavailable,” last year during a writing camp at the Atlanta studio run by record label Love Renaissance (aka LVRN). The song became the foundation upon which she built the rest of the seven-track EP—and as she worked, she decided that her music should answer the question, “What does Jaas’s world look like? What’s my message?”

Jaas’s video for “Why” was produced by Vzn.

“I’ve always been a very giving person and just selfless,” she says. “But at the end of the day, you can’t succeed for real without fully embracing yourself. I’m all the way a representative for self-love, women’s empowerment, and just living your truth—being authentic.”

That message of self-love swirls through Jaas’s debut, but it clearly arose from an experience of hurt and grief. Though she says she keeps her emotions “super player” on Unavailable, her heartbreak comes through anyway. On “Why,” she conveys a magnetic vulnerability as she wonders what went wrong. “I hate falling for you / I keep calling,” she croons over muted guitar and purring bass. “That’s why I’m calling for you / You keep stalling / You know I’m all in for you / Babe why you actin’ strange.”

Throughout the EP, the passion in Jaas’s voice breaks through the dreamy feel of her storytelling. On “Toll on Me” she begins to reveal her strength—she drops into a lower register, demonstrating that she’s not as delicate as you might assume. She hauls big emotions over bright strings and a bold bass line: “Then you act violent,” she sings, “That ain’t what the vibe is.” Sometimes the situations aren’t so frighteningly intense, instead doing their damage slowly, over time: “This shit taking a toll on me / No this ain’t how it was / Hoping I take control of me / I guess I’ve been gone / It felt like a part of me died / Doin’ this shit so long.”

On the title track, which closes the record, Jaas sounds joyful in her realizations, her singing radiating a tender glow. When she sings, “Pain is love, you know you taught me first,” it’s almost comforting—even though it makes love sound treacherous and self-devouring.

The lyrics come from a place of pain—Jaas says she was struggling with depression, and you can hear that—but the EP isn’t 100 percent sad-girl music. The production isn’t down-tempo, and the bass that consistently drives the songs offsets their atmosphere of heartbreak, giving them a motivational, even uplifting feel. It’s a nod to the soulful music Jaas grew up listening to: the soft glow of Erykah Badu, Sade, and Frank Ocean, alongside the potent bass of Pharrell Williams and Missy Elliott. “That’s why my music be hitting still,” she says.

Jaas at the Skokie Lagoons Credit: Vincent Richards

Over the course of the project, Jaas makes a palpable transformation. Her uninhibited navigation of her relationship and its fallout sometimes gets her lost in the ferocious emotions that she and her ex-lover experienced. She flickers between wanting things to go back to how they were and finding the strength to move forward—and once she settles on the latter, she’s resolute.

“As soon as I grabbed a hold of my authentic self and gave myself love, took my power back—that’s when I started flourishing,” she says. “That’s when a lot of things started going great. That’s when my skin started glowing. I know the music’s sad, but it’s bigger than that. . . . I want my journey to help the next [person] get through their struggles.”

She continues, “I’m proud to be one of the people who can be on the forefront and have the strength to put my experiences out there.”

Jaas celebrates the release of Unavailable from 8 PM till midnight on Sunday, October 17, in the back-room bar at Blind Barber.