The unfiltered words escape Jason Dhakal’s mouth quickly, but his meaning might just be the epitome of Kids These Days
Jason Dhakal had been on our radar for months before we shot him—if that could be literal, I would say I mean that literally. A year after he dropped his first EP and he already had our attention; so much so that we attempted to feature him on Wonder twice. And while rounds of scheduling conflicts got the better of us then, at least we threw the knockout punch that finally landed Jason on our cover.
Our shoot happened the day after #Pride2019 and the team was groggy on that late Sunday morning. As we pulled ourselves together between sips of coffee, we played Jason’s latest single, Past Curfew, and quickly remembered why we were there that day. As the melody filled the studio and Jason Dhakal’s signature vocals cut through the quiet, we knew a month in celebration of Kids These Days would rightfully be rooted in the man we were about to meet.
“Ain’t it fun, the thrill in your body/Like we’re on the run from fucking nobody,” he sings to the room over Mac speakers. “3 AM, the wind is kissing your hair/Fuck all we care.”
We learned soon after he walked through the doors that Jason isn’t the type to sugarcoat and filter what he says; he means every word that comes out of his mouth. Whether that was telling us our introductions were a little too formal for his taste or letting us know which of his angles is most flattering (“All of them,” he tells us), it was all honest and unfiltered from start to finish.
But as my sit-down with the singer proved to me, his words never come from a place of egotism and over-confidence. It’s an attitude that he’s embodied and his generation has been put down for but never really means any harm. It’s a culture of callout, of saying what’s on your mind and letting everyone else’s opinion of you blow away with the wind. “Fuck all we care,” indeed.
“We’re not sensitive; we’re enlightened.”
Originally from Oman, Jason moved to the Philippines two years ago to try and satiate his passion for music with a career in the industry. And while he had the chance to work with a label, he opted to go on his own rather than be stifled by big brother. It’s a risk not many would be willing to make, to turn down the reassurance of a noted player in the market and instead stick to one’s unique craft. And at that point, he was just 16 years old.
“I’ve had people try to use my age against me. They expect me to lack knowledge or they try to play with me,” he says. “I’m like, ‘No, I’ve experienced a lot in my life. I know [what I’m doing].’”
It was a gutsy move that some might call privilege—a privilege Jason’s generation has been accused of cashing in on too often. The age of social media, after all, has made everyone a content creator. And with multiple (essentially unlimited) chances of getting heard and seen, there’s less pressure to take advantage of the opportunities that come at you. But not every story is the same.
“My biggest goal in life is just to be able to make music with nothing stopping me. That could be the people around me, money—all that shit. I don’t really give a fuck about money. I really don’t care,” he shares without second thought. “I just want to be able to live off of music and sing.”
When I ask about his least favorite Gen Z stereotype, he says he hates being generalized as sensitive. “We’re not sensitive,” he argues. “We’re enlightened. We’re in a time [where] we speak out instead of just [sweep] things under the rug.”
Then again, one might argue that these boxes and typecasts are—as Jason describes—stupid, anyway.
They say you should love your own and Jason’s picture of Kids These Days is ripe full of promise and potential. “[My generation has] educated ourselves and we know certain communities need rights,” he assures us. “I guess, being part of a culture where we all call out people who do wrong things and say wrong things—our future is much better than this.”
At this point, Jason says something surprising that I quickly realize is possible because of the freedom he’s given himself. “I feel like we’re all just waiting for old people to die,” he says so matter-of-factly that it catches me off guard. “They’re still controlling things [but] I know that in a couple of generations, we’ll be good.”
“In a couple of generations, we’ll be good.”
Jason talks about a time somewhere in the future when he sees people his age running for office, having seats in the government and having more control. It’s an image that showcases changes belonging in the 21st century; it’s a mashup of acceptance, updated practices and new-age solutions. But is it a little too idealistic, something only someone of his age and success can really claim?
There are years to live through between now and then, of which so much can happen. And even then, there’s more life to experience that will make it seem longer than it actually is. Who’s to say for certain that the spiral we’re riding is on a trajectory that’s going upwards or downwards? Chances are, it will get to a point when the test becomes one of resiliency and determination instead of intention. And who can say which side wins then?
For all intents and purposes, Jason Dhakal has his eyes set on a goal and a vision; it doesn’t look like the years will forcibly blur anything. So who knows? Maybe it’s this signature mix of stubbornness, privilege and sensitivity that will turn things around. And as Jason says, “Patience. Just fucking wait. It’ll happen.”
“I like metaphors. Keeping it subtle, but still you can understand.”
Enjoy the above playlist, from him to you.
Photography Kris Villano
Art and Art Direction Alexandra Lara
Interview and Cover Story Adie Pieraz
Fashion Direction Nicole Blanco Ramos
Styling Jana Silao assisted by Val Silao
Beauty Direction Cessi Treñas
Hair and Grooming Jia Achacruz
Location Creativx Studio
Production Wonder x The Visual Club