Mickayla Miller

Managing Editor 

The evolution of Velkro LaStrange

Senior Abdulai Jalloh (AJ) always knew there was something special about him; right off the bat, he knew that he would end up changing the world. After all, he had already made his mark in three different countries.

Jalloh was born in Sierra Leone, a country in West Africa. During his younger years, a civil war spread across the country, displacing him and his family to the north-bordering country, Guinea. It was in Guinea that Jalloh started to discover who he truly was.

“Everything I contain in my spirit about love, understanding the struggle … Every time I remember [life in Guinea], it makes me stronger as a person,” Jalloh said. His passion for music also derived from Guinea.

In Jalloh’s village where he grew up, his family was blessed with musical talent, especially his mother and grandmother. Before Jalloh was born, his mother would tell others that her son would grow up, go to America, and become a musician. She would play artists like TuPac and Pink Floyd when he was in the womb.

It’s no wonder that Jalloh grew up to be so passionate about music. Now, he said he wants to use his roots to bring forth something the world has never seen before.

Moving to the United States

When Jalloh was 9, he moved to the Berks County, Pennsylvania with his dad. The transition was difficult, however.

“I got in a lot of fights, because apparently the trend was to make fun of the kid who came from a different country because he had an accent,” Jalloh said. “There’s no such thing as bullying in my culture. No matter how small the person is, either the entire community will come together to push someone to stand up for themselves or the bully just doesn’t do it out of respect.”

Teachers, however, understood what he was going through, he said. It was at a young age where he found a lot of adults who helped him with the transition into the United States. Jalloh said that it was helpful to have adults who were willing to help him.

“No matter where you are in the world, you’re going to find someone who can relate to you. Me looking back, if I wouldn’t have connected like that, it would have pushed me to a point where I would have had to change myself, and forget my roots, just to fit in,” Jalloh said. “But I was always a knucklehead about that.”

Spirituality and Musical Passion

For Jalloh, music and spirituality exist independent of one another, but simultaneously coexist with each other. They developed in different ways, but had interwoven themselves with one another.

In Guinea, Jalloh said that musicians typically do not write down their songs, as they sing in the moment; they sing for joy, they sing for happiness.

“In my culture, we don’t [say] ‘let’s make this chorus,’ we just sing. The words that come out make sense, because it’s not a process,” Jalloh said. “That energy you feel, when you sing, you can decode how you feel into words. That’s why you can talk about it without messing it up or writing it down.”

Jalloh incorporates this ideology into his own music. “In my music, every song I do is, as people say, ‘freestyling’ … That’s just my way of making music from my family,” Jalloh said.

Deriving inspiration from artists such as Chance the Rapper, Logic and Damian Marley, Jalloh combines his passion for modern music with his passion for music from Sierra Leone and Guinea, adding in a dash of spiritual lyricism to bring it all together into something that he feels the world has never heard before.

And thus, Velkro LaStrange was born.

As a kid, Jalloh distinctly remembers his mother buying him velcro shoes, as the ones with the laces were a little too difficult to manage. They lacked efficiency. The first name “Velkro” brings Jalloh back to those memories with his mother.

LaStrange has two meanings: the “La” part is a feminine prefix for the rest of his name. “Strange” refers to how Jalloh has always felt like a stranger to the culture; someone who could come up with novel ideas others may not have ever thought about.

“When I said that full name, it was like I unraveled my story,” Jalloh said. “When I said it, I felt it so deeply, but it took five years to figure out why.”

As Jalloh continues to develop, both musically and spiritually, he said he plans on building his career as a musician at a ‘fiery’ rate. While Jalloh has not premiered his debut album, he said that one is in the works.

“It’s all coming alive now, as I’m becoming an artist and understanding. I’m growing on top of that in a different culture. This is really the moment that I need to remember where I’m from. I’m able to look at my culture, and this culture. It puts me in a powerful position,” Jalloh said.