With his introspective lyrics and unique lo-fi sound, rising hip-hop artist Jay is quickly making a name for himself in the music world.
In the world of contemporary hip-hop, where braggadocio and bombast can at times seem to reign supreme, Jay stands out as a refreshingly introspective artist, who has been steadily building a buzz with his moody, lo-fi sound, which draws from a range of influences, including jazz, soul, and indie rock. His music has been praised for its emotional depth and introspection, qualities that are all too rare in an industry that often prioritizes flash over substance.
We sat down with Jay to discuss his creative process, his upcoming projects, and the things that make him happy. What emerges is a portrait of an artist who is deeply committed to his craft and dedicated to exploring the depths of his own emotions in his songwriting. When asked about his ultimate day, the rapper-singer-songwriter revealed a simple yet idyllic vision: “My ultimate day would be on a beach, on some island somewhere,” he said. “Just enjoying the sun, going to walk and swim under the warm summer sky, and having dinner/drinks with the people I love.”
Despite his rising profile, Jay remains grounded and focused on the journey. “I think I still have to wait and see what happens because a lot of that isn’t necessarily in my control depending on how the music is received,” he explained. “But, as for future plans, I should have 1 or 2 EP’s coming out this year, and a new album coming out next year if I meet my deadlines.” Jay also delves into the use of lo-fi textures in his music, which he attributes to the introverted nature of his emotions. “I feel things very deeply, I try to paint a stream of consciousness to follow in my albums, as if you were in my head yourself.” With his unique sound and thoughtful approach to songwriting, Jay is poised to be one of the most exciting new voices in hip-hop, a genre that is all too often in need of fresh perspectives and innovative approaches.
Happy: How do you approach the use of lo-fi textures in your music? What draws you to this particular aesthetic?
Jay: I’d probably attribute this to the lo-fi aesthetics matching the introverted nature of how my emotions generally feel. I feel things very deeply, when something brings a reaction out of me, and I ponder interactions a lot, whether its interactions between me and the world, or interactions I’m witnessing in the world, so I try to paint a stream of consciousness to follow in my albums, as if you were in my head yourself.
Happy: What are you up to today?
Jay: Nothing unusual today. Just going to the gym, going to work, and doing my homework since I’m in grad school right now. Potentially some songwriting tonight, since I’m still finishing up some of the songs for an EP I should be dropping in the summer.
Happy: Describe your average work day
Jay: So my average day centers around my work as a Social Worker generally. I work with adolescents and families, just trying to help them get to a better place in their day to day lives.
Happy: What about your ultimate day?
Jay: My ultimate day would be on a beach, on some island somewhere. Just enjoying the sun, going to walk and swim under the warm summer sky, and having a dinner / drinks with the people I love.
Happy: Tell us about your creative community.
Jay: My creative community is really just my other friends that create music as well. I have some engineer friends, friends in bands, friends who make music pretty casually, and friends that are solo acts like myself. Though we don’t all do a lot of collaboration necessarily since we all make very different music from each other, we certainly support, and get inspired by each other’s work. A band made up of a few of my friends that is definitely worth checking out is Via Ripa, and a friend that I have actually done some songwriting with has a solo act named Honeywine. You can find their music HERE and HERE.
Happy: What did you read or watch growing up that fuelled your passion for music?
Jay: Some pieces of work that come to mind, in terms of writing, is a work like Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World”, and in terms of film, is a movie like Moonlight. Though these pieces are certainly very different from each other, they definitely have inspired my perspectives in different ways through their tackling of societal topics and emotions.
Happy: What did you read or watch last that opened your eyes and mind to a new perspective?
Jay: I think the last thing that I read that opened up my perspective, was in reading a book called “The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma”. The long title in itself pretty much tells you what you’re getting into, but essentially it breaks down how trauma effects you at a neurological level, and what comes with that, as well as how to intervene in its impact on yourself and others for a healthier life. I was already into a lot of self-help practices, such as mindfulness, yoga, working out, and other practices that impact your overall health, but it is interesting to see how these things, and other evidence-based practices have deep influences in giving new life to people experiencing trauma.
Happy: What inspired you to create an album that confronts themes of loss and trauma head-on, rather than shying away from them?
Jay: I think it was just having to actually sit with certain emotions that I hadn’t gotten a chance to explore before the pandemic kind of forced me into long stretches of reflection and silence. All I had around those times, while I was coping with a major breakup, losses of family members, less social activity than I was used to, and the police brutality situations, were my long walks along the beach where barely anyone was around anymore. With that, came a lot of room to kind of collect my thoughts and consider some perspectives about things that were happening, and had happened, thus the music is pretty reflective of where my headspace was around that time.
Happy: Can you talk about the role that your upbringing in Long Branch, New Jersey played in shaping the sound and themes of Another Man’s Treasure?
Jay: It’s hard to describe, because it’s more of an intuitive thing, in that Long Branch has a very homey, familiar feel since pretty much everyone knows someone, who knows someone. It also is full of culture, as you can find so many different ethnicities and cultures here, as well as the socioeconomic lows, middles, and highs. However, it also has some underlying aggressions as well when you really explore certain parts of those lows, where you have people really trying to survive emotionally, so you kind of have to balance being cool with everyone, while watching your back. If that kind of energy comes out in my music, I would say that this is not a conscious effort, but more of a result, so I’d leave that to the listener to decide if that seems consistent to what I present in “Another Man’s Treasure”.
Happy: How do you approach the use of lo-fi textures in your music? What draws you to this particular aesthetic?
Jay: I’d probably attribute this to the lo-fi aesthetics matching the introverted nature of how my emotions generally feel. I feel things very deeply, when something brings a reaction out of me, and I ponder interactions a lot, whether its interactions between me and the world, or interactions I’m witnessing in the world, so I try to paint a stream of consciousness to follow in my albums, as if you were in my head yourself. I actually don’t have an inner monologue myself, but I try my best to translate into lyrics and emotional tone in my voice, how it feels in my heart, with lo-fi sounds often feeling the closest I can get to painting an accurate enough backdrop for what I experience.
Happy: You’ve been compared to Frank Ocean in your willingness to experiment with genre and push the boundaries of popular music. What do you think sets you apart from other artists in this vein?
Jay: I think what sets me apart, in a way that I think can actually be hit or miss for some people, is that I’m not the most indie person you’ve ever heard, but I’m definitely not the most mainstream person you’ve ever heard. This is certainly not a conscious choice, as to how the sound expresses itself, or in how my hooks sometimes may be catchy, but not radio friendly necessarily, or even in how my song topics may disqualify me from either category sometimes, but I do find that it is what it is. I don’t try to be the most unique artist ever, and I don’t try to make the most accessible music ever, I just try to do what makes sense for me, and I think that has resulted in me creating my own sound that has elements from a bunch of different places, but is still uniquely Jay.
Happy: Are there any specific tracks on Another Man’s Treasure that you feel particularly proud of or that hold special meaning to you?
Jay: Two songs that come to mind in a question like that are the songs, “Thoughts and Prayer” and “Yellow”. With “Thoughts and Prayer”, it’s a song dedicated to my great-grandmother who passed away, and my feelings about words that I never got to say to her, which I think I was able to paint well in my flow, imagery in lyrics, and general vibe of the track. I made this song for myself, and others who know this feeling, in a way that feels cathartic to me. As for “Yellow”, this song just feels like the thesis statement of the album, in that I am on a journey, with the experiences that created this album acting as mark of that journey. Through this turbulent, amazing, and challenging life, the goal is gold in aura, that will feel like a glass of lemonade in my final moments.
Happy: Can you speak to the process of creating this album? How did you go about crafting the sound and selecting the themes that would be present?
Jay: All of these songs were written in 2020, but I didn’t begin recording until 2022. All of these beats were beats created by producers that I’ve found on YouTube, since I genuinely don’t know anyone in my personal life that could have created the dirty aesthetic I was looking for. As for the mixing and mastering, I used two separate engineers as I was looking for a clean underlayer, with a cassette tape mastering to cover the entire project in a dirty saran wrap. I wanted this album to Happy: feel as dirty as a 90’s album cassette tape.
Your music is often praised for its emotional depth and vulnerability. How do you balance sharing your personal experiences with your audience while still maintaining a sense of privacy and boundaries?
Jay: What helps in this regard is I am not a very autobiographical writer, in that I speak more to the feeling behind a track, rather than the scene for scene depiction of what I’ve experienced. This isn’t purposeful, it’s just the way the lyrics come out, but it does give some element of the song being able to be a song, rather than a direct narration. I will still say though, that even with that, it still is a very vulnerable thing to share these emotions to the world, every time I put out a project.
Happy: What message do you hope listeners take away from Another Man’s Treasure, and how do you hope your music can contribute to larger conversations about trauma, race, and healing?
Jay: I kind of leave that to whatever the listener wants to take away from it, but what I will say is that tough conversations, even with yourself, are ok. Acknowledgement of how you feel comes before you are able to confront and move forward, so that you may let go and accept your blessings, rather than chasing fool’s prayers.
Happy: In the current music industry landscape, where streaming and social media play a huge role in how music is distributed and consumed, how do you navigate the business side of things while staying true to your artistic vision?
Jay: That can be a difficult thing as a person that does not have a label currently. I have had a distribution deal for a previous single, “Sleepyhead”, that has helped me maintain consistent promotion through the label, Broderskab, but other than that, you just do what you can. You try to advertise yourself, you try to do videos, you try to put out merch, and you try to reach out to different publications in hopes that they like your stuff enough to promote it. As for the staying true part, I just don’t sell myself in some way that just doesn’t feel true to myself. For example, I don’t have Instagram, Twitter, or Tik Tok, and I have no plans in engaging in these methods of promotion. My artist pages on the different streaming platforms will act as my image, so pretty much, you either follow me or you don’t, but the products will speak for me, rather than me trying to speak for the products.
Happy: Can you talk about a particularly memorable performance or moment in your music career that stands out to you?
Jay: I’m not sure what to say actually because I’m kind of like a puppy when it comes to musical moments. I really feel the creator’s high every time I create something I believe in, and can’t wait to complete it, and put it out. The ride itself is the high, not necessarily the achievements.
Happy: Looking ahead, what are your plans for the future, both in terms of new music and your overall career trajectory?
Jay: Career trajectory, I think I still have to wait and see what happens because a lot of that isn’t necessarily in my control depending on how the music is received. But, as for future plans, I should have 1 or 2 EP’s coming out this year, and a new album coming out next year if I meet my deadlines. I won’t say too much, but I will say that people should expect to hear a lot more singing, and a lot less rapping from me in these anticipated projects.
Happy: What makes you happy?
Jay: Similar to what I said before, I believe that the ride is the high, so simply just living. It’s a journey and you’ve got to love the sum of its parts, just because you’re alive to be able to feel it, and make of it what you will. So simply just being here and living a life truly worth living makes me happy. Thank you for adding to its happiness by offering me this platform to speak my thoughts, I truly appreciate it.