Words by Tyrell Willocks
Conversations from home feel a little bit more different than the standard day. With the lockdown loosening and tensions on social media rising day by day, we look for peace, especially through art. 21-year-old rap artist JAYO got to sit in the comfort of his home to speak to Lightwork about life in lockdown, the positives of having creative control and why extensive knowledge is key to a successful career.
“I didn’t want to waste my lyrics, I wanted to record them.” Playground antics and rap battles during school triggered JAYO to pursue a music journey in the correct manner. This isn’t coincidental as his father is a music journalist. “I’ve been making music since 2012! I’ve always been into English, especially poetry.” With his passion for music blossoming, he felt as if he could intertwine the two together. “If you listen to Drake’s ‘Take Care’ album, you are able to hear an artist talk about their growth and their journey in a poetic way.” He states that the album - which was released in 2011 - played a huge part in the attraction to become a musician. “This is what making music can do, if you’re passionate about it and dedicated to it.”
JAYO expressed some laughter when talking about his first ever song. “I mainly shared it amongst my friends through BBM. “I was getting everyone to broadcast and share it, which enabled me to confidently push the music myself.” With a laugh over the phone, he added, “the first song was terrible though.” The creatives that are true to themselves are usually the ones with excellent growth. JAYO expressed that studying media influenced growth and increased his knowledge, stepping away from just being a rapper. “Not only was I pushing my music but I would fill the role of a graphic designer, creating my artwork and my flyers.” Alongside this, is his sheer confidence and presence on stage, with Jayo adding “The more I was making music, practicing and collaborating, enabled the growth of my audience. I’ve always been confident in the music itself.” And he isn’t lying!
“A lot of my songs have different beats, different genres and influences, which can be hard to market. People want to identify you with one singular sound.” We touched on the topic of versatility, which JAYO says is an important factor to his journey. “Versatility is the key to longevity, because you have to learn to adapt and be open to new ways of thinking. One of the challenges that I faced and still face is; since I’m into such a wide range of music, I try to incorporate and infuse things I'm listening to.”
Some might say that the quarantine period is a tough one for some artists, especially when trying to express raw feelings and emotions. But JAYO is all about comfortability! “A lot of the music I make is at home in my bedroom. I feel more comfortable doing so, in my own environment.” And being comfortable didn’t stop him from becoming experimental. JAYO is a member of the RoundHouse, which gives him access to studios and increases the ability to showcase and expose his art to others. You can tell that he is in control of his journey, not just mentally but creatively. “I like to write with a clear head, without any distractions but there have been occasions where I’ve been in the studio with sick producers and they voice their opinions which can really help. It helps make sure everyone is on the same wavelength.” He explained that it was important to be authoritative but open to external opinions. “I definitely take a lot of the control with my videos. I like to make sure that the visuals articulate the audio as much as possible, as I do believe they go hand in hand.” With JAYO’s media knowledge, things such as framing and various angles become a natural thought process to him when planning and understanding the capabilities of what videographers can work with.
It’s great to see an artist stand by their goal and vision and it has not gone unnoticed. Released fortnightly on BBC Sounds, is the ‘Hot List’, where BBC presenters and DJ’s pick a selection of the UK’s freshest tracks. “I was so gassed! It originally got played over a month ago but I found out through twitter, when they stated they were looking to celebrate black artists.” His latest single titled ‘Frostbite’ was included in the Hot List. “I saw my picture and I was like, what! That’s crazy.” The song was written and self-produced by JAYO, which almost proves just how important it is to trust your process. “People become unreliable and I’m not a fan of waiting and being at someone's mercy, so I like having the control myself. If you take ten years to create my artwork, I’ll create it myself! If you’re not gonna make me a beat, I’ll make one myself and to the level of how I envision it.” Frostbite owns a very up tempo but ‘greazy’ flow, with the feature artist Dn9ne providing a melodic vibe that almost splits the song in two. But Dn9ne wasn't the original feature artist. “I had reached out to two other artists - who were not similar to Dn9ne’s sound - but both were indecisive on the commitment. The verse was ready last year!” Dn9ne was not a stranger to JAYO, as the two of them released a song and video before Frostbite. “When working with Dn9ne, he challenges me with the different vibes he brings, triggering me to do the same. I ended up switching the second verse to a melody.”
For JAYO, being in isolation has been productive as he has been working on ‘quarantine freestyles’. “It is important to practice on my sound and punchlines. Lots of artists go back into their old catalogue.” Although social media sites such as Instagram offer the opportunity to perform live, JAYO steered away from this. “I taught myself how to use Adobe Premiere Pro, creating a promotional video for a song I featured on titled ‘Enrique’.” He has also used this time to gather information and read on the Black Lives Matter movement. “It’s a weird time but it’s ironic, because I have been speaking on this topic in my music for a while. People weren’t paying attention, even at live shows.” Young and Black is a song that JAYO released last year and explained that his perspectives have changed. “I’ve got a new song addressing this stuff too! I’m waiting a while as I think people are hopping onto this trend of trying to input their artistry into the current times.”
As we wrapped up our conversation, the South London artist gave us some final words of wisdom. “The more you know your worth and the way you balance your leniency, will earn you the respect you deserve. Hold your ground, be consistent and never be afraid of the power of versatility.”