In recent years, Afrobeat has become more prevalent than ever on the airwaves and playlists of American music lovers. Our appreciation for the genre has grown by leaps and bounds thanks to artists like Wizkid, Tiwa Savage, Davido, Wale, and more who have been credited with leading the charge in creating its crossover appeal. As we continue to keep an eye on these artists, it's important to remain vigilant over the next rising stars to help push the genre to new levels.
Born to Nigerian parents, Jay Cube is a Washington, D.C. native who grew up around music and recalls singing in the church as early as 5 years old. The passion to move people through music remained close to his heart and naturally led to the pursuit of a singing career. Inspired by Michael Jackson and Usher, Jay would practice every day for hours with a brush for a microphone, perfecting his dancing and singing. Fast forward to 2017, and he's one of the hottest up-and-coming acts.
He boasts hundreds of thousands of plays on Soundcloud, as well as collaborations with Tory Lanez and Missy Elliott. On top of that, he's joined the likes of Solange and Erykah Badu as SXSW's top-ranked performers. Now, Jay Cube is ready to hit the gas with his new EP. He spoke with REVOLT TV about his progress up to this point and what we can expect from him next.
Afrobeat is making quite the transition into mainstream music. Do you feel any pressure to be one of the premiere artists for the genre?
It's been a long time coming and it's such a great feeling for it to be finally mainstream. I don't feel any pressure as one of the premiere artists of the genre. I'm truly excited to be in the position that I'm in and one of the frontrunners in this space. I've been exposed to this genre my whole life. I've learned over time to create my own sound around it to make it mainstream for any music lover to listen to and enjoy. My new EP touches a lot on that. It has a huge Afrobeat influence in it.
As a songwriter, where do you draw your inspiration from?
Mainly stories that I've heard or experienced are the driving force behind my writing inspiration. I love narrating those stories through my music. It resonates with the listeners as they are really stories we all go through everyday.
Do you find it easier to write songs for yourself than to write for others?
It's slightly different when writing for others. First thing I do is go out for lunch or a casual outing with the artist just to get their vibe in a comfortable setting. That way, I get to read their headspace and sense their comfort level musically. When that's not an option, I write based off of their current situation in life. Sometimes I write what I know would be a good fit for the artist based on his or her area of strength and comfort level. It varies. I've had songs I wrote years ago and happens to fit an artist I just started working with.
You’ve had the opportunity to work with rising stars like Tory Lanez and legends like Missy Elliott. Is there a difference in those experiences and the types of lessons you learn?
It was definitely two different experiences, yet amazing. Writing to a track with an industry veteran definitely put more pressure on me to deliver nothing less than near-perfection. I remember recording it over and over again until I was satisfied, as I keep criticizing the tiniest notes, even the ones that didn't necessarily exist. I was glad it made the final cut. I definitely learnt to always give perfection on every single song I write on. That's the key to being timeless. On the other hand, working on a song with Tory Lanez on it was equally a great experience and lots of fun. I got to put my playful witty side on the record. With three artists on a record, it was important for me to make sure my verse complimented theirs while blowing the song out the park! It was a great time. Shoutout to Issa as well. He had a monster delivery on it too.
What can we expect from your newest project?
Greatness. Rebirth. New Growth. I think a lot of listeners are going to be very surprised with the angle of the songs on my upcoming EP. I put in a lot of time to perfect the sounds, lyrics, story lines, and delivery. It's very important to me that it paints a picture that resonates with our day-to-day lives. The story lines vary from happiness, struggles, partying, love, heartbreaks, survivor, with it all been interpreted on Afro-influenced sounds. I literally was a chameleon on this project. I changed colors and was very unpredictable. You hear hints of funk, R&B, pop, rock, trap, all on the records. Regardless of your taste of music, there's something on it for you. I worked with various seasoned producers like Willbeatz, DJ Teffler, and DJ Soupa Model, who's a music veteran and sound genius. That's why it's titled Golden Sound. The sounds took a long time to perfect. It's an expensive and acquired taste for all music lovers. Gold holds value and is timeless. The goal I plan to accomplish with this new EP is value and timelessness of and for the sound and to showcase my growth musically. I only have one feature on it and that's with a super talented artist called Adekunle Gold. He lends his "golden touch" to one of the tracks. The rest is all me as it was important for me to exhibit my abilities and diversity to its max on this EP. I'm super excited for the world to hear them all.
Musically, how have you challenged yourself more on your new project?
Initially, I wanted to make the project 100% Afrobeats, but then it wouldn't showcase my diversity as an artist. My team and I eventually decided to make it a world class and world-infused project. We messed with a lot of sounds for months before we found it and, boy, was it a great feeling! I mashed up various genres of music with Afrobeats as the main driving force, mashing it up with other genres of music. The percussion selection on most of the tracks are Afro-driven. I've also been working with a great vocal coach, Jonathan Ball, who was the choir director during President Obama's Going Away Celebration concert that aired on BET. He's a genius when it comes to bringing out the best in you. He pushed me to the max vocally and was a tough sergeant. It helped mold my sound for this project.
Jay Cube embodies the musical spirit of greats we hold near and dear to our hearts. A child born into a musical home, who has honed his skills from using a brush as a microphone, to making records with the likes of Missy Elliott. Golden Sound is his latest project and, with it, he looks to set a standard.