Lately, it seems like Atlanta’s got a whole new bag of tricks; the latest to emerge from the musically prolific city is 18-year-old rapping-singer Daye Jack. The Nigerian-born and Atlanta-bred musician is incredibly fresh to the scene, with only eight months under his belt. This past January, Daye took to SoundCloud to premiere his debut mixtape Hello World, which he recorded last Fall, during his first semester at New York University. What’s even better is the kid doesn’t study music at NYU — he studies programming, which he views as akin to his musical pursuits.
Less than a year out of the gate and Daye already has his second project Soul Glitch slated to drop in the coming months. Now, he’s preparing to play the first show of his career this Thursday, Sept. 25, at Baby’s All Right. We spoke with Daye about finding his sound, his emotional connection to his music, and his cross-country and cross-continent upbringing.
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Seems like you popped up out of nowhere. How’d the whole music thing start for you?
I put out Hello World on SoundCloud. People were listening to it and it kind of had been spreading for a little bit. Hello World is like the first — everything in Hello World is the first music I’ve put out. I’ve been writing for four years, four and a half years, but I didn’t wanna put out anything until I was ready.
Who pushed you to release the project?
I just knew timing-wise, I knew when to start working on something to put out and that was a year ago, so I started working on Hello World.
You’re at New York University for programming. How’d you get into that?
It was around junior or senior year of high school, I started getting really into programming and I’d been working on a lot of music. There are a bunch of similarities there, just working on different projects like that. It’s natural. I got super into programming and since, it’s been around me, influenced me in a lot of things, and just been there. What I wanna do with it eventually is more consumer stuff, like apps and sites and web programming.
Would you say school is more important than music? Or are they equal?
Nah, I think definitely my music is more important but I never — like even going to school — wanted to work for anyone. It’s always been about getting different skills to use for myself; I think they’re all part of the same thing at the end.
One doesn’t really trump the other?
It’s not really a battle between the two. The music is part of everything.
So you’ve been writing for awhile. Was New York somewhere you saw yourself going? Is that why you came to NYU?
It was either New York or California for me. Even my parents were telling me to get out of Georgia. My dad grew up in California so he’s like, you need to experience life outside of Georgia. You can get thrown into the Georgia mindset where you don’t understand that there’s a whole world outside of Georgia.
But there’s a pretty rich music scene there.
Definitely, and I’m super into Georgia. I love going back, but you see different people in New York. It’s super busy and I love it.
How has Atlanta affected your music?
I was never thrown into the Atlanta scene, I was kind of always looking at it but never really part of it. I feel like New York, the environment of New York has influenced me more — especially in this new project that I’m putting out — than Atlanta. Like there are so many things in Atlanta that build me up and now I’m kind of exploring New York and LA and California, and probably Europe.
I think you’re pretty sincere in your music. Where and what do you draw from? What mindset were you in when you made Hello World?
Hello World is kind of like just pulling on different situations and emotions, and sort of trying to give a big introduction to who I was at the time. Hello World, just the phrase itself was like…
A coming out.
Exactly, and that’s what it was. I hadn’t put out any music, it was like hello world, this is what I do. So that was the mind-space of it, different feelings, how I think, how I act, how I feel about certain things. It was kind of putting that altogether in one project.
Would you call yourself a rapper or a singer or…I know you kind of mix it up a little.
Yeah, I would say that, if anything, I’m just making experimental music, experimental hip-hop. Rapping, singing, speaking is all part of it.
Do you favor singing over rapping?
Nah. I see rap like an instrument — you’re constantly getting better, you’re constantly building. It’s just fun to do. It’s crazy, like when you hear a verse, you try to write a better verse. It’s like mastering an instrument.
What made you want to sing? When did you first rap?
When I was like 10, I would do little freestyle things and then gradually, I started writing songs and then I started listening to more rap, started writing rap, writing songs and writing rap. Everything just came together. It was that.
Let’s backtrack a little bit. You said your dad grew up in California?
Yeah, my dad was born in Nigeria. He moved to California with my grandpa and then he grew up in California, went back to Nigeria, met my mom and I was born there and lived there for like five years. And then we all moved back to Atlanta.
How does that part of your background affect your music?
The culture does, especially when I enter this reggae-ish vibe. The culture’s in the blood — dig deep into that soul.
You do this thing in your songs where you say “Bah!” Is that your thing?
It reminds me of Rick Ross’ grunt. I read somewhere that he says it’s uncontrollable, something to do with stomach issues, though I can’t attest to the validity of that statement.
Is that “Pah!” something you do naturally?
I think it’s like tying the bow around everything. I work on the song and when I have it where I want it to be…it’s like signing a signature on it. Done.
I think for how young you are, a lot of your songs are pretty insightful, like “I walk a lonely road/ I walk it all alone,” from “Save My Soul” off your new album. Where does that kind of depth come from? You seem like a thinker.
That’s probably my favorite thing about the Soul Glitch project, it’s just so personal and very in my head. I was working on the project like March-ish, spring this year, and I’d been living in New York — it was very cold. Kind of missing Atlanta, sad almost.
I was working on that project and when I’m just working on a project in general, I get super into my head. You’re noticing a lot of things about yourself as you’re writing the project; it was kind of that, that’s why I was deeper in it. So I’d been working on this project, super in my head, super down and that’s when it came out. I really like that song.
I do too. Do you already see growth in your music?
Definitely. I love Hello World but there’s definitely a jump between Hello World and Soul Glitch. Also partially because Hello World is really, really broad. It’s an introduction, you want to show everything. And Soul Glitch is focused.
It’s focused on a specific feeling almost. Emotion in general and just a specific guy. It’s me and it’s things and emotion — it’s hard to verbalize, you kind of have to listen to it. It’s very me, that’s how I describe it. I’m rapping less on the project; it’s really emotion-driven.
Are you moving towards singing rather than rapping?
No, I’ll always…I can’t say always, but I like rapping. Right now, I like rapping. And I like singing and talking, and doing other things.
That song “Limousine” from Hello World is one of my favorites. “Limousine come take me/The place I’m chasing.” What would you say you’re chasing?
That was like the first song I wrote for Hello World. It was the start, I’m trying to get this thing for myself and have a good career, both in music and in life in general, trying to make the right decisions. It was kind of like a limo, and it’s that representation of luxury and being on the right road and the right path and that imagery.
But it’s also sad like, the limo, but if you listen to the song it’s like me in the limo by myself and it’s that whole, I want the limo to come take me but why am I in there alone?
Who inspires you and who do you want to work with?
André 3000. What I like most about André 3000 is the way he approached The Love Below. You want him to rap but he just did his own thing. I love that project, it’s probably one of my favorites. It’s crazy.
Who else did you listen to growing up?
[Laughs] That’s kind of the polar opposite of you.
He was big and I loved it. I especially loved “Candy Shop.”
That was like my favorite song and I had no clue, I didn’t know the subject matter. [Laughs] You can’t name a song “Candy Shop” and then have it play on the radio.
And be 9-years-old.
Exactly. I wanna go to the candy shop. [Laughs] And then a year later I realized wow, this is brilliant.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 25, 2014