By Ashanti OMkar
One of UK’s major talents, the inimitable and immensely talented Jay Sean, speaks to Ashanti OMkar, in an exclusive look into his persona. Known for his top 20 hit (Dance with me), with super producer, Rishi Rich and Juggy D, Jay Sean, the young, very good looking, not to mention overall nice guy, has his long awaited single, ‘Eyes on you’, for release on 21st June – support home grown talent, especially from the Asian community, by buying this wicked dance floor track… For more on the man himself, go to www.jaysean.com
Tell us about your background, heritage and culture.
I’m a British born Asian, brought up in a Punjabi Sikh household. My parents came over to UK in the 60’s and I’ve grown up in an extended family, living with my parents and grandparents.
What languages do you speak, rap and sing in?
At home, I speak Punjabi with my grandparents, but I rap and sing in English. I also speak a little French and German… and now I feel like I’m writing a CV….
What is the music you grew up on and how has it had an impact on where you are now? How did you get into the 'beat-box' thing - and so wonderfully too?
Beat box was something I never tried to actually learn... I just starting emulating the hip-hop beats that I heard on radio ever since I was 12 years old. When I was in Compulsive Disorder, my rap group, when my cousin used to rap, I’d beat box, and it was just one of those things where no matter where we were we just couldn’t keep our mouths shut! Since then I’ve tried to hone my beat box, studying other techniques, learning new vocal scratches and recently I’ve learnt to sing AND beat box at the same time.
Tell us about 'Compulsive Disorder' - the rap group you were in.
When I was 12 years old, my cousin and I started getting into hip-hop. It became a way of life for us and within a year or so were heavily into hip hop culture. We wrote our first rap for my uncle who was leaving to go to Canada as it goes! We’ve still got it on film somewhere, and admittedly it was really, really, really bad. Over the next 4 years we wrote and produced our own music and performed at local community gigs where we tried to establish a name for ourselves and got a taste for live performance. Our high point came when we got on the front cover of a music magazine in Canada!
How have your family reacted to you giving up a career in Medicine, for music?
They’ve been really supportive. My Mum & Dad always knew my heart was in music & when I came to them & told them I had an opportunity to sign a major recording contract with a major label they have been right behind me. I can’t thank them enough for the encouragement they’ve given me.
What sort of difficulties have you experienced in the industry so far?
Well I’ve learnt an incredible amount in a short space of time about the industry & people. As far as difficulties are concerned, I’ve been too lucky so far to complain about things. There’s an un-believable amount of hard work which goes into being an artist which I didn’t see a couple of years ago. You’ve got to be very determined & keep focused to be successful which is quite difficult when things go well.
Tell us about your association with 2point9 and Rishi Rich, Juggy D e.t.c.
Well 2Point9 are my Management & Production Company. They are an intrinsic part of all our careers & properly criticise me if I have stepped out of line or am slacking in any way... They really keep me on my toes but praise me when I’ve delivered a great performance. They have a lot of experience & between us we have proper discussions about how we should move things forward, left or right creatively. Juggy is a great friend & its been wicked going through all of this with him. We’ve been writing his album & mine and Rishi’s album, together for the last 10 months so we’re vital part of each other’s careers. Rishi is someone who I totally look up to & aspire to have the longevity he’s had. I really admire how hard he works & how much passion he still has for music. He’s very focused & he’s a role model for me.
The new single, 'Eyes on you' - what's it all about and when is it releasing?
“Eyes On You” is released on 21st June & it’s basically a dance-floor friendly tune. It’s a good link with “Dance With You” & I’ve also had the chance to show my other side with my rapping etc on the b-side. Hopefully its got a good shot of making the national Top 20 again & if everyone supports then hopefully we’ll have another hit which has been broken via our own community.
Tell us about the B Side - 'Me against myself' - it’s sounding very Eminem like, in the rapping bits. Are you a fan?
Yeah, I’m a fan of Eminem. I’m also a fan of Naughty By Nature, Fushnickens, Big L etc. I’ve been rapping since before I was a teenager & it’s a massive part of me. I’ve got a few other bits on their way, which will drop just after the single for the specialist DJ’s which showcase what else to come on my album. Look out for a tune called “Who Is Kamaljit?”
What's it like working with Rishi Rich?
Wicked. Although we haven’t been in the studio together for quite a while now. He’s finishing off production on my album tracks & I finished recording a coupla months ago. Hopefully I'll be back in with him again soon as he’s an inspiring guy to be around. He’s got such creativity. I’ve seen him literally writing two tracks at the same time before. It's like as he has one idea, another one comes into his head & he stops & puts it down. He’s a phenomenally talented guy.
Tell us about your lifestyle.
Work, work, work nowadays. It’s basically studio, recordings, Kiss 100 radio show, studio, interview, studio, media showcase, studio, studio. Its pretty damn hectic but I wouldn’t have it any other way. There ain’t much time you have for yourself but its all good, this is how committed you have to be if you want to succeed in this game.
Since 'Dance with you', how has your profile within the music world improved?
Totally. I had no profile before “Dance With You”. It’s mad how big that tune has gone within Asian communities all over the world. 2point9 are getting calls like every hour from places like Australia, Africa, Canada, U.S., Singapore, Malaysia... We’ve even had an offer to gig in places as far afield as Quatar. Its gone mad in India, I mean absolutely MAD. We’ve just been asked to go on a 6-date tour playing to over 20,000 people per gig. It’s crazy.
Any tours, gigs planned to promote the single?
Yeah, I’m gonna be on the road w/c commencing 21st June with a full live band. I’ve got a gig at Glee Club in Birmingham on Tuesday 22nd June so look out for that.
What's it like to be in an industry in which you are a tiny minority, it seems like your talents as an Asian, though comparable with many Black artistes are shunned aside?
Not at all... It's funny but there has definitely been a benefit for me being Asian in the last year because the mainstream has focused on our culture for the first time properly. They’ve taken a look into our community to see what talent is there & its provided opportunity for us. We can’t spend time wondering why its taken so long, we’ve just got to grab these opportunities with both hands & show other cultures what we’re capable of. 5 years ago it was a bit different when I was trying to get into the music industry because there was a mind-set from record companies that my colour stood in my way from performing music of black origin. People like Eminem & Justin Timberlake have shown that “colour does not own art.”
Virgin Records/EMI- they are releasing your album - tell us about that deal? What's the album going to be called and when is it to be released?
The album is called “Me Against Myself” & is released Mid-September. The album title pretty much reflects what I’m about. I’ve got the singing & the rapping & sometimes I cant explain to you how I may be able to write a ballad or a rap track which are two styles, which are a long way apart, its just me & what I like. These 2 genres (R&B/Hip Hop) are a big part my inspiration & I don’t know which genre is gonna come out each time I step into the studio.
How would you say you differ in your views and music, the messages you are to give to fans, alongside the huge realm of competition out there?
I’m talking about my life, which only I have experienced. This may be related to the relationships I’ve had with girlfriends, the nights out I’ve had with my mates or the thoughts which are on my mind when I write tunes like “U Don’t know Me” or “Me Against Myself”. Hopefully people will be interested enough to check out the album & I can get another opportunity to write a follow up. I’ve already got some ideas floating around for a follow up album…
Any favourites amongst the new artistes out there now?
I think the Streets are wicked. Lyrical content is heavy. I’m feeling acts like Coldplay & Keane, some of their tunes are bad but on a hip hop level, I’m still up in the Jay-Z, & Emimen just keeps the ideas fresh man. Basically all those artists who are trying to push things forward creatively. That’s why I’d say Rishi as well for his production. Some of his stuff in the next few months you guys ain’t gonna believe.
Who would you most like to work with?
Adnan Sami. Rishi just got back from working with him in Mumbai last week, so hopefully I can gate-crash a studio session sometime if Adnan makes his way over to Rishi’s West London studio soon. That's really heavy!
Legendary producer, Timbaland - you hung out with him in Southall - spill the beans on the experience.
He came in on an interview I was having with Bobby & Nihal at Radio 1 last month a saw me rapping. He was like “who the f**k” is this kid??” & Bobby & Nihal just let rip on who I was. It was pretty amazing actually I felt really proud to see Nihal & Bobby biggin’ me up like that but I had a chat with Timbaland & we exchanged numbers. He then called me the next day & told me to meet him at his hotel & I took him down to Southall to buy some CD’s. He spent £3000 in 60 mins, which wasn’t bad going. He’s taken a CD of all my demos & asked if id finished my album yet. My mgmt are talking with his at the moment so hopefully there may be something in the pipeline. It was a wicked experience tough, hanging with Rishi & Timbaland & Juggy in Southall, it turned a few heads.
Who inspires you?
Stevie Wonder, Musiq Soulchild, Original Flava, Fushnickens.
What are your musical goals for the future?
What is it like to be a heartthrob - I bet you get mobbed wherever you go!
Nah man, its not like that bad. A lot of the time, people are quite embarrassed to approach us when we’re with Rishi & Juggy & our whole crew etc.
Do you have some comments on the Radio shows that have supported you, such as Bobby Friction and Nihal presents and Rishi's Kiss FM show?
Well I co-present Rishi’s show with Juggy so I can’t really comment on that but all the other presenters like Bobby & Nihal, Adil, Panjabi Hit Squad, Club Asia & BBC Asian Network have been really supportive & it’s the reason why people like me, Rishi & Juggy are in the position we are now. Its important that our music flows through these taste-makers first as they are the opinion formers who can break new Asian artists to other communities.
What messages do you have for your fans out there?
Keep representing & supporting because without the support there’s no way our community can continue to grow & flourish in the country where a majority of our children & grandchildren will grow up. Respect for support so far – Peace.