I met Jay IDK on July 23, 2016, on the campus of Bowie State University. Just north of the suburban portion of Bowie — lies BSU, the oldest HBCU in Maryland. Not too far from the college, one of the youngest up-and-coming artist, by the name of Jay IDK, grew up in the Glendale area. Outside of the dormant section of the campus, a cookout was taking place. As the sun scorched down, so did the spotlight on Jay. In an eased format, we spoke about his upbringing, how music became a way out of harsh times, and the project that was about to set everything ablaze, The Empty Bank. At the end of the day, Jay just wants a normal life, but as we walked the Prince Georges County concrete, his stardom was not oblivious — to those around him, he’s “made it out.”
My Love for rapping is real. I study n***as like Melly Mel, Big L, and LL. I used to bump The Chronic heavy back when I was in jail. That was my bible when I felt like I was going through hell. – “Last Song (Jay)”
“When I went to jail around 17, 18, 19, and 20 years-old of age, that’s when I started rapping,” Jay IDK explained.
Attending Prince George’s Community College in Largo, Md, Jay IDK (Ignorantly Delivering Knowledge: “the only way our generation will listen”) struck passion with music and dropped out of school — in order to commit himself fully to his craft. Surprisingly, his parents weren’t in opposition of the idea of school going on the backburner. By the time they had anything to say, the advancement of Jay’s talents had already been in the works, earning himself spins on the radio and the foundation he began to build with his team.
“I look back at what i’ve achieved and sometimes I don’t feel like I’ve accomplished enough,” Jay said. “But then on days like today [July 23], I have people coming up and congratulating me… I was asking my homie ‘do you think anybody will know who I am, and surely enough, there were a lot of people who did.”
On August 25, 2015, Jay released his debut album SubTrap; a conceptual body of work that delivered substance within trap, on an intellectual scale. The album became a vital turning point in his career, probing him to see life in diverse ways. The normality of which he lived before, is no longer a current enjoyment. However, that doesn’t define his overall enjoyment for life and he remains the same, still loving everyday activities.
“I feel like [my normal life] slips away, all the time… It gets weird, but for the most part, I do things like [the cookout] all the time just get back into reality.”
The D.C., Maryland, and Virginia, music scene is picking up. Things have changed significantly since rapper Wale made his march into the industry.
“I think it’s going to be similar to how Chicago was,” Jay says of the DMV movement with music. “It’s different names, it’s the trap rappers, then there’s people who are more eclectic. It’s moving in a way that Chicago did… I’ve been listening to this kid named Shabazz, along with Big Flock, GoldLink, Fat Trel, and Shy Glizzy. Intanet James is a new name that I think is going to be dope too. There’s countless others, but those are some of the ones I had my ear to recently.”
Jay mentioned that he doesn’t listen to – too much music, because he likes to be in his own mental space. He goes on to say “but I do like to listen to what’s current just to understand the state of music. Also, some of that stuff is innovative, which pushes me to be innovative.”
To follow up SubTrap, he presents us with The Empty Bank, a project that he is highly proud of.
“I think that music is definitely in one direction, but I think I’m getting ready to disrupt that when people get the chance to hear The Empty Bank and I want to see how people react to that.”
The album art alone is enough to spark one’s interest.
But we too worried ‘bout seeing money, that we losing sight — of everything that’s ahead of us, we only see what’s in front of us. We don’t see what the money does but we see that the money IS, the answer, the key, the force reality, the hope, the love, the only thing we need. In fact, we need it so bad, we make ourselves bleed. – “How Long/Last Song 2 (Outro)”
For many of us, hell, damn-near all us, it’s hard to imagine a world without music; it’s terrifying to even fathom a life without music. The reality for some people may not be the most optimistic outcome, or how they imagine situations would pan out.
“That’s a scary question [about music not existing] actually,” Jay said in slight shock. “I’d probably be in jail or doing stupid s**t. Music saved my life. It made me a smarter and a more mature person.”
Jay’s ambitions request goals outside of music, but he utilizes his musical skills to reach his generation.
“I want to educate people without making people feel like I’m educating them.”
It’s a goal that isn’t far-fetched for the HXLY TRiBE artist to reach for.
“I was always good at writing. That was always my thing. Always killing it with the writings. I wrote an article in the Huffington Post that was very well received.”
If you’ve been actively paying attention to what appears to be a “new school Vs. old school” war, there’s a lack of support from an older generation — to a newer generation that wants to generate fans, love, money, and appreciation for their artistic output; no real harm being done. Playing the middle of the field, Jay argues that there’s always been a certain type of flare in music, hip-hop specifically.
“The game always has its ying and yang. Some of the yings could be the people who have longevity and the yangs be the people that don’t. Or some of the yings could be the people who have a certain amount of substance and some of the yangs could be the people that don’t, get what I’m saying?”
I understood. Artists like Lil Yachty, Lil Uzi Vert, Playboi Carti, amongst others, have faced scrutinized-negativity from an older generation, those who think they aren’t “lyrical” enough, and from those who simply don’t take a liken to their style of music.
“It’s always been like that. People say the golden era was when Hip-Hop was the best and everybody was lyrical, but that’s not true. If you go back to when rap even started, there were always people who were more lyrical and there were people who were more performers. It’s always been that way. So all this bulls**t that people are saying now, rap is rap. A lot of artists can not be so lyrical and be around for a while and there artists that can be lyrical and not be around for awhile too.”
Lyrically curving the state of the game, Jay’s ability to direct his listeners to the importance of his material and/or bigger picture, puts him on his on path. A rapper he is, but his artistic value doesn’t get shunned out.
“I don’t mind being called a rapper, but overall I’m an artist. If you give me a beat, nine-times-out-of ten, the beat you gave me is not the beat you’re going to get back when my song is set and done. Ima add s**t, ima change s**t, move s**t around, and change/add different sounds, at least to what I believe is better. There’s a lot of people that don’t know how to arrange records and have other people to help them, which there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m not just writing the raps, I’m doing everything else around it.”
The intricate steps that Jay takes to perfect his craft and develop himself daily — is applaudable and heightens daily. It’s not the easiest task to hold the attention span of people nowadays; this 24-year-old Maryland native has found a way.