"I just do music; I don’t have to do anything else. I live for my music..."

The musical genre grime originated in London in the early 2000s and has since had a lasting impression on the music scene in its city. The MCs and producers that were the spear-heads of grime in its heyday, Dizzee Rascal, Wiley, and Jammer for instance, have handed over the mantle to artists that push the genre into exciting and progressive heights.

But as well as providing the stimulus for discussion and debate, especially in our current social and political climate, the genre has also extended out into other cities and towns around the UK. “I’m big in Brum like Grand Central,” rapped Jaykae in Lotto Boyzz’s ‘Birmingham (Anthem)’. Hailing from Birmingham, UK grime artist Jaykae has released some big hits in the past couple of years, ‘Moscow’ and ‘Toothache’ representing significant moments in his career.

As well as going on his first solo tour last year, he acted as mentor at Redbull’s Grime-A-Side regional competition for the Birmingham team in 2016. Clash sat down with Jaykae to talk about his experiences on the trajectory of the grime MC, becoming an aspiring actor and representing the Birmingham MC scene.

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When do you think you got your first breakthrough?

In 2014. Up until last year I think 2014 was my strongest year as an MC coming up because I had done my Fire In The Booth. I did that in 2013 but that made me have a good 2014. I also did the Skepta ‘That’s Not Me’ remix. I think that’s when a few more in London and down south were getting familiar with me.

Is it hard not being from London because that’s where grime originated?

I don’t think so. I think the internet controls everything now. It’s not like someone’s blocking up here, you can’t block anything any more. If something’s hot, then something’s hot. Radio can’t ignore it, it goes viral, it gets mad heat. It can’t be ignored. So I don’t think it’s a nuisance being from another city because wherever you’re from you can go. It just takes one viral moment.

Who is repping the Birmingham scene as well as you then?

Mist, Lady Leshurr, LottoBoyzz, Dapz on the Map, and then we’ve got the up and coming ones, like the younger ones, like Tana and K2. We’re just getting the business side in Birmingham, I think everyone’s become a business man as well as just doing music. Before it was like we’ll do a video and throw it on YouTube, a freestyle video, and just be gassed off of that and be content with that for six months and get tweets and be happy with that.

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I just do music; I don’t have to do anything else. I live for my music.

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That’s not the case any more. Everyone knows about Spotify; everyone knows about Apple Music. There are avenues to make money from it now. I think we’re taking it a lot more seriously now. People like me and Mist, we’re showing the younger ones that it can change your life.

I just do music; I don’t have to do anything else. I live for my music. You get me?

So you’re supporting the people that are also from Birmingham?

Everyone, as much as I can. When I did my tour it was only Birmingham support acts. I try my best to because I feel like when I was coming up there wasn’t that person to look up to that had done bits, you know what I’m saying? That had made a substantial amount of money to change their lives and change their families lives and things like that.

I think we are them people so I do expect people to surpass us. I don’t think it’s just gonna be us forever. People will surpass us and learn the game and do things better than us one day but it’s worth setting the example.

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When you picture Jaykae in five years time, what is he doing?

I want to be in films. I want to start my own label. To be fair, in five years time I want to be successful in terms of I’ve got my house, I’ve got my future set in front of me, and I’ve got money in the bank and things like that because I’ve got a two year old son. In five years’ time he’s seven and he’s gonna be in school and he’s gonna want to do things. D’you know what I’m saying? I don’t know if I’m gonna want to be this bait rapper then in everyone’s faces on YouTube. I might take a seat back and sign people and push them. Take their careers for a ride.

So acting. When and how did that merge with the music career?

I’ve been doing acting since school. I’ve done a few things in school and then I went to college with it and then I got kicked out of college because I wouldn’t do the dance element. And when it’s performing arts you’ve got to do voice, the movement, and the acting basically. I was cool with the dance and the acting but dance, I wagged every lesson. And then it just came out of it from there. And then recently I’ve done the ‘Moscow’ video again and since I’ve done that people have been coming forward to me and asking me if I want to get involved with opportunities. Recently I bagged a film role, so hopefully soon.

Do you think you’ll end up going more into the film side or are you going to keep a balance?

Nah, I think, you know what it is, how old do you have to be cool to be a rapper, like, Jay-Z can do it in his forties but with grime MCs, where have you seen how far its gone? It’s just that whole picture like do you want to be that old guy that’s still spitting bars. I think that scares me the most.

If I am going to be doing that it has to be legendary. Like when I step out and I do an album in eight/nine years’ time, it has to shut down everything and everyone. That’s the level that I want to take it to.

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Go out in the clubs in Birmingham and you’ll hear that tune.

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‘Toothache’ and ‘Moscow’ were your big time hits. Why do you think they did so well with the public?

I think ‘Toothache’ was because I hadn’t done a song in a year and a half, or maybe two years, so it was almost a comeback song and I was banking a lot on ‘Toothache’. I thought that this song has to get me back in the game. And fortunately, it did, it did what I needed it to do. And plus, way more than I ever expected it to.

And ‘Moscow’ was… when I done my EP I had to pick a pushing single, and I remember picking ‘Moscow’ and a couple people around me was like ‘mmm nah’ and I was like ‘nah it’s that one’, like that’s the one that’s gonna go. I think it was my approach to the song.

People are used to hearing me all gassed and shouting and shit, and on that song, I’m just talking, like literally I’m just talking on there. People enjoyed the beat and I think it really related to people. Birmingham claim that song as their own because of some of the lines I’ve dropped in that song.

It’s a Birmingham song. I know it’s called ‘Moscow’ but it is a Birmingham tune. Go out in the clubs in Birmingham and you’ll hear that tune.

Your first solo tour was at the end of last year. Do you feel like you’ve grown as an artist from that?

Yeah because I think the only thing you can do when you tour is grow. So I’ve done a little, well I say little but, in Manchester and London I did 300 capacity, and in Birmingham I did 1,500 capacity. But you’ve got to start somewhere. Next time I do go back to London and Manchester it’ll be 5/600 capacity and so on and so on. And then the dream is doing academy tours and to 3,000 people and things like that. You’ve got to start somewhere. I’ve just put my foot in the pool, I’m just dabbling a bit now.

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So you were on Lord Of The Mics a few times. Do you think it’s a good platform to compare MCs and see what people like and prefer about your verses or someone else’s verses or even energy?

I think it is because grime is like a sport. I think you showcase your talent, and the best way to showcase your talent is you going against someone. I think it’s better for the up-and-coming generation of MCs but I also think it’s good for MCs that are out there to combat because you’re not forgetting where you actually come from and that is what we all grew up on, d’you know what I’m saying? But I think for the younger MCs it’s good for them to come up on and get exposure.

When I did my first Lord of the Mics it blew me out of the water. I was going places and people recognised me from it.

Yeah it was mad. Discarda was good but I think just the way you came at it was completely new to the scene.

Mm, and I think when that’s someone’s first impression of you… if someone can get a first impression of you and love you and love what you do, then that’s the best thing you can do yeah.

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Grime is like a sport... the best way to showcase your talent is you going against someone.

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Do you have any projects in the coming year?

I have, I’m gonna drop another EP very soon.

Excited for that?

Very excited for that. Can’t wait still.

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Words: Marianna Mukhametzyanova

Jayjae spoke to Clash as part of the Native Instruments' Native Sessions event in London.

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