Doing it HIS way
Amsterdam artist Jay-Way wants to redefine pop music. In fact, he’s set on it.
But not just in a visceral sense. He wants to move beyond the conventional rapper/singer stereotype and reset the trend. His sound is a hybrid of classic 90s hip-hop with a bit of vintage soul. It’s surged with a bolt of elite level pop, and layered with some heady, contemplative lyrics. The vibe is more natural than intentional and truly reflective of what Jay-Way stands for—freedom of expression in style, music, and in life.
His childhood was culturally rich. Born to Ghanian parents who met in Belgium but later divorced, he spent his primary years in Amsterdam, speaks Dutch fluently but raps in smooth English, and heavily credits American urban-pop culture/music for creative impact (he says 2000s pop music “shook him”).
“My dad used to DJ so I grew up with a lot of different musical influences. He really nurtured me with the right sounds,” he explains of his earliest introduction to music. “I watched a lot of MTV Raps, and old videos growing up; but when my parents moved me to New York for a little while, I was just blown away by the style, the clothing, and the energy. It just pulled me in.”
Though his cadence was developing, his goals were clear. He’d been kicked out of school a few times for lack of interest in the programing, and would eventually complete a one-of-a-kind music course in the Netherlands. He was a natural, and quickly gained traction with his peers. Jay-Way went the usual route—small shows, battle raps, passing out CDs—but his technique was far from ordinary. So, when a promotor booked him for a large-scale show in the Netherlands, his aspirations became very real.
“I was working at a clothing store and he called me and said ‘I have this one big stadium event that I’m helping produce. I’m a fan and I want to give you an opportunity’,” Jay-Way remembers. “It was one of the biggest Christian events in the Netherlands and I performed in front of 13,000 people and I was like man, this is what I want to be doing for the rest of my life. People would come in the store from different places and be in the Netherlands to see someone like Kendrick Lamar when he wasn’t really famous yet. As an aspiring rapper, that left an impression on me and I knew this is what I wanted to do.”
Jay-Way released his first solo album “Jaynalysis” in 2015, won Best Rapper at the Glint Awards in Amsterdam, and was chosen Encore Freshman of the Year, with a #1 song, “Happen Dappen” on Spotify’s NL Viral Chart with more than two-million streams to date. Jay-Way would complete a second EP, “No Life No Wifi” in 2017 and would become FunX’s Artist of the Week. He has a fairly uncommon perspective for a ‘rapper’ as displayed on one of his earliest tracks, “Cool Kid.”
“That was really me going against the grain,” he explains. “My content was already not the norm, so it was a statement that I’m an anomaly. If me not talking about drugs, hoes, cars, sex, makes me ‘uncool’ than I guess I’m not a cool kid. I wanted people to know that whatever I present is me. I’m not just going to go along with the crowd.”
He adds, “I think it’s normal for me to wear a crop top or for me to have on eyeshadow when I do shows. The fans that identify with me are people who are not afraid to present themselves on their own terms. It may not be normal for hip hop— but this is my normal. My passion is to inspire people to express themselves their way.”
Though he’s a rising sensation in Europe (so much so that Puma sought him out to fly him to London to offer him an endorsement deal), the now twenty-something is positioning himself for international stardom. He doesn’t overthink the whole thing but is confident and committed to making music his fans can relate to.
“I went through depression and anxiety, trying to find myself, and really struggling with low self-esteem,” he shares. “I was isolating, overthinking, and really lost my sense of purpose in life. But there was light at the end of it. I could have committed suicide but thank God, change was around the corner for me. I want to encourage people to not look at their situation and circumstances as final. I got help, went to therapy, and learned to process things differently. I want to my message to be one of hope and removing stigmas.”