Categorized | Interviews

Baby I’m So Down!

Posted on 24 March 2010 by .

The first time I heard of Jay Sean was back in 2004. Those were the Rishi Rich & Juggy D days and Jay was still somewhat of a crossover desi sensation, you still heard the occasional Mai Tere Naal Nachna interspersed in his beats.  While his songs were still flirting with mainstream, Jay came to American shores. One of my Jay-lorn college going gal-pals dragged me to a little club in New York, where Jay was headlining. I remember resisting the thought; I was not going to go see yet another “Brown Boy Go Black”, but I was suckered into the night out anyway.

After the usual Bhangra Boys, and Bollywood Queens had strutted their stuff, we finally got to see Jay, and there he was. Brown puppy dog eyes that looked directly at me, a shaggy head of hair begging to be brushed, and luscious lips that I just knew were crooning “Stolen” to me and only me. It didn’t matter that Jay was barely 20, I was hooked.

So when I was asked to sit in with South Asian Journalists Association’s conversation with Jay, I jumped at the chance. Jay has been wowing UK audiences for over half a decade. Its only now that American audiences are biting into that particular pie. What struck me most about Jay was his ease with the adulation. He’s still grounded, in tune with the struggle of the last 7 years, in touch with his roots yet fighting the typecast of his color and origins, acknowledging the journey. To quote Jay:

“Its always a beautiful thing to be recognized, by anybody. Whether they are a professional critic or a fan, or just your cab driver who happens to hear your song on the radio and loved it. My thing is that criticism is subjective, and as long as I know myself, my music, and I trust it, have love and faith in it, that’s the only thing that can carry forward. I am very positive person, and I think about how many potentially enormous goals there are to reach yet. And I do everything in my mindset to keep me in that positive mind-frame.”

What can he do for brown?

“I’ve heard a lot of people say, I am not keeping true to my roots. My thing is it doesn’t take adding a dhol to your record; or me wearing a t-shirt with the Indian flag to represent. It takes me respecting my culture. When you get that platform, people do ask, and I will educate when they do.”

So your parents wanted you to be a doctor?

“I wanted to be a doctor, I just never expected the music to go this crazy, and I had to make the choice.”

Musical Influences?

“I grew up in a household playing Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, BoyzIIMen, mix that American soul, with my grandparents who loved Hindi films and filmy music that I also love. Then I got heavily into R&B & Hip Hop, Soul and Tribal Quest, Mary J Blige, and that kind of stuff.”

“Down” aside from being on the Top 10 for over 28 weeks in the US, also won Jay and Lil Wayne a UK Urban Music Awards for Best Collaboration. Meanwhile, Jay’s current collaboration with Jay Sean “Do You Remember” is currently wowing the charts. That track famously came about when Sean Paul interrupted Jay’s moment on the VMA red carpet and exclaimed “Yo Jay Sean! Me and you need to work together.” This was the first time the two had met, and two days later they had another hit which entered  on the Top 10 Billboard Hot 100.

Your dream collaboration?

“I am a big fan of Jay-Z and his wife Beyonce! My dream would be and her do a song, and him do the rap on it. That would be incredible. I am a big fan of Rihanna as well, and Neo, so many artists.”

Piece of advice for upcoming artists?

“We are in an era where anybody can get recognized virally. People get discovered off of YouTube, doesn’t take much if you have good voice, just a webcam. Believe it or not, record labels are looking there, MySpace, FaceBook. It’s a huge, huge way. Help yourself!”

Next steps?

“Its an unbelievable dream to have a #1 song in America. Its very rare, that’s incredible and a great platform to get noticed. And now my second single just went Top 10, which further solidifies an artist, and has to be taken seriously, not just a one hit wonder. Now taking the real artist to the next level is a whole new endeavour. Like Jay-Z, sell out Madison Square Garden, that’s where I want to be. That will take a lot of work, this is just the beginning.”

It is a beginning of sorts. In the years Jay has grown and rebranded himself.

Gone is the shaggy hair, the leather jackets, and the soulful promise of a bad boy, the Jay Sean of today, is streamlined, suited, labelled and every girl’s dream date. There is that moment in “Down”, when Jay makes his grand ballroom entrance, skinny black jeans, topped with unbuttoned white shirt, and studded belt. And the backup dancer discreetly slips on a velvet jacket. Nothing says the Jay transformation better.

Jay Sean has arrived, in style, and it’s about time.

Author: Fatima Yamin

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