Selected by: Aaron Bishop

Name: JAY1

Where He’s From: Coventry via Tottenham

When He Started: “I’ve always made music, and I’ve always been able to rap. In school, I would rap but not take it seriously. When I moved to Coventry, it was a bit difficult to adjust as I had to start from scratch and make new friends, so I think that made me fall in love with music. But I would say I started taking music seriously in 2016.”

Genre: UK rap

File Next To: Aitch, Dave, Tion Wayne

First Track That Inspired Him: “This is a difficult one to answer because there are a few standout songs. During school, I was listening to a lot of Skepta and Chip, but I’d say it was Chip’s ‘Fire Alie’.”

Although he was born in North London, JAY1 is perhaps the biggest name to come out of Coventry, where he grew up, in the last decade. While it’s still early in his career, he has already managed to get himself a Top 20 single with the release of “Your Mrs”, which spent 11 weeks in the charts, followed by “Mocking It”—another Top 20 release. This is before we even mention his sold-out headline tour, which has resulted in venues being upgraded and more dates being added due to high demand. Growing up, JAY1 was surrounded by “quite a variety of music, from pop music to reggae”, and having witnessed the success of hometown heroes such as Skepta and Chip, their eclectic musicality seems to be something in the Tottenham water, as JAY1 has shown the ability to switch things up whether it be rap, grime or drill.

He’s come a long way since the days where he would call himself Young Jay, with the majority of his videos racking up millions of views, but you would be wrong if you thought he was an overnight success. Starting off doing covers, it was JAY1’s version of the infamous “Chiraq” that “really kicked everything off for me.” His raw ability was on full display for all to see as he managed to put his own spin on an instrumental that was overtly popular at the time, packing in punchlines throughout tight wordplay, complete with a certified flow.

When asked what his biggest achievement to date is, the rhymer’s reply is relatively grounded, telling TRENCH: “I’m most proud of doing a headline show and being able to invite down all my family and friends. Also, doing Wireless and Parklife this year was a big deal as they are both such iconic festivals, considering last year I went to Parklife as a fan.” JAY1 is a product of what happens when talent meets hard work, and is now reaping the benefits. His One Wave EP, released earlier this month, earned him a Top 40-charting project and featured previously released singles “Your Mrs”, “Mocking It”, “Becky” and “Good Vibes”, as well as five new tracks.

Having already achieved so much in a relatively small amount of time, this rapper finds himself in a situation that could be overwhelming for a lot of people. As focused as ever, JAY1 recognises that the hard work is far from over, with a load of things to tick off his list. “There’s a few things at the forefront of my mind,” he says, “for example, an album, headlining a major festival—things of that calibre. But right now, I’m just not trying to overthink it; I want to enjoy music and get the balance right.” And this time, he’s not joking.

TRENCH Highlight...

Posted on July 17, 2019