Selected by: Naz Hamdi

Name: JayaHadADream

Where She’s From: Cambridge

When She Started: “2017, when I was 17, but I had sang and wrote lyrics here and there from 9 years old.”

Genre: Hip-Hop / Grime

File Next To: Deyah, Loyle Carner, Lioness

Sounds Like: “I would describe my sound as introspective, raw and emotive, with a lot of storytelling, heavily influenced by grime and hip-hop. I feel like my music shares a range of my own experiences, helping people feel seen or give an insight into what it feels like to be someone like me. It is my most open and unapologetic voice.”

First Music That Inspired Her: “‘All Falls Down’ by Kanye West. This song came to me straight away because, when I was younger, I remember a poignant moment when I was listening and thinking this is what real music is—it was conscious, socially, while staying sonically infectious. My favourite album is Stillmatic because Nas is not only a foundation of hip-hop but has been someone I have actively listened to since I was a child. I admire his integrity as a lyricist and ability to connect his story with the wider world. My mum had all of his CDs when I was a kid and I used to listen to them while playing PS2.”

JayaHadADream’s upbringing was punctuated by the various sounds she heard at home. “My mum would listen to mostly ‘90s and noughties R&B and hip-hop, like Mary J. Blige, Mariah Carey, Biggie, Nas, 50 Cent, Kanye West,” she tells TRENCH, “but she also used to play music from artists like David Bowie, Nirvana, Foo Fighters and Tracy Chapman.” This introduction to a wide range of music, from artists across different genres, informs how Jaya approaches her own music—most notably her admiration for Nas’ unique style. “I resonated a lot with his story and also really rated how he connected sociology with his music,” she says. “The sociological imagination is the ability to see the connection between individual experiences and wider social forces, seeing how personal issues are influenced by societal patterns. Like Nas, I feel like I am expressing that in my music too.” Taking up space in a male dominated space and making yourself heard is difficult enough, yet Jaya does it with ease and finesse, her poetic rhythm and assured nature reverberating throughout her music.

JayaHadADream began making music by recording demos and snippets over the instrumentals of Nas, Skepta and 2Pac songs. She would often use a USB mic, GarageBand software and “mainly wrote freestyles but sometimes sang short hooks in between and always added layers and adlibs to my songs, experimenting with sound engineering even though I had no idea what I was doing. The lyrics were usually quite deep and emotional, touching on societal issues and personal hardships. I used to upload these onto SoundCloud and share them with friends in my sixth form.” Since 2019, Jaya has been releasing official tracks onto streaming platforms, attracting people and building a fanbase through her perceptive lyrics and lo-fi production choices. Recent songs like “Ur In Love” and “Twiggy” have garnered a lot of attention online due to her spirited delivery of punchy bars exploring self-love, personal experiences, and deep-rooted societal issues. There really is no one quite like her in the game right now.

Jaya’s wide scope of topics to rap about shows how well-versed and worldly she is, highlighting her background in education—she was previously a school teacher. She also refers to the challenges she faces being an artist, especially her indecisiveness: “I think being indecisive is the hardest thing about being an artist. As an independent artist, making decisions can sometimes feel risky and unclear. Being an artist is a lifestyle and, sometimes, it’s difficult to know when to switch off without feeling like you’re missing or wasting opportunities.” But she also states that her genuine character and sincerity are why people identify with her sound: “I’ve had people tell me that I’ve helped them tap into a part of themselves that they don’t feel like is seen or acknowledged—by themselves or by others. I feel like it helps me tap into those parts of myself as well.”

Outside of music, Jaya’s interests include many things, such as “candle-making, working out, writing poetry, playing PS5, reading about history and culture, and cycling. I also like watching true crime documentaries, pop-culture deep dives and comedies like Peep Show and It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. I’ve recently got more into cooking all sorts of things and want to keep exploring that, too.” Through this accumulation and participation of different hobbies and activities, she is able to unwind or apply her findings to the music she makes.

2024 has been great for JayaHadADream so far—her hard work is paying off in a major way, and her consistency across the hip-hop and grime scenes has been felt near and far due to her impressive drive. As a result of her dedication, later this month, Jaya will be performing at Glastonbury after winning their Emerging Talent Competition in partnership with PRS Foundation, who support artist development across all genres. Following the festival, her next big goal is to “work with more artists I look up to, and grow my audience. I want to elevate my performances and sell-out a bigger headline show.” From all the things that she’s achieved, in the time that she’s achieved them, don’t be surprised if you see her name up in lights in a matter of months.

TRENCH Highlight...

Posted on June 24, 2024