Around the beginning of the summer my friend put me on to an artist named Jayaire Woods. I’d seen his name pop up on my SoundCloud here and there but it wasn’t until he threw on “2SHOES” one night that I heard him for the first time. As the track swarmed the room one summer night in London, there was a certain melody and tone in 2 Shoes that I felt I hadn’t heard for years. Jayaire sparked a certain emotion with that song for me that on one hand felt like it was touching tones that had been pulled out of an old library I hadn’t listened to in years, but also felt like a fresh revitalisation perfect for our time. From the production, to Jayaire’s voice, he has managed to carve his own route in a world of music clouded right now by people transitioning from conventional rap into a new genre of music. As there isn’t really a proper name for it, it has more so been accepted as a medium between RnB and rap. Or, singing/rapping.
Artists like Kanye West, Drake and Future circa 2008/2009 heavily influenced the wave of rap and popular music we see today, pushing down the door for rappers to be both accepted, and successful, in adding melody and harmony to their music. If one were to listen to the top 10 on the rap charts right now there is almost a guarantee that 8 of those songs will have someone singing/rapping, possibly with various layers of auto-tune and effects on their voice. If one were to look at the top 10 rap songs from 2005 there is almost a guarantee none of those songs will consist of melody or harmony for 3-4 minutes. While this new style is great in it’s own right, the problem we are seeing now is a huge wave people finding a beat that has some sort of dark, emotional or moody vibe to it and throwing their (often mediocre) voice and lyrics on it in attempt to be the next Drake type figure. Of course it’s natural that the youth of today will be inspired by an artist as influential as Drake, but what young artists fail to realise is that someone like Drake is at where he is now because he has crafted his own sound, he innovated this sound. Someone like Drake was clearly effected by an album like 808’s & Heartbreak (which is really the album that positioned the spine of rap music from 2009 onwards), but he took that inspiration and created something arguably greater. While there is definitely space for people to follow in the footsteps of the people who directed this transition in rap, there has to be something that separates one from the hundreds of kids posting their attempts on SoundCloud everyday. Additionally when one listens to the music it has to feel like it’s coming from a natural place, there’s no way all these songs getting posted on SoundCloud about pretty much the same things with almost the same singing/rapping style are really who these people are. It’s more so an attempt to elevate oneself into people’s viewpoint by replicating a sound that they are familiar with and drawn to. One can definitely garner attention and plays with this type of approach as it is the type of music people seem to not be able to get enough of these days, but longevity past SoundCloud listens is where one’s creativity is really exposed.
Jayaire Woods is one of the only artists who’s been ‘singing/rapping’ in the last 2 or 3 years that I have been truly engaged and refreshed by. In a generation of followers, his music is a perfect contrast to what everyone else is attempting to cultivate right now. He speaks honesty. From talking to Jayaire and listening to his music it’s clear that at the centre of it he’s simply a writer who wants to touch the world with his pen and voice. Jayaire happens to be one of the few people who is managing to separate himself from a pack of upcoming artists that have been thrown into the same box, and probably for somewhat justified reasoning. From the small amount of music Jayaire has shared with us so far, releasing his debut project trees4morrow just last week, it is clear Jayaire is steering through a lane of his own. We interviewed him a few days after the release of his first body of work to hear more about his ride so far, where he’s at now, and his dreams for the future.
So, how long have you been doing music for?
I’ve been writing music since 4th grade, but I’ve been writing poems since 1st grade. I would consider 4th grade my beginning of music. I didn’t start rapping a lot till I was 19-20 years old, I just started going to the studio last year, literally like a year ago now. In November is when I started taking it seriously.
Do you have a team around you or are you on your own?
Yeah I’ve got a lot of friends, I got a group called Flow. But I also just got a lot of friends that rap, just best friends, people I grew up with. I’ve got producers I grew up with, my DJ is one of my best friends, my manager is one of my best friends. I got a camp around me, people who do clothing lines, all of that.
What made you start taking it seriously?
Just money, I didn’t have money to go to a studio until last year. I started working at Target and I got a promotion so it was decent. But I never had a home studio, neither did any of my friends. I always wanted to go to a decent studio because I wanted it to sound good, so I googled Classic Studios in Chicago and it took off ever since then.
I saw you said you are currently a mailman, which you said is your dream job. Why is being a mailman your dream job?
Nah I quit like three days ago. Yeah it was definitely my dream career bro because I never liked high school. I like being alone and I like going outside, everything that being a mailman is about. I was just like, if I ever lock that in that’s just going to be my career, you can retire off that. But I got it like 2-3 months ago right when I started becoming a rapper for real. Lately it’s just been fucked up, after I dropped the tape I was just like nah I can’t do this shit.
It’s an interesting choice, you don’t hear most people saying “I wanna be a mailman.”
Yeah I’m pretty quiet, I’m very organised, like I fit the mailman mode very easily. But yeah I like to write too and I’m a rapper too so, it was a double life.
So what was it like walking away from your job right after you released your first project.
I just went in and was like “yo I make music and it’s starting to work so I’m not gonna have the time for this, but I appreciate y’all.”
[Laughs] You must’ve walked in like “Yo check out my SoundCloud, I’m on.”
Yeah exactly [laughs], I told them to Google me.
You’ve said before music is your dream dream and being a mailman is/was your dream. Have your dreams changed a lot since you dropped the project? Are you looking at different things now?
Yeah now it’s just long term, music was the avenue to get into being a writer and everything else. Like my dream three years ago was just to make a mixtape people cared about, and now that’s happening. So it’s just taking that next step and making the next project and working on writing for other things, just doing more stuff.
What was your childhood like growing up in Chicago, how would you describe it to an outsider?
I grew up mostly in Bellwood, which is a west suburb, that’s where most people from the Westside moved to. It was cool, it was real real cool, like you could do whatever you want. You wanna gangbang you can gangbang, if you wanna play football you can play football, you can play basketball, you can rap! You’ve got kids on each side of the spectrum from Bellwood, so I just played basketball a lot, rode my bike a lot, talked to girls, kicked it. I just had the super super normal childhood. A lot of trouble came with it too of course, but that’s customary for anybody that age.
Would you find trouble or would trouble find you?
Oh nah nah nah I was never a troublesome kid, I’m goody goody two shoes! [laughs)] I got a lot friends who do bad shit, and I got a lot of friends who do good shit. I grew up cool with everybody for the most part, so I was never like thirsty for trouble. Also my Pops was a real big advocate in my town so everybody knew, nobody wanted to help me get into trouble — nobody asked me to come in a gang because everybody knew my Father and he wasn’t with it, and I wasn’t with it. I’m not big on peer pressure so I wasn’t like tweaking on gang stuff or drugs or nothing.
I fuck with everything bro. I remember when Chief Keef came out that was one of the best times for Chicago. Even though a lot of bullshit came with it of course, everybody was happy, everybody was fucking dancing, all that shit. Every party I go to they still play Keef, they still play all the drill shit. And I love all of it because I’ve got cousins and friends who cling onto that drill scene more heavy than I do, then I got people who cling onto the Chance scene more heavy. So there’s beauty in all of it, it’s all Chicago, it all represents where we’re from. So I don’t shy away from any of it. But yeah Chief Keef is one of my favorite rappers, Chance The Rapper is too, they both cold as fuck. I fuck with all of it.
I remember the day I saw the “I Don’t Like” video there was something so real about that. For someone from London, Chicago in my eyes had been more Common, Kanye, Lupe etc. So to see that was really eye opening.
Yeah and that was the start of a new epidemic. Like now the whole younger generation, the floodgates have opened, that was the start of it. Him and Chance both kind of did it, not at the same time, but there was a parallel there like Chicago’s here. Now there’s a billion rappers from Chicago coming out and all making quality music, whether it’s drill or talking conscious shit. It’s all good.
And it spread so far so quickly, when both those guys came out it just went–
–Viral, shit went crazy.
So you’d work with people on both sides of the scale?
Definitely, I don’t know who I’d work with specifically, like I haven’t got anyone in particular in mind, but I’m up to work with anybody who’s talking about anything as long as they’re being honest. Yeah I don’t have a problem working with somebody who’s talking that drill shit, that’s where they came from, who am I to blame them for what they talk about, so that would be cool. I’d work with pretty much anybody from Chicago as long as they’re being honest with it.
Have any Chicago artists reached out yet?
Nah not yet lowkey [laughs]. I’m cool with Smino Brown if you’ve ever heard of him, that’s the homie. Other than that though nah, I been chilling. It’s weird, hmmm, that’s a funny question, I hadn’t even thought about that till you said it. But nah I’m not cool with any Chicago artists now that I think about it, you make me want to get cool with them now that you just said that shit.
Is your music a depiction of where you come from or are you trying to take it to a completely different space?
Yeah it’s a reflection of where I’m coming from but I just really want the world to see that side, not really like you have to rep where I’m from, but Bellwood is a story that hasn’t been told before. I scream ‘Woodside’ a lot and a lot of people cling onto that from Bellwood. It represents where I’m from a lot because where I’m from represents me a lot. So it all in turn represents each other, that’s always going to be where I’m from. Just like you’re from London, you can always hold onto that.
Mostly my own life lately, I’m not sure if I wanna write about other topics yet. I’m definitely going to rap about our generation, but the whole tape trees42morrow was just literally what I’m going through. But yeah, I’m probably going to do projects where I start rapping about what everyone is going through and blah blah blah, just keeping it going.
What music inspired you as a kid?
The first album I bought was Charlie Wilson, so I got to say the Charlie Wilson album. I like Mase a lot, I like T.I. a lot, I like Lil Wayne. ’07-’08 T.I. and Lil wayne were my favorite rappers. So pretty much anything that was on the radio, because I didn’t really get onto the internet till like 2010. That was when I started listening to people who weren’t on the radio like J.Cole and Kendrick (Lamar), who are my two favorite rappers. But before that it was just singles, like radio hits that I was really big on. Like Ludacris, Twista, Kanye West all of that. And Kid Cudi, he’s one of my favorite artists too.
Who are you inspired by right now?
There’s a lot of people at this point. I like Chance a lot, I like Vic (Mensa). I like pretty much everybody in Chicago, like Mick Jenkins, just all that because that’s people close to me who are doing the same thing as I’m doing. Saba, all them. But also I’m inspired by people who aren’t even musicians like my friends, my producers even, Jordeaux and Vzn. Inspiration comes from everywhere these days.
I saw you said you went to college for a bit then dropped out, why didn’t it work out?
Yo I’m never been stupid but I just never been a school like person. I don’t even know, I couldn’t even tell you bro it just don’t register with me. I was decent in school till like 8th grade then I went to high school and I started doing average, like a C average, and that wasn’t really working for my fam. So when I got to college I was on probation for my first semester because I had bad grades, like I barely made it into college because I had bad grades. So with that I don’t know that’s when I started partying a lot. College is the first place where you can not go to class and not get in trouble for it. In high school they’d call your parents home, and I couldn’t get that call. But in college I could just not go to class and nobody would care. So once that happened it was over, it was literally just over. And I was wasting money so I was just like fuck it I’m not gonna. And it’s better not to waste that money, because I’m going into debt like a motherfucker. I’m getting ready to pay it off now, they’re calling me and I’m like I didn’t even do anything. I literally went to class maybe for the first 2 months of school then missed the last three months and they want all my money and I didn’t even do shit.
I do music as well, and sometimes I think to myself imagine the studio I could make, or the amount of equipment I could buy with the amount of money these schools charge for tuition. It’s crazy.
Exactly! Yeah, I’m thousands in debt when I could have been working on funding my own music, like you said.
I saw you’ve described yourself as more than just someone who raps. At the heart of it you’re really a writer and want to write books, write scripts etc. What ideas have you got for that?
I’m trying to do mostly fiction, just storytelling though. And comedy I’ll probably do that later on. But when I first start I just want to do fiction movies, just stories, literally just stories, any stories. Then I also want to get into documentaries on people, it would just depend on who the people are, like famous people or anything. But yeah, I want to get into literally every style of writing in general. That’s the main goal, get into every part of writing there is. I do want to do stand ups, I want to write stand up stuff but I don’t wanna do actual stand up; I don’t think I can talk to people in a big old room, like I don’t know if I can do that shit. But if not I’d just write some of it, I know they have writers for that.
Who are some of your favorite writers?
I used to like Walter Dean Myers growing up, I like Hill Harper these days. I also like Tom Burrell, I only like one book by Tom Burrell though, it’s called Brainwashed. But yeah I like those three mainly. And with poetry I usually just watch Def Poetry Jam, there’s a lot of shit on Youtube, I just watch that shit.
If you were stuck on an island would you rather have one book or one album?
Hmmm, probably an album.
Probably Friday Night Lights by J. Cole. Either that or To Pimp Out A Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar. They’re kind of tied, but it’s between those two for sure.
You’re independent right now right?
Yeah I’m independent right now, yeah.
Are you planning to stay on that route, or are you just taking everything as it comes?
I can’t tell you man! I got some things lined up but I can’t tell you that. If it happens I’ll let you know, but yeah I can’t tell you yet.
Nice man, make sure that money’s right though.
You worked on this project for three years, did it change a lot? I mean 18-21, that’s a huge gap and memorable time in one’s life.
I wouldn’t even say I worked on it for three years, I just been working since like 8th grade. I’ve had the name trees42morrow but I’ve been writing songs and just trashing them forever. I’ll just write a song, like it a lot, and then just never go to the studio for it. So once I made the intro “2MAH”, that was the first song I made on the whole tape, I made that in like April. That was the first song I really really liked by myself. That’s when I was like ‘yeah this is it.’ Then I made “Too Long” next, that was the second song I made for the tape, then I made “2SHOES” and that was the fourth song. Once “2MAH” came it was just a snowball effect. I found a sound that I liked so it just kept going from there on.
So what are you doing now that you quit your job, are you just going to be writing music now?
Yeah I’m gonna be writing music, doing a lot of shows, spreading the brand. Like I said I got something that might happen pretty soon bro, I just can’t tell you. If that happens a lot of things are gonna change, so I’m just working that transition. But even if it doesn’t happen, just doing shows, traveling, trying to make more music, spreading the word that type of thing.
What were you trying to express with the album, if anything?
Just the past year of my life, I think the album speaks for itself and that’s the great part of it. I talk about a lot of shit I’ve been growing through, like missing my mom a lot, missing my sister, my pops. I talk about girls, I went through a break up which you can hear in the album on “Too Long” and “Prototype”. So pretty much I was just expressing this last year of my life, and I feel that I captured that pretty good.
What is the meaning behind the name trees42morrow ?
It’s just like growing for the future. Basically just planting seeds in myself and in whoever you want to plant them in for the future, like growing for tomorrow and just being a tree. A long time ago I started calling myself a tree because I’m growing, and it’s a small growth, just basically moving like a tree. So that’s really all it came from, trees42morrow. Yeah, it’s pretty cool [laughs].
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Happy man, hopefully just happy. Writing a lot of stuff, writing music, everything. In 5 years I’m gonna be 26, yo hopefully I’ve got a beard. Yeah I just want a beard, I want some cool clothes, I want to be happy. And maybe a girlfriend or wife if I’m like super mature by then. Hopefully I’ll be mature. A lot of things, I just wanna be better basically.
Is there anything else you wanted to say?
Nah man, trees42morrow out now, thank you for your time bro.