Please Hit the Lights!

Our very own Desi boy next door is back on home turf following a very successful stint in the US. With patriotic pride brewing in our puffed up chests, we’re pretty excited to have him back with us promoting his new upcoming album this summer: Freeze Time. Only if you’ll stay in the room with us Jay!

It’s official: this Hounslow lad has rocked the boat overseas. Once set out on a doctor-hood that would make any Asian parental proud, Jay has been well and truly embraced by the American masses. But Jay admits that it’s sometimes hard being an Asian artist in the Western world:

“I think stereotypes do exist. It’s more a case of ignorance and the fact that people haven’t seen or heard us before. For them, we’re new people and all of a sudden they’re confused. It’s just music! On a PR/marketing level, they are new to this, but it’s like when new talent comes then they go crazy, like, ‘Oh my God, it’s an Asian artist, how do we market this person?!’”

That said, Jay’s very open about accepting his differences from other mainstream artists across America and the UK, and it’s not only because of race: “We’ve got to cut it with the others,” he explains. “The video has to stand up there with Justin’s and with 50 Cent’s. And you know, in terms of the vocal production and music, it’s got to sound big like the other big stars. So that’s why I try to make a really big effort into making quality music…quality videos.”

And it’s definitely been a bit of a struggle. Now widely becoming a household name with popular hits like ‘Down’, ‘Ride It’ and more recently ‘2012 (It Ain’t the End)’ with Nicki Minaj, Jay has had to fight his corner to refrain from becoming a one hit wonder. His biggest struggle has been not to become stereotyped into one genre of music:

“Hip hop was my first love, but as soon as I got into producing, R&B became my mistress. As a teenager, I grew up on a cocktail of music. I was surrounded by a lot of different influences from black, white and Asian friends,” he explains. It seems pretty obvious that Jay’s on a mission to produce a very unique kind of sound that combines traditional Desi music with an R’n’b sensibility, one that truly reflects the modern Westernised Asian.

And music is no new thing for Jay. For this home grown Asian Sensation, it initially started off as a hobby. At the age of 11, Jay formed a band called Compulsive Disorder where he rapped with his cousin. With Jay donning the MC name, ‘Nicky J’, the band caught the eye of local radio DJ’s, and this became Jay’s first little taster of success.

Yet Jay’s musical talent was to be left by the sidelines as he went onto private school and later Queen Mary’s University to
study medicine. Two years later though, Jay finally realised that a career in music was the way forward and he dropped out of med school in 2003, donning a new stage name, Jay Sean. ‘Jay’ being his nickname that his friends knew him by, and ‘Sean’ taken from ‘Shaan’, which his grandmother called him.

Since then he’s never looked back. Adopted into the Rishi Rich Project alongside Rishi Rich and Juggy D, he fully emerged onto the Asian underground where they managed to peak at #12 on the UK charts with ‘Dance With You (Nachne Tere Naal)’. Soon after he was picked up by Virgin and signed under Relentless Records in a £1m deal.

His debut album Me Against Myself released in 2004 saw eventual success across India and South East Asia. Recognised by fans as a ‘Desi Diaspora’, Jay’s album combined Indian and R’n’b fusion sounds. Jay admits that his roots and heritage have always been an integral part of his music, and it seems his fans love him for it:

“It’s always an honour to be a role model. Certain kinds think, Jay did it, and I realize my responsibilities and I need to represent me and my community. They think Asians are all the stereotypes, but we’re just as talented and we’re the same people. I’m trying to show people I’m Indian and proud, but I’m also a 1st-generation British-born and want to be proud that I’m representing them too. I need to put out quality music and videos. It all needs to be polished. If you want to enter this scene, it’s not a walk in the park. It’s a tough, tough game. You have to step up in every department. If it’s your dream, there’s nothing  more gratifying than living it.”

Jay left Virgin Records in 2006 after his second album was placed indefinitely on hold and came back a year later with ‘Ride It’, the track that would cement his name into the British pop scene.  Considered the ‘UK’s answer to Ne-Yo’, Jay’s new suave and sophisticated style began to turn heads. And a year later, the US came a-knocking, and he was signed by American hip-hop moguls Cash Money Records. His debut, ‘Down’ featuring Lil Wayne, was his first number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and sold more than 3 million copies in the US alone. It made Jay the first British Act to get a number one since Coldplay’s ‘Vida la
Vida’, as well as the first Indian-origin solo artist ever to get a US #1.

Now he’s back and ready to attack with his next album, Freeze Time. Having been working on it since July 2010, Jay’s determined to keep releasing bigger and better music:

“The last year in particular has been crazy. It’s been mad. There are so many wonderful moments I had, which I just wish for a second that I could stop time and take them all in. I thought about how blessed I was to be doing this for a living and how blessed I was that every day is so wonderful and different. With that mindset, I made this album. I made this album with appreciation in mind and write about positive things, things about life that mean a lot to me.”

So what can we expect from this new album? “This album is a little bit more grown up and sexy,” says Jay, “You’ve got to move it on. This will be my fourth album. You grow and mature, not only as a person but as a singer, as a song writer. Some of the elements, some of the topics that I wanted to talk about, is just a little spicier, just a little sexier.”

“For me it’s that same Jay Sean vibe, if you like’, he adds, “songs like Ride It. There’s mad slow jams on this album. Some sexy R’n’b joins. Up-tempo songs like Down and Hit the Lights. So it’s bigger and better.” The album title, Freeze Time, is an interesting choice but it’s what we can expect from a mature Jay, now in his 30s: “From now on I’m gonna once in a while press pause on life, and like whatever situation I’m in, I’m gonna take it in, soak it up and enjoy it. And make the most of it.”

He’s just as excited to see what America makes of it: “I’m so new to America. I’ve got so much more to show them, so much more to give them.” Working alongside some of Hip Hop’s biggest names like Lil Wayne (‘Down’; ‘Hit the Lights’) and Nicki Minaj with ‘2012 (It Ain’t the End)’, has definitely given Jay a huge shove in the right direction. With Pitbull and Mary J. Blige also confirmed for the upcoming album, we asked Jay which other artists he’d collaborate with: “I’d love to work with Jay-Z,
Beyonce, Justin Timberlake, Ne-Yo, Rihanna. I’m a fan of contemporary music.”

Always being on the road ever since he got to the US, there are a few vital things that Jay can’t do without: “There’s my iPad, my
iPhone, my Blackberry. I’m a gadget freak. Also, my vitamins and my supplements. I make sure I got my workout gear with me.
I always have to have one separate suitcase of just shoes.” Shoes are like his disease he admits, “That’s the one thing I need to have, that and sun glasses. I have a separate bag for that too. It’s so bad but you’ve got to be prepared.”

But is he prepared for the ever growing fan base? It can get a bit crazy at times Jay admits, “From flashing their boobies to me, to chucking their knickers onto the stage, to buying me outrageous gifts, to camping outside my room for the whole night sleeping on the corridor. Whatever it might be there’s madness.”

And well deserved we’re guessing Jay!

Freeze Time hits stores and online in July. Make sure you check out all the Hype.
Copyright © Aisha Farooq. Published in Hype Nation Magazine June/July 2011

 

 

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