Former Daily Discovery Daye Jack could not have existed 15 years ago. Even 10 years ago, he’d likely have been improperly categorized somewhere under the umbrellas of “conscious rap” or, more damaging and inaccurate still, “nerd rap.”
Daye was born in Nigeria. His parents, Nigerian natives, ultimately settled in Atlanta, the city Daye now calls home. Daye grew up listening to 50 Cent and Jay Z. He makes introspective, expressive music that draws inspiration from R&B, internet beat culture, James Blake, and contemporaries like fellow Atlantan Raury. It’s experimental without being inaccessible, songs like stand out “Save My Soul” showing a gift for melody and nimble rapping that doesn’t sound derivative of much else.
At age 18, Daye is entering his sophomore year at NYU; he studies computer science.
In conversation, Daye is measured—a quality some might mistake for a stilted ability to express himself. Time spent speaking with Daye reveals that calculation to be a sign of reflection bearing humor, confidence, and consideration. He isn’t an egomaniac on the level of Kanye West, but Daye Jack has a concerted vision for his creations and he aims to express his perspective to the fullest extent his unique talents will allow.
We spoke with Daye about his earliest encounters with music, the intermingling of his education and art, and how he fits in the current musical landscape. We also have a premiere of his newest song, “Trapped In Love,” one of the most soulful and expressive entries in an already intriguing catalog-in-progress. Listen below before diving into the interview.
First and foremost, how did you get starting making music?
It happened four and a half years ago. I started listening to more music outside of what was given to me and experiencing more music. From there, I wanted to make my own music, but I understood that there were certain skills that I had to gain and there were certain things that I had to do before I could make what I wanted to make. I also understood that with my creativity, the way that I thought and the way that I viewed things, that, when I got there, the music that I make would mean something and would be interesting in itself.
From there, I just started writing, and two years after that I started expanding, recording some things, but still just building the arsenal and the skill set. And two years after that, when I felt like I was ready and it was time for me to start doing the things that I set out to do, I started working on the Hello World mixtape. That was when it all came together.
What are some of those viewpoints? What are some of the things that you were looking for the tools to express?
I think a big thing was just the way that I felt or I understood things. I saw and was listening to music and, for some reason, the way that I saw things, I didn’t feel like was represented. My creative side, the way that I live and the way that I hung out with people, how I communicated with my friends. I knew it was there in certain styles of music, but I just couldn’t find myself exactly in them.
Why do you think was missing?
I feel like music is expanding and becoming more accessible to people and it wasn’t too long ago that I just didn’t think anyone was there or that anyone was trying to produce what I wanted to produce. As years passed, I started seeing acts I liked and could relate more to, but coming in, I was listening to 50 Cent and Jay Z. I just didn’t relate to any of it.
Who do you relate to?
Obviously now I’m in a different headspace than I was back then, but now I relate to guys like James Blake. The freedom in his music and the way it makes you feel, it’s kind of detached from any system or any logical structure. That’s something that I relate to and that I enjoy listening to.
What was your first memorable encounter with music?
When I was a lot younger, when my dad would be taking a shower or just hanging around, he would bump reggae music really loudly. That’s my first memory of music.
And then your first experience as far as discovering music on your own?
Definitely 50 Cent’s “Candy Shop.” That was the first song that I got myself. I bought it on iTunes, put it on my iPod shuffle, headphones on like every day. But I didn’t understand anything about that song when I listened to it until like a year later and then I was like, “Ayyyyy.”
The wisdom of 50 Cent, the deep knowledge.
Oh, man… Sometimes it takes two years to really get what 50 is trying to tell you, but once it clicks you’re like, “Damn.”
Did growing up in Atlanta affect your music?
Being less attached to the city, I was never pushed towards “Atlanta music” or the Atlanta that people know. But the Atlanta that I grew up in, the surrounding areas of Atlanta, metro Atlanta, I think that just gave me a natural viewpoint. Less rooted to a region and more rooted to how I felt. So I’ve never really pushed towards Atlanta culture, but I did get things like Outkast and things like that that were huge. Being there and not being there at the same time.
How do you feel about Atlanta right now?
I think there are some dope things going on in Atlanta right now. Musically, you have Future, Rich Homie Quan, Migos—they’re things that get you moving. You know, excited. There’s some dope things going on in Atlanta.
You learn how to read, you learn how to write, but at the same time I feel like just living gives you the rest of it. Just experiencing things, hearing, and allowing yourself to be creative and just moving and exploring inside and outside, in your mind, out of your mind.
I want to go back to something you were saying before because you described James Blake’s music as lacking a logical structure. You’re in school, you’re at NYU. How, if at all, does your education influence the music that you make and what’s the balance between your education and your pure creative side?
My dad always calls me and usually when we talk about my music he’s says, “The reason you’re able to say the things that you say in your music is because of what you’ve been through with your education and how intelligent you are.” I think it plays a huge role in just being able to translate the emotions that you want to feel lyrically, the things that you want to express. I feel like the lyrical aspect is influenced by my education, but outside of that, I don’t think it’s a defining factor.
It’s something that’s important and does give you a skill set. You learn how to read, you learn how to write, but at the same time I feel like just living gives you the rest of it. Just experiencing things, hearing, and allowing yourself to be creative and just moving and exploring inside and outside, in your mind, out of your mind. I gain more doing that than sitting in the classroom, but definitely sitting in the classroom gives you the ability to articulate your thoughts. It doesn’t hurt.
What are you studying right now?
How does that affect your music?
Hello World, the first mixtape that I put out, is called Hello World because of the program you make when you first start programming. It’s also called Hello World because it is an introduction for Daye Jack. Hello World is sort of a double-entendre. Things like that—my fascination with computers and the idea of electronics push my music towards that at times and allow it to live in that area.
Are you concerned that that might box you in to a certain perception?
Not concerned—I’m more intrigued by it. I’m the type of person that lets myself go onward and do what’s happening at the moment so if I wake up one day and I decide that I hate computers and all I want to do is be organic and live in a forest, I’ll probably do that and start making very organic, forest-like music. It’d be interesting to hear I guess.
I think you should do that.
That may be the move.
I don’t think anyone is making the forest music right now. There’s a lane for that.
People underestimate how effective forest music can be for the industry and to the world. Like if I came to the game making forest jams…Oh man, I don’t even want to talk about it.
Have you felt the response so far to your perspective—that is a little bit alien to hip-hop—has been well received?
Definitely, definitely. Especially with the way the music is going right now, it seems like lines are blurring and more kids are listening to what they like instead of what genre they like. It opens up that freedom where I feel like I can make whatever music that I like and the music that I want to make, and have these kids who either are fans of hip-hop or are not fans of hip-hop come in and enjoy it, just listen and experience.
Who are the artists that are your peers that you consider in that group?
That kind of just make their own music?
What are you listening to right now? Not at this moment, but like right now if we looked at your Spotify?
I’m listening to Mayer Hawthorne. I’m listening to Justin Timberlake. I’m listening to Aloe Blacc. I’m listening to Kendrick Lamar. I’m listening to Stromae. I’m listening to James Blake.
How do you discover most of your music?
I really like projects, things that have a beginning, a middle and an end—experiences, volumes of music that aren’t compilations that are full and mean something. I usually find something like that and I let it live with me for a little bit and really dig into it and explore what the project is doing and saying. That’s why I’m pretty slow with how I consume music. I go project by project and slowly fall in love with artists.
Do you expect your audience to do the same?
I completely understand different people consume music in different ways. The music I make is made so that I can be a fan of it, so I think it’s something that you can really dig into, but it’s also something that I think is sonically pleasing. If you want to take your favorites and do that, you can do that. Or if you want to have it playing while you go do your chores or you hang out and party, you can do that.
Given your involvement in both the actual creation of music and also in the world of computer science, could you ever see a space for yourself building something related to music but not necessarily creating music?
I feel like even choosing computer science as something that I wanted to look into, part of me always has that in the back of my head, but it’s something that I’m not actively going at. I’m not pushing myself to it, at least not right now. I’m focusing on my music.
Do you think that those impulses to create music and to program come from a similar place?
Definitely. The idea of being project oriented and making something that wasn’t there before and having this project that you spent time building and is yours. That’s the similarity that I find between the two of them. And also the idea that you’re free to do what you want to do and express your creativity in the way that you want to express it.
Do you see any limitations on what you can make?
No. Yes and no. No in that I definitely know that at this point I can make what I want to make. Earlier on, I was kind of confined to what producers I could work with. At the same time, you’re drawing from yourself so there’s really no limitation in what you can do. I mean, there’s limitation where you can be at a certain time, what producer you can work with, and what you’re doing at that time, but it’s kind of limitless in how you let your creativity explore that.
Does it seem like a lot of other people that you surround yourself with, a lot of other people in your generation feel that way?
I wouldn’t be able to tell you. I feel like a lot of people, at least that I’ve been around, don’t want to set out and make something. They’re more confined in the sort of mind frame that where you work for someone and you climb up. There’s no problem with that, but I’ve always had a thing in me that—as bad as this may sound—never wanted to be the one trying to push someone else’s goals when I could be pushing my own. I never wanted to work for someone because that person is the person that I wanted to be, the person who’s hiring, who’s trying to make their aspirations come true. That’s a mindset that leads to creation.
No one else is going to be as passionate about your dreams as you are. No one is going to care as much, so it definitely is a lonely thing, I bet, for anyone, not just me. It’s the type of loneliness that allows you to think and bring these things that you imagine to life.
This might be a difficult question so you can refuse to answer: Do you feel lonely in regards to your perspective and how you relate to other people?
I know that there are people who set out to do their own thing and there are people out there who may think similarly, but at the same time, I feel like this process is so individualistic that it is lonely. No one else is going to be as passionate about your dreams as you are. No one is going to care as much, so it definitely is a lonely thing, I bet, for anyone, not just me.
It’s the type of loneliness that allows you to think and bring these things that you imagine to life. It’s like the song I put out, “Save My Soul”: “I walk a lonely road/I walk it all alone.” That song is shedding light on the fact that the journey to your own dreams and your own success is a lonely one because no one else is going to care as much as you care.
In 10 years, what are we saying about Daye Jack?
In 10 years, they’re saying that he’s released amazing bodies of music. Things that you can relate to, things that you can dig into. You’re saying that you enjoy his live show and it’s an experience that you go out and you take people with and it’s just an event in itself. You’ll say, hopefully, that he’s one of your favorite artists.
Or you might hate him a little bit.
I think a big thing that you’ll say is that he kept his artistic integrity, he made great music, and he did things that you could relate to, your friends could relate to, things that you could enjoy sonically and lyrically, messages that you could take. He allowed you to have a good time listening to music and didn’t force anything on you, but he also made sure that you knew his viewpoints and just made sure that you were comfortable going on the journey that he’s led you on the last 10 years.
So how many years is it going be before you throw a bottle at another rapper in a club?
I’m trying to bring that down to two years if possible. Because if I could throw a bottle in a couple months, I would. I feel like that’s the true sign that you’re doing it right.