Thank you jay kim for giving me this interview!
Thanks to this exchange, I wrote another video which is pretty much a summary of our discussion. It’s about his musical evolution but from another point of view and with extracts from his tracks. If you’re interested it’s here!
English & French Subtitles are available!
Follow jay kim:
Could you introduce yourself, tell us a bit about your background?
My name is Jay Kim, that’s my real name and my artist name, I formerly used to be known as JAY2THEKIM, I am 22 years old, I’m a South Korean-American artist, I was born in Daegu, South Korea, I lived in Maryland for a little bit, we moved in America when I was very young, like around 2 years old, but I moved from Maryland to North Carolina when I was like around 7 years old, and I consider North Carolina, like where I grew up and it’s my home. I’ve been making music since I was about 10.
So you started at 10, but you officially started on SoundCloud in 2017 or was it before?
So the full story is, in 2016, maybe like early 2016, me and my friends, it was either my late Junior year of High School or my early Senior year, me and my friends we started making, we were just like rapped, freestyling for fun in the car, so we decided to record a song one day and we put it out on SoundCloud and we had like this little group that we made, that was called HotBoxGang, that was 2016, and then 2017, I believe that’s when I started pulling out solid stuff.
Okay I see, but like since you said you started at 10 kinda, why and how did you start?
So when I was like 9, the church I was going to had a music program, it was like a conservatory. So I was going there, I think it was during the summer, I was like 9 years old and we choose like an Elective, like an Instrument we wanted to learn, so I chosen guitar, so that’s like, playing guitar, I think? I’m tryna remember if it was guitar or hiphop my first like take the music but either way, I started learning guitar in conservatory when I was like 9 years old and just became obsessed with it, like literally every day, I would just come, during the summer I would come home and just play guitar until I go to sleep, and then when school started again, I would go to school come home and just play the guitar, or do homework, play the guitar and then go to sleep. But then around the same time, during the school year? I went on a field trip somewhere and my first friend that I made since I’ve moved into North Carolina, like my first American friend I made, like we were on the bus, and he is listening to his Ipod and he gives me his Earphones and he plays Lil Wayne’s The Carter II album and he plays Fireman I think, and that was like, I wanna say that was like my first taste of HipHop. And I heard that and I fell in love with Lil Wayne first, Lil Wayne was definitely the first HipHop artist I fell in love with, and from then on I just went to listening more and more. I went from Lil Wayne to Kanye, to Kid Cudi. And then at the same time, I’m like listening to HipHop, and then for me learning guitar songs that I can learn on guitar, led me to discover bands like Linkin Park, American Rejects, Paramore just bands like that. I was 10 years old, actively discovering HipHop and Punk Rock, and Punk Pop and all that and it’s just a big blend of influences that like jump-started my love for music But I would say like, definitely from around that age I became obsessed with music, like music is definitely, like I knew since I was 10 years old like, music is definitely the love of my life
Whoah, that’s a lot…! So since it’s something you started at a young age, how did your family and your friends react? Did they support you in this? Especially when it became like a real thing?
Yeah so ever since, I was like 9/10 years old, the only family I really have here is my mom and dad, a lot of my family is back in Korea, and I have like family here scattered throughout the states, but I would say my mom and dad have like, thankfully they have been like more than 100% supportive of my music. Even like when we were struggling, my mom would like save money from her shitty jobs she was working and like bought me my first guitar and yeah so my mom was definitely supportive, she knew, she knew for a fact that like music is my passion in this life. So and then when I started pulling out music, like “HipHop Music”, and started rapping, I don’t think I really showed her, but she knew I was doing, cause I knew she heard me in my room like recording so I know she was like.. When I was first putting stuff out I don’t think she really thought much of it and when I started gaining a bit of a following, maybe like 2017/2018, she would definitely start listening to every song I started pulling out, and yeah, thankfully, she, my mom is my biggest supporter.
So I asked you that because that’s like a common topic in your lyrics, you know like people waiting for you to fail or fake people, especially in your first tracks. So I was wondering if you had some problems with maybe like acquaintances or something like that?
It’s funny, when we first started making music, like when I was with my friends in that High School period, the music that we were putting out, it was like. So I went to, I don’t know if I should say like the high school, but I went to this one High School and we were putting out songs as a group and then this like rival school that, like we considered them our rival in like sports and basically everything, they had a couple of kids who had a little group and they would put out music, so when we first started putting out music, it was diss tracks toward each other, it was never anything serious but like just for fun. So I think like when I first started writing music, I started to write about like, enemies, people that like don’t want the best for me, and I think that’s where that sentiment kinda stemmed from. But other than that, I have definitely gotten a lot of like, messages, people who were not the biggest fan of my music, when I was starting out. I think you tend to see the hate more than the love, so I think that was in the back of my head a lot when I was first starting writing music
It makes sense, and so besides this, when writing lyrics where comes your inspiration from, is it easy for you to write lyrics?
I would say like, honestly. I would say first would be my life experiences and then it’s also from like drawing from other people I know have been through, like people I’m close to, just like experiences that I know they’ve gone through, relationships they’ve had with other people, but also of course first and foremost drawing from my own life experiences and relationships with other people, just things I’ve been through, I’d also they like, definitely movies, like sometimes, a lot of times when I try to write music I try to invoke the feeling that I got from watching a movie if that makes sense, like, it’s so hard to, like put it, but I try to create a similar vibe from maybe a Movie or an Anime that I recently watched, like try to incorporate that into a song if that makes sense
It does! So, as a consequence, how would you describe your creative process? So usually, do you have some lyrics/a topic in mind, and you select a beat accordingly, or sometimes you just hear a beat you like and you write lyrics based on it?
So my process nowadays is; I definitely have to hear the beat first, and that’s something I really struggle with, like really throughout the day, like every day, I’m going through beats, like all day every day, if I’m not doing something else, like I’m on my phone, on my emails, going through beats, going through Dropbox, going through beats people sent me, but it’s really, it’s really, It’s so hard for me to find a beat I like.
I think the important part for me before anything is definitely the melody. If I hear, like I know if I’m gonna use, I know if I’m gonna write to, I know if I’m gonna record to a beat within the first 10 seconds of the beat because I know if I like the melody or not, like even if the drums are trash, that can be fixed later on but if I hear a melody I like, that speaks to me, that I know I can create a song to that stuff is the most important part. So if I find a beat I like, I pull it up and I just, I find the BPM and the key and I’ll just start recording, so I just start freestyling, I record like maybe 2 or 3 freestyles, and then I try to like turn the gibberish freestyle into words and go from there, just take like the catchiest parts
I know you produce a bit too; would you like to produce more of your songs in the future or it’s not something you have in mind right now?
Producing is definitely something I wanna master, well I mean obviously, it’s not something you can like master but it’s something I definitely want to get a lot better at. I feel like when you are an artist and you can produce you have so much more creative freedom like the possibilities are literally endless, and like if I could; I have been producing since I got started making music, but to be frank it’s not something that grabs my attention or something that interests me as much as recording, writing songs. I’d definitely like to turn that into more of an interest for myself. Yeah, I would love to, that’s like definitely one of my goals this year to get a lot better at producing, just so I can craft my own sound more accurately
Yeah, I get your point! I think it was in 2019, I think it was with the song dontspeaktome!, you started to use the tag ‘Jay, you don’t really love me..’ Is there a story behind it?
Everyone asks me that, it’s/there’s not some crazy story
It’s because it’s funny
Yeah it’s a funny tag, I definitely get like, my friends definitely like to mimic her voice and say that to me but the story behind it is, at that time, I started listening to Lil Tecca, and Lil Tecca has a tag and it’s like ‘We love you Tecca’, and I was really liking a lot of his songs at the time so I was like ‘Man, I want a tag’ cause I’d seen producers have tags, I know producers have tags, but I think it was one of the first artists that I listened to that had a tag as an artist which I thought was really cool. But I was like ‘I want a tag’. So I went on Fiverr, I wrote down like a bunch of little sayings, like these cringy sayings that I thought would be cool for my tag, so I just wrote all these down and I looked up like ‘Girls who will say something for you’, and I probably found like, I don’t know if she was the first one or the second one I found but I basically found this girl, paid her five bucks to record like a minute of her saying all these like little catchphrases and then maybe like a day or two later, she sent her file back and I pulled it up in Logic, started listening and then maybe like 20 seconds in she said ‘Jay, you don’t really love me’ and then I was like ‘Yo that’s IT, that’s the one, I need that’, so I cut that up, I mixed it a little bit, put some effects on it and I was like ‘We’ll see how it sounds’ and I had dontspeak.., I don’t know if I started working on dontspeaktome! after or before, but I think it was like, at the time I hadn’t pull out a lot of music, so I think when I came up with dontspeaktome!, I put the tag in, I think I recorded like an Instagram story and I was like ‘I’m back!!! And I have a tag’, It’s probably in my archives somewhere, and I put it in dontspeaktome! at the beginning and I was like ‘Yeah it hits!’
*Laugh* Okay, so it’s not like an Ex you recorded and like?
No, it’s nothing crazy but that’s how the tag (came/have been created)
No but to be honest that’s a good story and you’re right though because it’s true that I don’t know a lot of artists who use like a tag when they are you know, just rapping and not like producing
I have seen a lot more recently – maybe more yeah – I’ve seen Dababy have one, brakence has one a lot of artists have some now but I think mine is like definitely topper
Yeah really it hits a lot, the other day, so it’s like a parenthesis, with Yes Junior 24 collab when I heard your tag I was like ‘No?? Hold on!?’
That’s so funny, when I do collabs, Everyone I’ve done collabs with recently has used it but like when I send them my vocals, I send them the tag too like I put it where I want it, and then I send it to them and I be like, I would like text them or dm them and be like ‘Hey I sent my tag too, you don’t have to use it, but it would be sick if you did’ and they usually do because I think it’s cool to have like my tag on collabs, I think It’s a fun way to do collabs
I do agree! So on another topic, how would you describe your music, what do you want to convey to the people who are listening to you, what do you want them to feel?
I would describe my music as ever-changing because, it’s hard for me to stick to a certain style even though I think it’s important for an artist to have their own sound, but I think my music tastes change a lot and from day one I started to make what I like, and what I like changes a lot, and that’s something like I struggle with early on but now I’m just like ‘F*ck it, I’m just gonna make what I like’. So, and like I said my music tastes change a lot, but all in all, I wanna provide a soundtrack for kids, people, everyone, just to have something /to live your life to/ like I had when I was growing up. Like when I was growing up I would.. I wanna make the music that 15 years old me would have been blown away and obsessed with. Yeah I would just like to provide a soundtrack for kids
That’s funny because it’s basically linked with what I was going to ask.
So I think I have been listening to you since 2018 or end 2017, but maybe more beginning 2018, I don’t really remember.
That sounds right!
To be honest with you, I think I got to know you through the..
— It was loner or clones, or before
Yeah it was one of those one
It’s like that Era
And it was on the channel Undergrnd Seoul I think
Oh okay, yeah yeah, It was like.. Man Undergrnd Seoul, I hope.. I don’t know how they are doing. I know the guy who runs it and I think he was like the first channel to ever promote my music. I was just so surprised because he had like a semi-lord channel. Yeah I think I gain my first few core fans from him so Shout Out to Undergrnd Seoul
Haha yeah! I get to know a lot of artists thanks to them too, so I’m grateful too.
So now I can say I have been listening to you for a while and a lot, and I would say I noticed like 2 main shifts in your music, but I might be wrong. The first one would be maybe in 2019 because at the beginning you were more into what I can describe as nocturnal trap maybe, like it was really a nighty vibe – definitely – And then in 2019 with makeshift and seeing stars the vibe kinda got brighter I think – 100% – And then in 2020 with noises you went for a more Pop vibe. Are there specific reasons for those changes?
Yeah, so as I said earlier I make what I like and what I like changes a lot, so in the first Era where I was taking music seriously what I liked was like, RnB-Trap I would say. I was listening to artists like Travis Scott was a big influence when I was in High School, like I was in love with.. Like I found Days Before Rodeo, Oh God, they’ll kill me if I got this wrong, but it’s I wanna say 2014 or 2015. But I came across Days Before Rodeo by Travis Scott on Spinrilla and like no one, I mean I know he was like co-signed by Kanye …, But I fall in love with Travis’ music, so I was listening to artists like Travis, Partynextdoor, FRVRFRIDAY, The Weeknd. So like they are like RnB-Trap, the sound was definitely like what I was listening to when I first started making music, and then around the makeshift and seeing stars Era, I was listening to a lot of Emo Rap, I was listening to a lot of XXXTentacion, iann dior, Lil Peep, God I’m leaving out so many people, Underground wise I was listening to people like tommy ice, Kevin Kazi 909Memphis, steele 11, ppg casper. So like those artists /were feeding/ (?) that era and then now, like noises is inspired by more like, I’ve come back to, I really didn’t like Pop music in the past years but recently I have fallen back, into liking pop music like blackbear, Dominic Fike, The Weeknd also again with his like, more like retro 80’ stuff, and yeah, so my music tastes, my music tastes change a lot, like I have on Spotify, I’m making new playlists like every week or two with just like 10 to 20 songs I like at the time and I just listen to those songs over and over and over until I get bored of them. Yeah it’s hard for me to stay hyper-focused on what I like and also what I make, (I just lost my train of thoughts) so yeah what I like and what I make changes a lot so, but I also think I incorporated like definitely like key elements that are true to like my own sound, that I incorporated with when what I liked changes if that makes sense.
As a listener talking, I can say that something I find really impressive with you is that whatever the genre is, you really manage to ‘absorb’ it, like you manage to take the codes but it’s really your own sound, it’s not as if Jay Kim was copying a style..
Yeah I would hate to make one kind of music for a long period of time, I would hate to be stuck in the box of a genre. I wanna, I wanna make Emo Rap, I wanna make Pop Punk, I wanna make Pop, I wanna make Hyperpop, I wanna make Digicore, I wanna make RnB, I wanna do Indie, I don’t wanna be labeled as a specific genre kind of artist, I think it would be very boring
If I suddenly try different sounds, It would be 1. because it’s what I like at the time, but more importantly, like it’s fun. like if I make music and I’m not having fun I cannot do it. Like if I ever stop having fun making music I’ll probably just, I don’t know I will probably just move to a remote island somewhere. But yeah definitely having fun, it’s really important for me to make the music I want
When it comes to features, how do you decide who to work with?
Yeah so for collaborations, I literally just, how I choose, like I just work with my friends. Like I love collaborating, I love working on music with people, I haven’t really work with anyone like in person, but even just like sending files back and forth, sending mixes back and forth, I’d say like my closes like music friends right now are definitely like EFFIE and Flavordash and Dayrick, hevel. These are just people that like, I think to start with we’ve become mutual fans of each other, or one of us sees the other somewhere, maybe like in a Story post or on Twitter and we would just become close and develop a relationship, but yeah that’s how I choose. I like to work with my friends on music, that’s a huge part for me, that’s a huge part of enjoying this whole thing for me, to work with my friends on stuff.
So the funny thing is that most of the artists you named are from the Korean Urban Scene, so I wanted to ask you if maybe you thought about progressing more on the Korean Urban Scene, like maybe trying to catch the Korean Public’s attention
I would say like, it was never really my intention to try to appeal to the Korean underground scene but funny enough the people that I’ve gone close to were in the Korean Scene. So like I think I saw EFFIE on SoundCloud and then I DMed her and I was like ‘You’re fire’ and then she was like ‘You’re fire too’ and I think me and her have been friends for like, maybe like almost two years now. So we’ve been close for a while and same thing with Dayrick. And like before I knew it, since working with EFFIE and Dayrick and Flavordash, I’ve got like a decent amount of my fans from like Korea. Like if I go on my SoundCloud, a good portion of my listeners are in like Seoul and Daegu and here and there in Korea. But it was never really my int- I was never like – let me try to get more Korean – cause I don’t even rap in Korean so I think it’s awesome that like, like Korean fans, that I have Korean fans which is like crazy to me cause I don’t know if they understand what I’m saying but like I think it’s cool that they discovered me from me working with my friends
And so since you talked about that, did you ever thought about writing some lyrics in Korean, or that’s not something you would like to do in the future?
No I definitely want to. Like right now I’m just so like, I haven’t tried it, I’ve never tried it. I don’t know why, I probably should. I think my Korean is passable but I’m not like super fluent. I can definitely carry a conversation with someone or text someone in Korean but there is really no reason for me not having rapped in Korean yet but it’s definitely something I’ll do in the future, for sure.
Okay so like Dumbfoundead when he released a full EP in Korean or something like that
Maybe. that would be great!
Also! Rhyming in Korean is very hard like I started rhyming the same, like freestyling in Korean. It’s definitely way harder for me to write in Korean for Lyrics
Me and my Korean Music friends definitely always talk about like ‘When you’ll get to come to Korea and like, obviously when, post covid starting to do shows there and work with other Korean artists and producers there but I just like, right now I just don’t have the time, energy and resources to but I’d definitely like to spend some time in Korea and work there for a little bit that would be amazing
Any Mistakes or regrets?
I definitely have mistakes and regrets. One I can think at the top of my head was when in like 2018 or 2019 I had my SoundCloud Hacked, and like I don’t know how they did it exactly but I don’t think my password at the time was very like case sensitive, it was definitely a very easy password to guess but I didn’t really think anyone would be that.. I think when I was, “who is gonna hack MY SoundCloud” but someone definitely hacked my SoundCloud and like fucked up my page but thankfully I got it back and I definitely have a password that no one is ever going to guess
I’m tryna think of maybe some more mistakes or regrets.
Oh! I’d say my biggest regret is not taking music seriously earlier, like I wish I had started taking it seriously when I was like a freshman in Highschool, like even those 3 /actual/ years would have been so much, so much more help so yeah I definitely wish I would have started taking it seriously earlier. In like, I would say in High school like my freshman to senior years I was focused a lot more on having fun definitely focused a lot more on girls and drugs and drinking rather than what I was gonna do after High School so I wish I had focusing a lot earlier
Overall, would you say (making) music changed you, your life?
Yeah 100%, I think it changed my life when I was 10, when I … for the 1st time, like the 1st time I picked up a guitar, I think it changed like, I think my life could have definitely gone one way and I discovered music and I just [took a whole other path], definitely. I’m grateful for that for sure, yeah it definitely changed my life for the better I think. I think without music I wouldn’t have something, I would be doing something I didn’t love and music is definitely like the one, like there is nothing else I wanna do other than music like I would rather.. I would rather go broke and be homeless than not being able to do music you know. i’m not there yet but definitely like I’d like to do music as a career, like I said it’s definitely the love of my life
What are your plans, your hopes for the future, short term, long term? Are there artists you would like to collaborate with, or like dream collabs?
I would say, short term, short term, and long term, I definitely wanna.. the obvious one is I want just keep putting out more music and getting better at my craft, but I wanna- I need, I need to do more videos, I need to pull more music videos out, that’s something I’m really trying to focus on, I think that the hard thing with that is I haven’t found, this is probably just my excuse but I haven’t found the right videographer and director to like build like an aesthetic for my videos with. Cause I when I’m…, I definitely had opportunities with people /who reached out/ and be like ‘Hey dude I f*ck with you if you wanna shot a video sometime let’s do it but I want like… I pulled out like a music video as JAY2THEKIM like a while back for loner but I don’t really consider that anymore but I want my first music video to be like, to be something special, I want the production quality to be high. lf I pull out a video for one of my songs I definitely want it to be like in contention with any artist that’s out right now for the best video of the year, so like, I don’t wanna pull out just like just some random shots of me like walking around in town or something but I definitely wanna … I wanna, I want my video to be a movie. So making more music videos and like ‘locking in’ with someone, or a team that I can lock in with for videos, it’s something that’s definitely on my list.
As for artists, I wanna work with my dream collab as always been Frank Ocean cause he’s definitely one of my favorite artists, if not… he’s definitely one of my favorite artists of all time so Frank Ocean is like my dream dream collab.
Other than that, artists that I have wanna work with for a while now would be:
I wanna work with tommy ice, me and tommy are cool but we just haven’t gone to ‘write on a song’ … So I definitely want to do a song with tommy ice, I definitely want to do a song with ppg casper, glaive, ericdoa, brakence, those guys are definitely artists I would like to work with and obviously I wanna keep making more music with my friends like EFFIE, Dayrick, Flavordash, hevel, Yes Junior, oh I wanna work with, his SoundCloud is like ksmartboi (ed: it’s 김상민그는감히전설이라고할수있다 (@ksmartboi)), and Lil Kirby I think, I definitely want to do a song with lil Kirby as well
I think I saw you follow Yaon?
Yaon? Yeah I definitely want.. I’m definitely gonna do something with them soon, we just.. we haven’t really talked that much about it but I definitely wanna do a song with them.
Is there a question you ever dreamed to be asked, and if yes can you answer it?
Yeah probably…. There is probably one that I’m not thinking of but of the top of my head probably like top movies and top anime is probably a good question for me and I’ll answer those
I would say my top anime no order is:
Your Lie in April, that anime made me cry, yeah it’s so good! Hunter x Hunter, Attack on Titan. And then a few basic ones, but one that definitely had a big impact on me are like Naruto and Dragon Ball Z.
Yeah those are animes I really really really really really like
>> About Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood (FMAB) – Yeah I’d say that’s a perfect anime, I can’t pick out one flaw in FMAB like I definitely binged that in like a week, definitely like top 10
So is Death…, Death Note is up there as well. I definitely watched like a lot of anime, like I watched probably over a hundred
Oh I’ll also say, Overlord is definitely up there, Tokyo Ghoul, just the first season, well like people talk sh*t about the second season of Tokyo Ghoul but I liked it? I know the mangas are a lot better but Tokyo Ghoul is great.
I like a lot of Isekai. I like That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Right now I’m watching Jujutsu Kaisen, It’s so good, Also God of Highschool, also Terror of God, also there is another Isekai, that’s like /So I’m a Spider, So What?/, that’s also fire. I can go on and on
Oh I forgot to mention Black Clover, Black Clover is great, also Bleach and people are gonna try to burn me to death for saying this but One Piece is not that great.
[…] I’ll also say, they are also going to hate me for this but Jojo I cannot get into Jojo, the Art Style is just not for me, I’m so sorry for this, forgive me it’s just not for me
My favorite, I can’t think of too many but I’d say like my favorite movie of all time is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind starring Jim Carrey, that film is just an absolute masterpiece and gets me emotional, in my feelings and as me rethinking my entire – hold on my girlfriend got me this (shows the DVD), shout out to Mary; but yeah that’s definitely my favorite movie of all time, Jim Carrey is one of my favorite artist of all time as well. But that and The perks of being a wallflower is up there as well, but Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind if you have not watched this definitely go check this out
To conclude this interview is there anything you would like to say to your supporters, or to whoever you want?
To anyone who enjoys my music or even likes me as a person, thank you and I love you dearly I literally can’t do without you guys and I hope you’ll continue to support me, thanks!