Exclusive Interview: Jay Sean
Crown The Brown Exclusive: Jay Sean – Representation brings a different kind of love. Everyone’s favourite brown boy has evolved over the years and definitely left a mark on mainstream media. Jay Sean has always delivered the best tracks, as well as showcasing the beauty of South Asian talent in the music industry.
He has been the staple of the 2000s for every brown kid and brings a sense of nostalgia with his vocals and epic dance tracks. Jay recently released his new single ‘Nakhre’ featuring Rishi Rich and it has certainly sparked some good memories! We wanted to know more about Jay Sean‘s work over the years as an artist and his individual growth, here is what he shared with us!
First and foremost, the first brown boy to get it popping in mainstream media! You’ve made your mark on an entire generation. How does it feel to have that type of recognition as an artist?
It’s such a privilege and an honour to fly the flag for us South Asians around the world. I did not know at the time that what I was doing or having the ability of what I was doing would create such an impact. It’s been a long journey. It’s been 17 years and I am still trying to flag us in a positive way and portray us in a good light.
I mean I can’t believe that in 2020 there is still only a handful of us in mainstream media. I don’t know how many people get the chance to do what I am doing so I am grateful for the support and I do take that with pride.
Your music has certainly impacted so many of us and brought such good memories. As an artist that’s been persistent with their craft, what has been one of the most rewarding things as an artist?
Being able to see how proud my people are of my accomplishments. That level of support is really different than just a regular fan base. Most artists do releases, go on tours, fans buying tickets and merchandise. It’s mainly because they are fans of the person’s music.
In my case, what I have noticed is that many people out there are not only fans of my music but there is also a sense of pride for what I am doing for us as a community. That is a very different type of love. It’s the acknowledgment of “Oh, he is ours. That’s our boy. He is representing.”
It’s a certain amount of pride seeing someone like yourself being represented and someone going mainstream. The amount of love just grows and people get to see what you are trying to achieve on behalf of them.
As an artist of South Asian descent, what are some of the challenges you have experienced in the music industry over the years?
I have experienced the usual stereotypes and lack of equal opportunities. The reason being that certain people don’t look at you as an artist but take the whole package into mind. They make their own assumptions and assume that you should only be doing a certain genre of music. They put you in a box.
They look at your background and assume it does not fit a certain criteria. It’s a challenge. I experienced it a lot but I also took it upon myself to show people very early on in my career that there was no stopping me.
When they would label me as a specific type of artist, I would break out of that box and do something completely different every single time. It’s something I really love doing. Hopping onto different genres and expanding on what I can do as an artist.
You can’t put me in any box. I’ve done Pop and RNB which is my primary, dance records with people like Hardwell and Sean Paul, records with Gucci Mane, Busta Rhymes, Lil Wayne and Nicki Minaj.
There are so many different genres and I try to have that experience in various genres and not be seen as being in one box. I love having fun with music!
You’ve recently released a track titled Nakhre in collaboration with Rishi Rich. What was the experience like working on this track?
When I write music, I am all heart and soul. The mind doesn’t come into play, meaning I don’t overthink anything.
Rishi and I have a very special chemistry when we are working together. It’s probably because he’s the person I first started writing songs with. Rishi is the first producer I ever collaborated with. EVER.
We wrote so many songs together that whenever we come back together, it’s like second nature. It doesn’t matter who I have worked with since, when I am with him it just meshes perfectly.
What inspired the song Nakhre and what is the song about for those who might not know?
Lyrically the song isn’t anything heavy. Nakhre is similar to attitude or antics. It’s basically about a girl with her antics and having a little playful attitude. The idea of us telling her to drop the act and not play so hard to get. It’s flirty and fun. Telling the girl you’re giving me the eye, we see the attraction, no need for the antics.
It is very playful, no malice. It’s a playful song in its lyrics but as a composition it is very interesting. You’ve got an Indian sample from a Bollywood film, reggaeton drums but also a sprinkle of afro beat drums. A Caribbean feel, a pop RNB melody and a Punjabi hook. There is nothing like that out there! That’s what makes it so special.
The song also includes you singing in Punjabi for the first time ever! Your previous hit, Ride it, the Hindi version was a massive hit in the South Asian community! This track is so significant because of the fact that you brought in some Punjabi flavour. What inspired the whole idea of having a track in Punjabi?
It wasn’t actually intentional. I was just writing melodies over the track and when I write melodies I just write whatever I am feeling in that moment. It was such a natural flow and I just started singing.
The melody continued and I just went into a Punjabi melody for no reason. I initially just did it for fun and everyone in the room was like “that’s sick!” They loved it and we decided to add it in. We never thought about it, it just happened.
The music video was so nostalgic. It went from Bollywood to some animation, as well as bringing back some old school Jay Sean vibes reflecting on tracks from the past in a similar light. What inspired the theme of the music video?
The intention of the video was to spark nostalgia in a modern day way. The song reminds you of the good feels of the past but the production is very modern day.
The music video is really cool because it gives a nod to “Eyes on You”, which is the very first video I ever came out with. It was me walking down the street and it was such an iconic video that my fans immediately knew when I was walking down the street in this video, in an Indian area looking straight at the camera.
They were like “That’s Eyes On You, he is doing the iconic Eyes On You thing.” It’s a great feeling because it reminds people of that and of course having the lyrics “Always have my eyes on you” in the song to pay homage to it.
The animation happened because we wanted to do something different. The video was shot during co-vid so we couldn’t have a lot of people on set. We only had two people on set, the cameraman and the assistant.
We had to socially distance so for the rest of the video we decided to animate it and make it more creative. That’s when we decided to do the Bollywood tribute to Shah Rukh Khan, because what is more iconic than Shah Rukh and Kajol. It makes you feel all the feels!
Your work as an artist has truly brought together the community, especially now on tiktok. It has made the community grow and integrate as one. This being said, you were certainly a form of representation for South Asians over the years in mainstream media. Why do you think representation in the music industry or in general is so important?
First of all, what is so odd is that South Asians are the second largest population on planet Earth. The second largest population in the world yet so little is known about us in the mainstream. There are cultural stereotypes that exist that time and time again I am trying to abolish.
We’re not all doctors, engineers or lawyers. We don’t all have arranged marriages and we don’t all have a stereotypical accent. There is a lot that the mainstream media doesn’t know about us.
We need to be represented on the big screen, in athletics or anywhere else. We have amazing football players as well, but do you see them? Everyone should have a chance to shine in whatever field they want. Whatever you love doing, you should have a shot in doing that. An equal shot at doing that as well.
You’re also quite the tiktok star on Brown Tiktok, what’s the experience been like engaging with fans and creators online?
Tikok is a very different platform for me and the reason being that the engagement levels are insane. I’m new to tiktok, I have only had it for about a month but it’s interesting.
I love Tiktok because I can show any part of my personality that I want. I can be silly, goofy, serious, musical or whatever I want, It has been a non-judgement zone for me. I know that the experience hasn’t been the same for some artists, some get bullied off the app and regarded as irrelevant.
A fellow artist of mine had an experience like that and that’s the issue with social media. Sometimes you find these keyboard warriors that say whatever they want but we are all just out here having fun.
We were all bored during Quarantine and Tiktok really helped people have fun and keep them busy. People were making videos, being silly, dancing and having fun. We should all be allowed to do that and have fun.
My experience so far has been really fun on the app and not have people caring about it. We can be who we want and be free on the app.
I’m sure you’ve seen the nostalgia online when people recognize you or play your music. Looking back, I’m sure you’ve grown a lot as an artist and individual. If you could, would you have changed anything back then, if so what would you have done differently?
Not really, of course sometimes we think back on certain songs we never got to release or having favourite songs that don’t make it. If I look at the journey of my life, every single moment has been critical in shaping me as a human being.
When things go great, I give myself a pat on the back and say “Well Done Jay, That was great”. If things don’t go so great or I feel like something did not work, I learn from it. You start to realize that if that one thing never happened then so many things would end up being different.
You’re right where you’re meant to be. You can look back but you can’t change any of it so why spend time thinking about it. Come here into the present and focus on now.
With this new single, so many people are excited to hear what else is brewing! What other future projects can we look forward to?
Yeah! We are in a day and age where everyone is anxiously waiting to see what’s next. Luckily, I have a bunch of songs that I recorded in February in LA.
Thank goodness for that because we had no idea what was coming in 2020 so there are more tracks to come soon.
Lastly, as a musician what’s one lesson you’ve learnt over the years that you’d like to share with others.
The most important thing is what is your unique selling point? Why should somebody listen to you rather than anyone else? Think about who you are as an artist. What’s your voice? What do you do that other people don’t do?
Don’t copy someone else’s style because you love them. It’s great to admire someone but if you copy them then you will only ever be an imitation of them. They’ll compare you to that person.
Be you, express who you are, there are no rules anymore. Be as creative as you want and have fun with the music. Nobody enjoys it if you’re not enjoying it, so have fun and put yourself out there.
It’s no surprise that the ‘first brown boy to ever get it popping’ certainly has made a mark on the community and knows the significance behind creating music and forming representation in an industry that lacks it.
He has showed others that his diverse range of musical talent is worth acknowledging especially after so many years of hard work.
Jay Sean will always be the staple of what the music industry needs and the representation we all aspire to see in mainstream media.