DJ Mag artists to watch in 2022
The Jersey club’s hyper-kinetic pulse is taking over the world, and one of its most prolific young talents is New Jersey polymath SJAYY, whose determination to introduce new sonic elements and maximize his own creativity knows no bounds
Jersey Queen club UNIIQU3’s “Heartbeats” EP was one of the best dance music releases of 2021. featured another star of the Jersey club: Ugandan-American producer SJAYY. With searing vocals (“pussy is so wet you’ll drown in it”), rapping horns and a deathtrap beat, “Drown” was an exciting and playful offering. “The dancefloor is a tangible asset again,” SJAYY told DJ Mag, “and now the Jersey club is more global than ever.”
Born in Plainfield, New Jersey, SJAYY is intensely creative, turning to production, DJing, photography, fashion and creative direction. In recent years he has been particularly prolific musically – there have been three SJAYY albums since 2019 (“A Big Jersey Club Album” in 2019, “So Far So Good” in 2020 and “Constant Dedication” in 2021 ) – and quickly gaining notoriety as one of the scene’s most exhilarating performers. SJAYY has always been a taste maker; at school, his friends relied on him for the best New Jersey club tunes, taking turns with his MP4 player every day on the bus. He remembers some of the first CDs he owned: Drake’s “So Far Gone”, Kanye West’s “Graduation”, Soulja Boy’s 2007 debut album, “Souljaboytellem”. com’. He was already interested in art and design at the time too, he says: “I was going back and forth through albums, trying to redesign CD covers with my sharpie.
At age 13, SJAYY secured a place at the Plainfield Academy for the Arts and Advanced Studies (PAAAS), where he studied acting. Around the same time, he began experimenting with production on a Compaq laptop his mother had found for him. Later in his teens, he and his friends would throw block parties, make music videos, and compose tracks together.
“My mother’s side is the soul,” SJAYY says of her upbringing. “My father’s side holds the music, the faith and the love that I carry within me.” When he was younger, on trips to Uganda to see his mother’s family, he struggled with his identity; experiences a way of life totally different from his life in Plainfield. But those trips turned out to be pivotal, he says. “I would come back to my hometown with all these musical ideas because I wouldn’t touch the internet [while I was there]I would just listen.
SJAYY’s music is mostly influenced by Jersey club, hip-hop and drill, but there are also a myriad of other influences. Big kick drums, jerky beats and choppy samples are often brightened up with R&B-leaning melodies and vocals. There’s a reason for this variety, he says — to want to “give people something new every time. I infuse what I know with what I love.
Speaking of what he loves, SJAYY sees great potential in his friends and peers, specifically citing artists like Dvsn, Jay Versace, and Pink Siifu. He would “collaborate on a whole project” with Sam Gellaitry if he had the chance, and keeps an eye on Vivid The Producer. “[She] gives me hope for good Jersey club music,” he says. “These artists excite me and aren’t afraid to break down the barriers of music.”
Lockdown has been a strange time for all of us, but for SJAYY it has given him time, as he says, to face himself. The time of the reset has also allowed him to maintain a healthier lifestyle, as well as learn new instruments (he wants to include more acoustic elements on his records) and immerse himself in dance, designing clothing and 3D skills. “Four walls made me a Vincent van Gogh,” he says.
Looking forward – and SJAYY is clearly only looking forward – the sky is the limit. “I am preparing for he says, “finding new limits to push”. Above all, he wants to make people dance. “If no one is dancing, is it really a party? » Katie Thomas
Listen to SJAYY’s mix for DJ Mag’s Radio 1 Dance residency here.