Throughout the history of UK music, only selected musicians have been able to translate their success domestically across the pond. Jay Sean is one of very few acts who can boast such feats. After a brief, but impactful introduction in 2003, the artist formally arrived in 2008, where his formative music career rebooted in incredible ways. During the year, singles ‘Ride It’, ‘Maybe’ and ‘Tonight’ stormed global charts crystallising Jay Sean’s impact at the time. Fusing traditional R&B melodies with edgy soundscapes, which in places featured South East Asian inspired beats led the singer to Cash Money Records, where his crack at America began. After several huge singles (‘Down’,‘Do You Remember’, ‘2012’), the act parted ways with the label, inked deals with Sony (Columbia) and has re-launched his career with his latest number ‘What You Want’ which features Afrobeat heavyweight Davido, the songs remix also arrived days ago (Team Salut).
With such drastic transitions in Jay Sean‘s contemporary career, LØST CULTURE had the opportunity to sit down and discuss leaving Cash Money, re-signing a major deal, and music plans with the multifaceted force.
Let’s talk your latest single – How did the ‘What You Want’ collaboration with Davido come about?
“Such a crazy story man – So I was in Kenya about 7 months ago now, I had a gig there and after I wanted to check out the local scene and vibe of the area. I got put on to a local spot and when I got down there they were playing so many different Afrobeats artists – which I instantly caught a vibe off of, it didn’t matter that I couldn’t understand some of the languages on the tracks, it just connected! The seed was planted from there and so after I finished this record in LA, I sent it straight to Davido and asked for him to jump on it.”
So ‘What You Want’ has a remix which dropped last week too – Was that a similar story in terms of making the record?
“I actually prefer the remix to the original – just because it’s more playful and club friendly in terms of its production. With the remix I really did my research to find the right producers, the people that could replicate and heighten the tracks authentic sound. I knew when I heard Team Salut that they were perfect for the job, and could bring a new energy to the record.”
Why the switch up in sound?
“You know what, I honestly feel that I’ve managed to bring my element to whatever I record. I pick certain things off of energy and vibes, and that’s been throughout my whole career. I can’t do the whole ‘jump on any bandwagon’ thing – I’m not that artist. I’d much rather duck out than sell out, but as I said, when I vibe, I vibe. In 2015, for example ‘Make My Love Go’ with Sean Paul was recorded because I genuinely was ready for the Dancehall and my fan-base were too, it had always been in me since childhood anyway, I was raised on genres such as that. What I’m trying to say is I only evolve when it connects with me and my fan-base and that’s the case this time round. The last thing I wanna do is be that cringe-worthy artist who sounds inauthentic.”
So you’ve now signed to Columbia – When did this Partnership come about?
“When I left Cash Money (late 2014), I needed the right Partnership for my brand and just so it felt right. I was indie for a minute and went back to my staple R&B for fan mixtapes. It was real fun to go independent for a while, but this new deal came around because over the years I’d formed connections in the business and I had one here at Sony, they listened to all the records (post Cash Money) that I’d been writing which included ‘Make My Love Go’ – they loved it and really wanted me to put pen to paper, so I did.”
Let’s go back to Cash Money for a second – Why did you part ways and was it a negative situation?
“I honestly feel like we’d reached the end of the road with our relationship. We achieved a lot of great things together and I’ll never forget that but it got to a point where I had to hit up Birdman and tell him that I want to fly solo. It was a case of the label wanting me to go too far from who I was genre wise – I had to dial it all the way back and drop mixtapes I wanted to. It got to the point where I felt that the ball would get rolling with my stuff faster if I did it indie and my way.”
Do you feel like when you went over to crack America that your career was mismanaged?
“Definitely not. What I did stateside was incredible. My first three singles literally blew America away – radio was playing it every half an hour. Then the tide shifted a little, in terms of music as a whole. After my whole stint with ‘2012’, ‘Do You Remember’ and ‘Hit The Lights’, music went super-Pop like Dance-Pop. As much as I can understand and appreciate that style of music, it doesn’t move me. I said to Young Money that I can’t drop these singles, I’d rather wait until the landscape changes until I do my thing – it was more of a timing mismatch if anything.”
Now that you’re back are there any plans internationally for full projects?
“Aw man, I tour internationally like crazy right now! I just came back from a performance internationally (Australia). I’ve got a performance booked for New Years in South Africa, Dubai is coming up also. The funny and amazing thing is that I’ve established a worldwide fan-base over the years – I’m so so blessed right now. I also have to give back to the South East Asian market who literally started this for me and continue to support, with that being said I’m planning a fully Indian inspired album for that market – playing around with all of the beats that originate from the area. For my other fans there’s another ‘Mistress’ album in the works which will of-course be R&B oriented we’re looking at a mid-2018 drop for that too, there’s a lot going on.”
Any plans for particular producers/collaborations for the new ‘Mistress’ set?
“I honestly love to work the people I gel with – The follow up to ‘Mistress II’ is a pure passion project. I pretty much worked on the former set 100% myself when it came to writing and production, with Orange Factory Music in LA. It’s likely to be the same cats who are on board for the new set.”
At this point in your career, will you focus more on the UK?
“The hardest thing about signing to Cash Money, was that the international focus was so high, higher than the home-turf focus. It was all about America because the team didn’t have the strong hubs across the UK and beyond the States. So I was always so passionate about wanting to drop more in the UK as there were times where they were literally American only singles due for release. Now, I’m keen to make up for lost time – at the end of the day, the UK is where it all began for me, to not have been here as much over the years definitely was felt.”
What do you think the JaySean of today offers to the UK scene?
“I like to think I can bring the years of experience, just knowing how the scene can move and change. The young cats today are moving and building a whole new scene at 1000 miles per hour, but we had the 90s – such an authentic, passionate and soulful time in music. I know that feeling, its not the same as today for various reasons – I’m able to bridge the old scene with the new, you know bring those melodies and approaches. I’m so fortunate to even be here! It’s been 15 years in the game and to see all of the transitions – it’s mental.”
Lastly, favourite songs at the moment?
“Definitely alternative R&B. SZA‘s album was amazing, H.E.R – both volumes, also Party and OVO really do it well with their releases, I’m always dipping in and out to them. From the UK J Hus is killing it man!”
Stream Jay Sean’s comeback single and it’s accompanying remix by clicking below: