WORDS BY LESIBA MANGKA
PHOTOGRAPHY BY XAVIERREBELLION
03:00 – I’m staring up at the ceiling with my headphones on — the song — “Hyperbolic Chamber” off B3nchMarQ’s ASPEN 2 album. I’m nervous because the anxiety of meeting a rap OG was weighing heavy on me. The magnitude of the responsibility I have is dawning on me. Ringing in my head are the words of Roo – “We have a responsibility to document the culture”.
11:10 – I’m in the Gautrain on route Pretoria, headphones still blasting — the song — “thE whiteE lighT (featuring ThandoNje)”. I get the occasional look from the elderly man across me because I’m mumbling rap lyrics and bobbing my head aggressively.
12:30 – The uber driver looked back at me and said, “my friend, this is the destination. Are we at the right place?“. I anxiously checked if I had entered the correct address for the trip. The address was correct – Tiny Town nursery – and yes, you read it correctly.. nursery. “I can’t leave you here. It’s not safe. We’re not too far from Mamelodi”, said the uber driver. I immediately called Roo.
12:40 – I’m standing inside what I can only assume to be a restaurant. I turn to the closest person and ask, “Hey, what is this place and why do you call it a nursery?”. Before he answered my question, he exhaled his vape and then replied, “Ummm… it’s a nursery… because we grow plants”. I was instructed by a man at the ‘front desk’ to fill out a form in order to receive a day pass. Access to the nursery is restricted to official ‘members’.
12:53 – Dressed in grey denims, white Air Force 1’s and a pair of Ray-Bans, Jay Jody is seated across me for his first official interview since his name change.
A name carries great significance. It speaks to the very essence of who you are and what you stand for. Pulling himself out of a self-described ‘deep sleep’, the seasoned rapper sheds light on his awakening as an artist and what that means for his future in his first official interview. Ladies and gentlemen, this is the (re)introduction of Jay Jody – The Chosen One.
So, when I say the word ‘rap’ to you, what is the first thing that comes to mind?
The first memory I have is from 1997. My father gave me a tape of 2 Pac’s Me Against The World Album. That was the first time I had heard of rap.
What was your experience of listening to rap music for the first time?
I thought to myself, ‘should I be listening to this’? It had so much profanity and all I had known until that moment was Jazz and R&B. Despite all of that, my dad wanted to expose me to what the youth was listening to at the time, and my pops was just cool like that.
Loyalty and integrity are themes that come to mind when I think of you. Can you name times in your childhood that shaped those values?
I would say all of the tests that life has thrown at me, especially in this industry. Your relationships will be tested because of the amount of time you have to sacrifice. The values that I learned through rap have helped guide me through the tests I’ve faced in my career… Outside of rap, I’m a big film buff. My Pops was into Martin Scorsese type films, so I grew up watching a lot of classic gangster movies like Donnie Brasco and The Godfather. Classic gangsters lived by a code, and that’s where I inherited a lot of those values of loyalty and integrity.
What is the difference in the mindset of Pjay and Jay Jody? And what does this change symbolise for you?
When I started with BenchMarQ, I was very young and I had so many influences in my head. PJay, at that time, had a lot of learning to do. I was wet behind the ears. I was so consumed with being part of a collective that I didn’t have space to be myself. I became the group’s values, thoughts and mannerisms. The rebrand to Jay Jody represents a rebirth. Pjay was unsure about many things, but Jay Jody knows exactly what he wants.
You are a far cry from the person that made a song like “Bonang”. Will this rebirth be reflected in the sound Jay Jody will be presenting on the album?
It’s funny that you say that because my youngest brother, Cadence, was bumping “Bonang” the other day and for the first time, I enjoyed hearing it because I’m grown now. If you asked me about “Bonang” a year ago, I would have told you to ‘get outta here with that BS’. We didn’t want to make a song like that, but I remember Sjava came to us and said, “You’re not whack. Just make this track and get over it. This will play a bigger role someday”. He was right. It did play a role. Now I get the opportunity to create the type of music I fantasised about when I was growing up.
In a previous interview, you mentioned seeing yourself as a young OG. How do you view yourself in the game today?
I said that at the time because we (B3nchMarQ) had learned so much about the game. We had young homies that would come to us for advice because they were hungry and we would impart our knowledge to them. In doing that, you begin to gain the respect of young artists because they start to see that you have a lot of experience in the game and the things you’re saying are valuable to them. That’s why I would still consider myself a young OG.
In this digital age of DIY and quantity over quality, what do you think the role of an OG is?
I would say be consistent and don’t stop creating. If you look at someone like Nas, he’s been creating for a long time and he’s still doing it. Jay-Z was dropping every year since the 90s. If you have something to share (as an OG), share it with the world. We need well-seasoned rappers to create music.
Last year you dropped a collab tape heaveN caN waiT: thE narroW dooR (Vol 1). I understand the concept behind heaven can wait, but what is the narrow door?
We were dealing with the passing of our father and it was a tough time for us. When Reece said, ‘heaven can wait, the narrow door’, I was already in there. The narrow door is your spiritual portal. It’s something you feel more than you explain. I think the name is fitting for the space we were in at the time. We made a decision to carry on living – heaven can wait.
What was it like creating the album?
We’re very spiritual people and the music we make is spiritual. Reece and I would have two-hour conversations before making a song, and the song would come from the content of our conversation. Icemanbeatz wasn’t even with us in the studio, but the beats he sent were spiritually aligned with the conversations Reece and I were having. It was like he knew what Reece and I wanted to talk about on the record.
We live in a spiritual country, but faith isn’t something that’s spoken about much in music. How much of a role has faith played in your life as a man and as an artist?
Faith plays a huge role in my life. I come from a religious family and at some point in my life, I was very religious. When I was younger, I thought I’d be an angel of God or something, but as I grew older, I started to distance myself from religion because I didn’t believe in rigid lines that define one’s relationship with God. I identify as spiritual because I believe that we are from a Devine being. A source of creation that may be beyond our level of comprehension.
The femur is the largest bone in the body, so it was insane for me to hear you have a rod in your femur. Can you tell us about the incident?
That night changed my life forever. I was making my way home and someone attempted to rob me. He pulled out a gun and pointed it at my face. I didn’t think it was loaded because of the sound it made when he cocked it. I thought I would call his bluff and we struggled over the gun and he pulled the trigger. He could have aimed at my head, but instead, he aimed for my leg. The ironic part of it all was that on that particular day, I decided to do leg day [laughs].
I mentioned that because the bullet was supposed to have an exit wound, instead, it got stuck in my leg because of the contractions in my inner thigh, but it broke my bone for sure. The bullet was inches away from hitting a large artery in my leg, which would have forced the doctors to amputate my leg. I consider myself blessed to have survived that ordeal.
How has that event affected your outlook on life?
Being a black man from my environment, I didn’t think about going for counselling. My only thought was going to physiotherapy. I wish I had gone for counselling because it was a traumatic experience, but it’s not too late. Despite the trauma it caused, I’ve come to appreciate life more.
That brings us to the current day. Why did you name the single pack The Revenge Pack?
Because revenge is the re-up. N***** didn’t think you’d be here interviewing me right now. That’s revenge. It’s about bettering yourself. The only way to beat the naysayers is by killing it — that’s why I named it The Revenge Pack. I’m coming back for everything. If you’re sick of me, you’re not going to get a chance to heal because I’m not going to stop anytime soon.
On the song “On Time”, you said you pulled yourself out of a ‘deep sleep’. What does that mean?
Sometimes when you are going through life, you become trapped in the mundane aspects of it. It’s like you’re stuck in a simulation; you’re stuck in the matrix. Once you realise your power and purpose, you gain consciousness. You wake up from the deep sleep.
What should we look forward to on the upcoming album?
Often people feel that they are alone in experiencing certain challenges. Many people reached out to myself and Reece after releasing heaveN caN waiT and told us how that album helped them process the passing of a loved one. I’m going to share my experiences in my music so that people know they aren’t alone in what they are going through.
If you could go back to the 7-year-old Jay Jody, what would you say to him?
I would tell him to focus on himself. I would say to him, ‘be a bit more selfish’. I’ve been in group situations my whole life and I’ve always put the needs of others before mine, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I do wish I was a bit selfish when I was younger. That’s why I put a picture of the younger me on the cover of The Revenge Pack. I’m doing this for him.
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Thanks for sharing this with us . My only pray is that god may give you and Reece strength. I’m just a fan of MATABOGE brothers please keep on giving us the dop music ❤️ And thanks for the visit in Cape Town. Heaven can wait – I listen to that shit every time I feel down . Slime forever ❤️
Thank you for reading the interview. We hope to keep giving you insights into the artists you love.
Its really interesting to find out the back story of our pioneers ,Wonderful interview !
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