Boundary-Pushing Artist jaye Talks New Music and More

Interview and text by Joey Dizon


With his latest release, “Kid,” jaye continues to push boundaries. One look at this Singaporean artist, and you’ll realize there’s something wonderfully weird and rebellious about him. From his cool fashion sense and unlikely fusion of hip-hop, pop, and indie rock, to his unorthodox songwriting style and cinematic music videos, jaye is a standout. His debut single, “Tomorrow,” has garnered millions of views on YouTube.


Most recently, he released a track called “Kid,” a catchy, feel-good ditty with a heavy dose of nostalgia. The accompanying music video animates and visualizes life from a child’s perspective, using AI to produce trippy video effects that capture the spirit of a child’s imagination. Viewers and would-be listeners will get a kick out of jaye’s latest project.


But that’s not all he’s been busy with. Let’s hear from the man himself.


PULP: How’s life in Singapore right now?


jaye: It’s exactly the same, man (laughs). It’s as hot as ever, but things are back. Events are back in full force with live music and international acts also coming through, and yeah, it’s vibrant again.


PULP: Before diving deep into the new release, tell us about your formative years. How did the whole thing begin?


jaye: Oh, wow. The whole music thing; it must have been Eminem. I was in primary school, and my best friend and I used to get together at recess, beatbox, and try to rap some Eminem songs. And then, of course, Linkin Park and Limp Bizkit came out around the same time, so I thought the whole rap and rock fusion thing was a killer combo.


PULP: But when did you become an artist who wrote his own songs? What inspired that? I ask because, for most artists, it usually starts with playing mostly covers.


jaye: Great question. I started as a DJ when I was 15. I had my turntables and was collecting vinyl. I remember listening to so many different genres—of course, hip-hop and jazz—that was really cool to me. I not only wanted to perform, but I wanted to perform my own songs, so I started jamming out on the guitar, trying to sing a little bit, rap a little bit, and then hit the streets to busk. I wasn’t very good initially, but doing it daily was good practice. I wrote my first few songs and put out a rap/hip-hop album in a year or two. And I just kept writing and writing.


I met a Filipino friend at an art college audition, and we formed a rap duo. We started playing shows around Singapore and Malaysia, which was a lot of fun. Fast forward, I got involved with many other bands as well. One was a Japanese punk band that I formed because I landed a scholarship in Japan to study jazz, plus I was really into Japanese culture then. I asked myself, “Why not study in Japan and form a band?” And I went for it. Back then, if I had an idea, I wouldn’t stop or rest until it happened.


PULP: How did you ultimately find or arrive at your current music and art style?


jaye: Because I’ve been exposed to so many different genres and mediums of creative expression like visual arts, I don’t see myself just creating one form of art. I don’t want to limit myself in that way. That’s why I call myself “jaye.” It’s my name. It’s a whole world you can enter and experience. I can cover many different mediums and disciplines. Ultimately, it’s all me behind it, with the same vision behind all of these projects: to present something that has never been done before.


PULP: It seems you’re a guy who doesn’t sleep! So how do you manage all of the creativity that’s happening?


jaye: Taking a lot of breaks, to be honest. I have nothing musical at home, almost nothing creative happening. It’s a blank canvas because I want to separate my rest space. That’s how you can disconnect and let yourself take a break from creating stuff and experience what life has to offer. In turn, it gives you more room to breathe which can inspire newer art.


PULP: Your new single “Kid” certainly has that “inspired” vibe and raw honesty, especially in the lyrics. So how were you able to effectively put those words together?


jaye: Simply put, I just wrote what I thought about almost word-for-word, and I didn’t care too much about the rhymes or the structure of the song or anything. It was just how I felt because I had a lot of emotions bottled up, so I got a pen and paper and wrote it down. I reminisced about a time when I had little to no responsibilities, you know? I appreciate that you felt that it was raw and genuine because it is.


PULP: There’s a contrast to your previous work, like “Tomorrow,” which is pretty dark and twisted. So how do you tie it all together?


jaye: You know what? I don’t tie it together (laughs). Because I feel like not everyone likes one type of music. We’re complex, and we have so many different emotions, and depending on our mood, you know, we want to listen to different kinds of music, do different activities. So with that mindset, that’s how I put out my work. You can see that some of my work has contrasting styles. And so, that’s what ties everything together without even trying, I believe.


PULP: I was amazed by how you push the envelope, especially for music in Singapore.


jaye: I would like to think it’s pushing the envelope—it’s been received that way, kind of more left field, at least for the average Singaporean or even Asian listener. But there is a niche. There’s a cool group of people that have become my followers. They’re very supportive of my work, and most importantly, they relate to what I put out there. From songs like “Tomorrow” to “Kid,” the same people like it. The kind of innovative experiences I put out there, like a Choose Your Own Adventure type of music video to a horror game I put out on Steam. And people like it, you know!


Some people can produce hits, but I don’t think I’m one of those guys, however hard I try. Of course, I’ve been in that mentality before, where I try to please the masses and make the music radio-friendly. But I’m stubborn. I’ll just put out stuff I feel is natural to me, stuff that I want to say, stuff I want to express, and hopefully get to connect with my listeners and have them relate to my songs. That’s what matters to me the most. And so, I would choose authenticity over commercialism.


PULP: OK, I’m segueing here…you’re also involved with Manifest. What is Manifest?


jaye: It is a virtual band formed out of two crypto-punk NFTs. And if you’re familiar with crypto punks, one of the most well-known NFTs out there, they’re like 8-bit characters. Gorillaz inspires me; I thought it was amazing how they took analog work to digital. So I wanted to do the same, but I wanted to bridge the Web 2 folk to Web 3 via entertainment and form a virtual NFT band. I want my virtual band to perform live. They’re life-sized characters as holograms that play live for you physically. The virtual band’s music also brings the fans closer to the artist and has them kind of come together in this journey and dictate where the band should go. They’re part of this story and should be because they crowdfunded it.


PULP: So now that the single is released, what else is coming soon?


jaye: I’m going to be writing more music, of course. But yeah, my NFT band Manifest will be performing outside of Singapore. The last gig they played was in New York and Tokyo, and it was well-received, and people were fascinated by the whole project. Besides the Manifest stuff, I’m working on my second game, which will be a horror game because I like to scare people. It should be out this third quarter, and I should be launching it on Steam. I’m going to be producing music for the game.


PULP: Cool! Well, what’s one thing everyone should know about you?


jaye: Well, I’m a lone wolf, and I’ve also been told that. It’s just how I function. I collaborate a lot. I’d rather “collaborate” than “compete.” But I see myself as a “jaye-of-all-trades.” I spend a lot of time alone–I’ve always been a loner in school, but I’m beginning to appreciate it for what it is. I want to let people know that even if they’re also a lone wolf or outcast, they can still do cool stuff. I hope I can be a good example of that.

To hear jaye’s new single “Kid,” click here.