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Flying the flag for Coventry’s rap scene with a self-assured swagger, JAY1 had a meteoric rise after the single “Your Mrs” made its way to the 18th spot on the U.K. charts.
Originally rapping as Young Jay, JAY1 started making music seriously after moving from North London to the historically student-based city of Coventry in 2016. Bold, self-assured vocals and candid lyrics gave the U.K. MC a fundamental versatility: despite often letting his lyrics speak for themselves on minimalist trap beats, he demonstrated his ability to adapt to everything from club-rap to Afroswing. After delivering freestyles on two popular U.K. video series, Bl@ckbox and Hardest Out, JAY1 saw his first major success with “That’s My Bae,” which blew up through online video channels before inspiring its own freestyle challenge.
A series of 2018 singles helped boost the rapper’s fan base and expand his sound, leading to him trying his hand at summer dancehall on “Good Vibes” and blunt braggadocio on “Becky.” It wasn’t until “Your Mrs” that the Coventry MC found his breakout hit: After a snippet of its chorus received social media buzz, the song’s music video hit a million views on streaming services just three days after its release. Building on this success, he quickly landed a spot on the remix of Russ and Tion Wayne’s “Keisha & Becky” and then appeared on Charlie Sloth’s Fire in the Booth radio show in April 2019. His debut EP, One Wave, was released in July of the same year; compiling hits like “Your Mrs” and “Mocking It” with an assortment of new material, the rapper’s debut showed him flexing his abilities across the U.K. rap spectrum, all delivered with his signature bluntness. Capitalizing on the tape’s success, the rapper closed out the year with the club-centric “Million Bucks,” and the Tion Wayne back-to-back “2 ON 2,” both of which enjoyed minor runs on the U.K. charts. Through 2020, the rapper expanded his sound into new avenues: He collaborated with Sean Paul, Toddla T, and Sean Paul for the “Dumpling Remix,” stepped into the U.S. market with Blueface and the Plug collab “Curvy,” and made his drill debut alongside Loski on August’s “TEE.” ~ David Crone