Soon after launching his career through digital means – via his breakout mixtape Hello World – Daye Jack has continued to make waves across the Internet and beyond – garnering impressive collaborations on tracks with the likes of Tori Kelly, Killer Mike, and Ariana Grande. Born in Nigeria, though raised in the suburbs of Atlanta, Daye traded in his computer programming scholarship from NYU for a chance to join the ranks of unconventional hip hop artists like Chance the Rapper and Childish Gambino, with his inventive sense of flow and eclectic understanding of music and genre. Between Hello World and his 2015 recording, Soul Glitch, Daye has captured the attention of outlets like Billboard, Pitchfork, and Complex who had once touted the young MC to be among the “25 New Rappers to Watch Out For”.
We recently caught up with the busy artist to learn more about his music, his influences, and how searching for his own voice in hip hop bears some decent similarities to his earlier experiences writing code.
TYF: What would you say is your first memorable experience playing music?
Daye Jack: I’d say the first time I got to go to L.A. I grew up in Atlanta – in the suburbs right outside of Atlanta. Up until that point, L.A. was just something you saw on T.V., so when I finally got a chance to go out — [when I got] into the studio to work with producers in person versus over email – it was kind of just a trip. It was [at that point] where I realized everything was actually happening.
TYF: Were you, or are you even now, influenced by the music coming out of that city?
Jack: Yeah, the reason I actually started rapping was because of Outkast, and the crazy buzz/hype they had in Atlanta. Prior to that, I’ve just been singing in choir. I was in an all-boys choir, and we’d travel around singing in front of people, and doing a lot of gospel music. And [at that time] I didn’t really understand [how] to make music for yourself, or express yourself or tell your own story until I heard Outkast and the way that they went about their music. Especially with Andre 3000 on Speakerboxxx/The Love Below where he’s singing and rapping and just being himself completely, that’s what made me start to want to make music.
TYF: What, if you can remember, was the first record you ever owned?
Jack: The first record I owned, personally, was probably Red Hot Chili Peppers’ By The Way. Completely random [laughing], but that was the first piece of music I felt I needed to have for myself. Outkast was already everywhere.
I wouldn’t call myself an explorer. From when I was six to thirteen, I was kinda just taking in the music that was around me. My dad would play a lot of reggae music, and the city would play Outkast, Ludacris, and all that. But with Red Hot Chili Peppers, I felt like I had to go search and find it myself, and when I owned it, it felt special to me.
TYF: Do you feel your tastes have changed significantly since that point? You seem to be a person of varied tastes.
Jack: Yeah, I’m into a lot of different kinds of music. My tastes have gone more into electronic. Like I fell in love with James Blake…that’s what I’ve been listening to a lot of. In high school, I loved Tyler the Creator and Earl Sweatshirt. I was really into older music, which was kind of a blessing because a lot of my heroes are just the highest echelon of artists. It was after making my own music that I started falling in love with the younger generations of kids making music. It kind of gives you inspiration to know that you can do it too. When listening to Tyler the Creator, I’m like “damn what he’s doing is acceptable, I feel like I can reach that level”.
TYF: Just looking at the titles of your first three records, tech/the Internet seems to be the consistent through-line underlining those projects. You mention your interest particularly in electronica. In what ways, do you think, has your background in computer programming also influenced your music thus far?
Jack: So my original goal in life was to be a computer programmer. My idol was Steve Jobs, and it still is. I think tech and music don’t differ too much, like programming and music in a sense that you’re making something from scratch, something that didn’t exist until you thought about it and put it into existence. So in that way, they’re very connected. My search to find my voice in writing music is similar to programming.
My first tape was called Hello World, because when you write a program, the first thing they teach you is the Hello World program — which is how to get a computer to say “Hello world” back to you. And I wanted my first tape to be kind of a symbol of that. This is like the simplest thing. It’s not my best work. I feel like I have a lot more to do, but I gotta start somewhere, and I’ll start with Hello World.
TYF: Just speaking on your latest, Surf the Web, which I think has some real stand-outs — “Finish Line” and “Deep End” to name a few. The record as a whole just has that kind of real laid-back, L.A. vibe. What was the thought process behind that record versus Soul Glitch?
Jack: Yeah, they’re definitely two completely different types of projects. Soul Glitch was just me living in New York…learning about the city and myself at the same time. It’s kind of like a coming-of-age story. Looking outside and seeing everyone having somewhere to go, and places to be and not really caring about the next person. And that put me in a very introspective place. I wanted to make a project that resembled that. Off of Surf the Web, I moved out to L.A., dropped out of school about a year and a half ago, and kind of got thrown into the pop songwriting world – working under Max Martin and learning from him. He was about writing these, like, massive hit songs that change people’s lives. And so it just came about taking in L.A., taking in the pop songwriting sensibility, and just expressing that. I always want every project to be me, but to be a different side – a different version of me. I never want to repeat the same thing twice.
TYF: What was it like collaborating with Killer Mike on the track “Hands Up”? How did that come about?
Jack: I wrote “Hands Up” around the time the Trayvon Martin shooting happened. It was like a big spotlight in the news where black men and women were being shot down by the police. My dad struggled with it while growing up in San Francisco. When I was really young he told me – I was like eight years old going on a school field trip – the first thing he told me, given it was my first time leaving home, was to make sure I remain very polite and nice and make sure if I ever come in contact with any police that I remain extremely respectful because that issue still exists where they see you different. And I, as a naïve eight-year-old, thought that we’d grown past that as a society. I kind of shrugged him off. Though looking at the news, and seeing all these videos and all that come back to light, it kind of felt like a heavy burden for me. So I got into the studio and wrote “Hands Up” and had no plans of putting it out. But Killer Mike heard it and I had a chat with him about growing up in Atlanta. He gave me some words of wisdom, and then sent us over a verse. And when I heard the verse, I was like this song needs to come out, it’s very important.
TYF: Is that a moment that stands out the most to you? What would you say you’re most proud of at this point?
Jack: Yeah, “Hands Up” is a song I’m really proud of. I’m really happy that song came out. Singing background vocals on Ariana’s song was [also] surreal to me. The producer on the track [“Sometimes”] sent it to me and said he’d like me to do some background vocals. I was on tour at that point, so I went to the back of this van, sang some la’s into my phone, and sent it over in a voice memo. He ended up actually using that voice memo in the song. I didn’t actually think that was gonna happen. Working on the solo verse on [Tori Kelly’s “Expensive”], getting to meet her was also a crazy moment for me.
Though when it all comes together, I still feel like the most important song I’ve gotten the opportunity to put out is “Hands Up”.
TYF: What other areas outside of music do you also draw influence or inspiration from?
Jack: I’m still really in love with tech. Just kind of the future of where everything is going. I’m always looking at what’s next. I was at this stage where I thought that we kind of hit the pinnacle of what it’s gonna be. Like I looked back at my parents, and felt it kind of sucks they never got to grow up with iPhones. But now as you dive deep into what’s coming next, between virtual reality and augmented reality and sort of the new tech frontiers that are happening, I feel like I’m gonna be the old man very out of the loop with the kids forty years from now – which is crazy to think about. So I’m always kind of in that tech world. That kind of inspires my music too.
TYF: What was the motivation you needed at that point while studying computer science at NYU that made it possible for you to just mentally switch gears and solely focus on making music?
Jack: I got to the doors of NYU, and a lot of the students in my dorm were film students. I had a demo for the song “Hello World” already written, and I played it for one of the students, Colin, and he told me he loved the song and we were all just spit-balling a bunch of ideas he had for a video for it. And I was kind of just playing along with it. It got more and more serious…we ended up renting out a little room in a warehouse, rented some film equipment, shot the video, and threw it up. Seeing one of my songs out in the public, seeing the video and the amount of creativity coming from just three guys wanting to make something dope, that’s kind of what sparked me to put a hold on programming and really pursue this music thing for real.
TYF: That must’ve been insane. That something you were just doing with friends would turn out such an unexpected level of positive reaction.
Jack: Definitely. I didn’t think anyone would hear it. And when a couple blogs picked it up, that tripped me out. And then when I got emails from different labels…like you know how when someone from a label emails you, it has the “at-something-records” on it, I would show that to everyone like “yo! This is so freakin’ insane”.
TYF: You’re about to go on tour soon with K. Flay and Paper Route. Though this isn’t your first go at touring, right? You’ve done some shows with Lukas Graham and Pell. What are some of the things that’ve surprised you about being on the road?
Jack: I think the main thing is that it’s not just one show. In my head, I was always trynna prepare for the perfect show. Just making sure this one show is like genius or whatever. Though the pace of it, once that show is over, you’re just off to the next one, and you have to do the whole thing over again. That was kind of overwhelming for me at first. After the Pell/Lukas tour, and being on the road all-year last year, I realized you can’t really care too much. You have to give it your all but at the end of the day, you’re going through some motions and just feeling for it. Just trynna give each city the same experience.
TYF: Part of your act, at one point, was your utilizing of Siri as a “HypeWoman” [on stage]. Are you hoping to utilize something like that in your upcoming shows?
Jack: Yeah, right now my show is just me with my pad controller, dj-ing for myself. I cue up the Siri queue on that controller as well, and kind of have her say “ya’ll motherfuckers ready”, “put your hands up”…just random things a hype man would usually say. I just leave it to Siri – kind of keeping it D.I.Y. And that’s how I’m gonna go on the K.Flay tour. I just wanna build off of that and hopefully one day have like a grand epic show with an electronic band, and maybe a live 3D Siri walking out or something (laughs).
TYF: Right! The future of tech and music could really just lead to a full on A.I. sidekick.
Jack: (Laughs) Exactly. Instead of [holograms] of 2Pac or Michael Jackson, you’ll have Siri come out and do the whole show for you.
Be sure to check out Daye Jack – and Siri – on his latest tour with K. Flay and Paper Route at the following cities:
2/16 – Indianapolis, IN – Fine Line Music Cafe (http://ticketf.ly/2guVK7N)
2/17 – Covington, KY – HiFI (http://bit.ly/2gUh4EI)
2/18 – Nashville, TN – Exit/In (http://ticketf.ly/2gW4fdm)
2/20 – Charlotte, NC – Visulite Theatre (http://bit.ly/2gBGvz9)
2/21 – Atlanta, GA – Masquerade Hell Stage (http://bit.ly/2hoOb4f)
2/23 – Norfolk, VA – The NorVA (http://bit.ly/2i9nFhK)
2/27 – New York, NY – Bowery Ballroom (http://ticketf.ly/2hnlsQ8)
3/2 – Buffalo, NY – Waiting Room (http://ticketf.ly/2gyqKE7)