Podcast 673: SJAYY
Hip-hop and Jersey club from a Ugandan talent.
Podcast 673: SJAYY
Hip-hop and Jersey club from a Ugandan talent.
SJAYY, real name Sydney Johnson, is a 22-year-old DJ-producer of Ugandan descent, and one of Jersey club and contemporary hip-hop’s rising talents. Growing up in Plainfield, New Jersey, he began attending PAAAS (Plainfield Academy for the Arts and Advanced Studies) and learned to make music with friends on their back porch, experimenting with FL Studio. He was only 16 at the time and influenced by artists like Monte Booker, Flying Lotus, and Knxwledge, but also by the Jersey club and juke of his friends. “I gum-balled what I liked, infused it to what I know, and made candy,” he explains. He released his debut EP, BEEEMS, a collection of hip-hop instrumentals, in October 2016.
In the years since, SJAYY has broadened his sound into drill and juke, and he’s also become more comfortable with vocalists, featuring Welcome, 2K, and PLIE on Enjoy the Show, his latest effort. In May, he teamed up with Lordfubu, MNDBD, and Jay Cousteau on So Far So Good, his second album as SJAYY, following A BIG JERSEY CLUB ALBUM. He’s based in Los Angeles, where he’s working on new material.
Recorded last week in his home studio, SJAYY’s XLR8R podcast aims to capture the full remit of his sound—which is to say it lines up the distinguished rap of Jay-Z, Kendrick Lamar, and Pharrell with the real Jersey-based sounds of DOUGIE F, PineappleCITI, and Mike Hardy, plus other personal underground favorites. The mix is full of sharp transitions and quick twists, which allows SJAYY to squeeze in 47 tracks into just 60 minutes. SJAYY’s hope is that it’ll make you bob your head, move your feet, and it certainly does that.
01. What have you been up to recently?
Mostly a lot of producing at home and in the studio. Aside from the music, I’ve been keeping projects more hands-on and more off-grid. I work on my merchandise a lot. Also, brainstorming on materials, and binge-watching Atlanta again.
02. How have you been managing with lockdown?
Well, it’s definitely been difficult but I’m adapting to it quickly. I try not to let the outside noise hit me too much, you know? I practice healthy habits, call my Mom, FaceTime my friends, you know? I also moved out to Los Angeles two months prior to the lockdown so it was a brief moment of fun. I mostly hung out with Anthony Somebody (DJ & Creative Director for Lil Yatchy), Babyxsosa, and ilyhook.
03. What music have you been listening to?
A lot of The Neptunes, Top Dawg’s early records (from Kendrick Lamar to Ab-Soul and Schoolboy Q). I still revisit Flying Lotus’ 1983 album just to vibe out. Jazz band records too, like Ahmad Jamal Trio, they’re tight. Oh, and I just rediscovered Erykah Badu’s live CD in my closet, which I needed!
04. Any labels and/or artists that have been impressing you?
BABYXSOSA impresses me the most, she’s heaven-sent. Label wise, Top Dawg Entertainment, because they’re mysterious.
05. What have you been working on recently?
Mostly a lot of beats and placement deals this month. Testing the waters. I’ve got a three-track EP I’m working on. It’s still untitled, but I’m using my voice a lot more. Expect some rapping!
06. What are your earliest memories of music?
I have no idea. I think Soulja Boy’s Crank Dat tape was the first thing I ever bought musically. Other than that I was on downloading old mixtapes.
07. How were your early experiences of Uganda?
I grew up in America but I spent months in Uganda every year during the holidays as a young boy. Each time I’d go back my village would show me nothing but love. My mother and I would stay with my uncle who owns the biggest house in the village. He was in the technical profession so my aunts and uncles would come to his house a lot more. My cousins would teach me farming, and my aunt owns her own garden, where we’d plant and pick out sugar cane. The power would go out a lot, so on those nights we’d all grab lanterns, eat outside, and listen to the radio with each other. It made me worry less about the daily struggles we face here in the United States. I’m more thankful for what I have around me because things can always get worse. A lot of the people knew I was American though so it wasn’t all sunshine; if you don’t move right it can be dangerous. Nevertheless, Uganda is one of the most beautiful places on earth!
09. Where and when did you record this mix?
This was an in-house mix. I opened up my mixers when we spoke, and I began to work on it.
10. What can the listener expect with it?
I honestly don’t know; they can expect everything, that’s what I tapped into. It starts off classical and goes through verbal hip-hop, and things I listen to for motivation. Then, I transitioned into a Jersey-based set of hip-hop. And, if you pay attention, you may hear some familiar artists like DOUGIE F, PineappleCITI, Mike Hardy, and Hodgy Beats spun throughout. About 13 minutes in, I started to play more personal underground favorites from artists like BKTHERULA, Pierre Bourne, and Grimm Doza. After that, I dose up with Jersey club and juke. Right here is where you’ll catch me playing hits from DJ Sliink, Dj Dru, UNIIQU3, and DJ Tiga.
11. How did you go about choosing the music that you’ve included?
A lot of the records I chose to spin have helped keep me going this year. It’s faith in sounds. I began with the newest underground hip-hop from all over, then the Jersey club and dance music my friends and I are known for. I want you to bob your head, move your feet, and feel it in your heart when you listen to the mix.
12. What plans do you have for 2021?
Stay alive and create more. The main plan is the same plan: to keep pushing.
XLR8R has now joined Mixcloud Select, meaning that to hear the podcast offline you will need to subscribe to our Select channel to listen offline, or subscribe to XLR8R+ to download the file. The move to Mixcloud Select will ensure that all the producers with music featured in our mixes get paid. You can read more about it here.
Full XLR8R+ Members can download the podcast below. If you’re not an XLR8R+ member, you can read more about it and subscribe here.
01. Jay-Z & Jay Electronica “The Ghost of soulja Slim” (Roc Nation)
02. Lil Wayne & Drake “BB King Freestyle” (Young Money Entertainment)
03. Lvusm “04 May 19” (Slidergang)
04. Pharrell “How Does It Feel” (I Am Other/Columbia Records)
05. Kendrick Lamar “Real” (Top Dawg Entertainment)
06. Vince Staples “Big Fish” (Motown Records)
07. Feel Good Fiinesse “Big Baller” (Feel Good Label)
08. Kiff “Summer Bae” (Brick Bandits)
09. PineappleCITI “Sauce” (Red Bull Records)
10. Pink Siifu & Fly Anakin “Runthafade” (Field-Left Label)
11. BKTHERULA “Tweakin’ Together” (Warner Records)
12. Lil Candy Paint “Fate” (Over Come Anything Label)
13. Pierre Bourne “Be Mine” (Interscope Records)
14. Polo Perks “Hums” (Surfgang)
15. Grimm Doza “Miyagi” (NJ Gremlins)
16. BABYXSOSA “Who You Love” (Surfgang)
17. ILYHOOK “2night” (South Coast Music Group, SCMG)
18. Sjayy “Luv” (Sjayy LLC)
19. Monte Booker “Wah” (Zero Fatigue)
20. Pandi “Monte Influence” (Slidergang)
21. Brent Fiyaz “Dead Man Walking” (Lost Kids, LLC)
22. Beyoncé feat. Jay-Z “Drunk In Love” (Roc Nation)
23. BABYXSOSA “EVERYWHEREIGO” (Surfgang)
24. Sjayy feat. Gutta “One” (Cartel Nation, Cartel Music Group)
25. Mike Hardy & West End Tricks “When We Get Home” (West End Music)
26. DOUGIE F “Way U Move” (STRAGG Records)
27. DJ Sliink & Dj Jayhood “This” (OWSLA & Cartel Nation)
28. DJ Dru “Feel The Burn” (Brick Bandits)
29. UNIIQU3 & Tre Oh Fie “Arch Slide” (NLV Records & JaJa Life Music)
30. DJ Tiga “I Won” (Brick Bandits)
31. DJ Status 973 & Dj Slim “Maia Theme V3” (Jersey Club Music)
32. Jiddy “Situxtion” (Jiddy LLC)
33. KashKash “Throat Baby” (LVRN/Interscope Records)
34. West End Tricks feat. SBF “Throat Baby” (JIGGYTHVT Music)
35. Speaker Knockerz “Rico Story Part 1” (Talibandz Entertainment)
36. Future “Trapped In The Sun” (Rocky Road Records/FreeBandz)
37. 21 Savage & Metro Boomin “Runnin” (Slaughter Gang LLC/Epic Records)
38. Tay-K “I <3 My Choppa” (RCA Records)
39. Gucci Mane “Lemonade” (1017 Records)
40. Hundo “4eveashine” (No Gum Music)
41. Lil Keed “Nameless” (YSL Records)
42. Don Toliver feat. Migos “Had Enough” (Cactus Jack Records)
43. DJ SWISHA feat. BASSBEAR!! “No Cap” (JukeBounceWerk)
44. DJ SWISHA “Goes 2 Bossa Once” (JukeBounceWerk)
45. Kush Jones “Earth Note” (JukeBounceWerk)
46. Ase Manual feat. Retroi$Awesome “Testify” (Like That Records)
47. Domo Genesis feat. Hodgy Beats “Bitches” (Odd Future)
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