Dubbed the “Boy Wonder”, international artist Ayo Jay is probably best known for his smash hit single “Your Number,” which as of this writing has over 70 million streams, and has received coverage from The New York Times, FADER, Rolling Stone, and Buzzfeed, among others.
With a heavy influence from his upbringing in Lagos, Nigeria, Ayo Jay is giving us the perfect creative fusion of Afro Beats, Dancehall, and Pop music. Crediting the greats such as Akon, Usher, Wande Coal and Michael Jackson as some of his influences, Ayo Jay has a shot at become one of greats himself if he continues to create music the way he has over his first couple of projects.
We had an opportunity to talk to Ayo Jay about his transition from a finance and economic background into music, and much more. Check out the full interview below:
Parlé Mag: When did you know that music was your calling and that it was something you wanted to do professionally?
Ayo Jay: I realized music was for me shortly after I started putting material out in 2011. The first song/video I was on was called “She Like It” by a rapper called Cap B. I sang the hook and also a quick 4 bar bridge. Once the video for this particular song was out, the reviews were really good especially for me and I started receiving a whole lot of attention especially from investors who were interested in funding my music career. That’s when I realized I had something serious.
Parlé Mag: How did you eventually get your start in the industry?
Ayo Jay: Upon graduating from college in NY in 2013, I signed a deal with independent label One Nation Records and I dropped my first two singles “Your Number” and “Available.” Initially, I was more focused on making a name for myself back home in Nigeria, so I moved there for 2 years to promote my music out there. But, in the summer of 2015 I came back to the U.S. for a brief holiday. While I was around, I ran into Fetty Wap and played a few of my records for him. He really liked “Your Number” and we eventually scheduled a studio session and he recorded on the song. We released the record as a remix shortly after and 6 months on and it went viral. It started getting plays on the radio in New York and thousands of people around the world were making videos dancing and singing to the song. I was back in Nigeria at the time, but the song was gaining so much traction I had to abandon all my plans in Nigeria and come back to New York to focus on making the record bigger and more popular. Early in 2017 I started getting many offers from major record labels who had seen the serious potential of the song. I eventually signed with RCA Records in March 2017 and that’s how I got my breakthrough.
Parlé Mag: Now you were born in London, but your upbringing was in Nigeria. How important was it for you to include your culture in your music?
Ayo Jay: It was crucial for me to include my culture in my music. My culture is my identity. My accent, my slang, the dances, and even the costumes; all these are a representation of where I come from and retaining these cultural qualities help me stand out I believe.
Parlé Mag: Absolutely, and it’s good to see that you are reflecting that proudly in your music. Let’s fast forward and talk about you moving to New York and obtaining a degree in finance. That’s completely different from the route you’re on now so, how has that helped you handle the entertainment business?
Ayo Jay: Education has been so important for me along the way. A lot of classes I took while I was in college were geared towards preparing me for the business aspects of the entertainment world. Entertainment Law classes helped me understand the legal side of the industry as whole, I learned a lot of negotiating contracts in my Contract Law courses, and I even sharpened my writing skills with the English/writing courses I took. Getting my degree then gave me a real sense of accomplishment and allowed me to focus on hitting the ground running in the real world.
Parlé Mag: Good correlations. If music didn’t work out, what do you think you would have been doing now?
Ayo Jay: If music didn’t work out, I’d most likely be working a white collar job right now in Finance. My degree is in Finance and Economics. I had a few internships on Wall Street, but I quickly realized that I didn’t enjoy that kind of work and focused a lot of my energy of my creative skills.
Parlé Mag: How did you decide on the name Ayo Jay?
Ayo Jay: The name Ayo Jay comes from my first name Ayoola. My dad has the same name, which makes me Ayoola Jr. so Ayo Jay comes from Ayoola Junior.
Parlé Mag: Ah ok. What were some other names that you decided not to use?
Ayo Jay: I had been called Ayo Jay since my days in high school, way before I even started music. It was my nickname so it stuck. I didn’t really consider any other names.
Parlé Mag: So then, where did the name “Boy Wonder” come from?
Ayo Jay: When I started making music I was quite young. A boy really—19 or 20, I believe. I believed I was capable of wonderful things in music so that’s where the name comes from. A young boy who firmly believed he was destined for wonderful things in music.
Parlé Mag: What was that moment like when “Your Number” gained momentum? Would you say the success of that single catapulted your career?
Ayo Jay: “Your Number” gained momentum 6 months after we got Fetty Wap to hop on the remix. That was around December 2015 going into 2016. It was a song with great potential, but with Fetty on it at the time, a lot of light was shed on it and it went viral quickly. Like I said we got many offers from major labels because of that and even got to do an official remix for the song with Chris Brown and Kid Ink.
Parlé Mag: Do you have a special creative ritual or process?
Ayo Jay: When I write I usually try to come up with the melodies first and then I come up with words/lyrics that fit with the melody. Lyrics are very important, but nowadays I feel like the overall melodies of a song overwhelms the listener more than the lyrics. I also approach records the same whether its a collaboration or my own track. On my songs, if for example I have written two verses already and I need a third verse, I sometimes approach the third verse as though I am a collaborator so I can bring a different dimension to the track. This helps to avoid all my verses sounding predictable or the same.
Parlé Mag: Switching gears a bit, tell us about your EP, Lazy Genius. What was the inspiration behind that?
Ayo Jay: Lazy Genius is a compilation of songs that reflect my current sound; a sound that I think is the perfect fusion of Afrobeats, Dancehall, Hip Hop & Pop music; essentially making it for the world! These are genres of music that I either grew up listening to or I picked up along the way so I drew a lot of influences from them for my overall sound and for this project in particular.
Parlé Mag: What were the thoughts behind that title?
Ayo Jay: “Lazy Genius” is term I coined for myself. A lot of family and friends always used to think I had a lazy attitude, but I always came through with great music, so just I thought it was a smart title for the EP.
Parlé Mag: The lead single, “Let Him Go,” tell me about the creative process behind that track?
Ayo Jay: “Let Him Go” is the latest single off the aforementioned Lazy Genius EP. It was a song inspired by a girl I really liked, even though I was not really ready to be exclusive in a way that she needed me to be. She did not deserve how I treated her and I am sorry for that and was really trying to understand things from her perspective. The takeaway? If he treats you any less than you deserve, do not be afraid to let him go.
Parlé Mag: When can we expect Volume 2?
Ayo Jay: Lazy Genius Volume 2 will be ready in 2019, for sure.
Parlé Mag: Is there any one in particular that you are hoping to work with?
Ayo Jay: 16 bars from Drake would be a dream come true. I’d also love to work with Beyoncé.
Parlé Mag: We can’t blame you for wanting to work with either of them, they are both incredibly talented! And we look forward to when that comes into fruition. What advice do you have for artists coming up in the industry?
Ayo Jay: Quality is key to recognition, fame, money and all that good stuff. Consistency is key to making it all last for a long long time.
Parlé Mag: You’ve lived in a few different cities now. Which one is your favorite?
Ayo Jay: Due to the diversity, the amount of opportunities, and beauty of the city, New York City is the best city in the world in my opinion!
Parlé Mag: What are five things (quick facts) about Ayo Jay fans may still not know about you?
Ayo Jay: I can rap.
I am a lefty.
I actually live in New York not Nigeria.
I love to eat lamb.
I’ve lived in every borough in New York at some point in my life.
Parlé Mag: So we can expect to hear you do some rapping is what you’re really saying! What’s next for Ayo Jay?
Ayo Jay: I am gearing up to release the videos for “Let Him Go” and “No Feelings” and then I am going on a European and Canadian tour. I am also working on Lazy Genius Volume 2 and my first album. I am genuinely excited about 2019.
Readers Might Also Like: