Jaden Taylor, known by his stage name, JAYTHEDØN, is an up-and-coming rapper/songwriter out of the DMV (Chesapeake, Virginia). Instead of a formal introductory paragraph, here’s an interview I did with the 18-year-old about his newest project, along with a few facts, followed by an in-depth review.
HOMETOWN: Chesapeake, VA
BIRTHDAY: November 21, 2002
FAVORITE PASTIME(S): “Play video games, draw, and to hang out with my friends”
FAVORITE FOOD: Top 3 // #3 Burgers // #2 Fries // #3 Hamburger Helper
- How long did you spend working on this new project?
- JAY: “Almost 2 years. Originally, it wasn’t even called SANTANA. It was called Planet Ice and had nothing to do with what’s on the album now. It [Planet Ice] was supposed to just be a rap album about being frozen in your emotions, but eventually I ended up scrapping that entire idea and starting from the jump [again]. I forgot the second name I came up with; it was “something, DON” because I wanted it to be similar to BURN FOREVER, DON. It may have been DAY OF THE DON or something like that. But I ended up not liking that-almost had it finished too-because I didn’t want to regurgitate content. I didn’t want to create the same thing all over again.”
- “The inspiration for SANTANA came out of nowhere. Planet Ice and DAY OF THE DON were made during the first year of SANTANA’s overall process.” (In a period focused on gathering new ideas and finding new flows) “When I changed it to SANTANA , that was about 6 months before this conversation. The transformation for SANTANA was born 6 months ago, coming out of nowhere.
- Talk to us about the inspiration behind SANTANA’s cover artwork?
- JAY: “It’s based from a movie called Soldier Blue (1970). It’s more of an exploitation film and it’s very off-the-wall. The movie exploits everything they don’t tell you in the history books. How they [the settlers] killed and raped the Indians. The actual movie poster for Soldier Blue is the inspiration for the cover art. Kinda like how [Playboi] Carti took inspiration from SLASH Magazine for Whole Lotta Red.”
- Which songs were the hardest songs to complete in the process of making this album?
- JAY: “Some of the hardest songs to make didn’t even end up making the cut. There was a 7-minute song where I went CRAZY. But there were so many problems with mixing, or I’d get too deep into the song and get tongue tied and mess up. I didn’t give the beat a break.”
- What do you think sets you apart from other up and coming artists, in general?
- JAY: The way I can change my energy in different songs but I still sound the same, if that makes sense. My monotone voice. When I say I sound the same I don’t mean like how DaBaby sounds the same, like I mean-straight up-my voice it sounds the exact same. I you listen to every song back to back, all of it sounds like a complete track itself. It sounds like everything is the same take.
- Are there any other endeavors that you’re interested in, outside of music?
- JAY: “Ever since I was a kid, I’ve wanted to make my own company that owns stores that sell video games and comic books. I was planning that with one of my other good friends, Jose´. We were planning that for a long time. I also thought about streaming too, as a rapper doing streams on Twitch. I already do stream, but not as consistently.”
- Why should listeners look forward to tapping into what you have in store for them with SANTANA?
- JAY: “They should be looking forward to hearing santana because it is something that will get you out of your comfort zone. I want to challenge the listener.”
SANTANA opens with “AZURE!”, a melody on which vocals are heard from Heprcam. This track sets the tone in a soothing way for what is to be an otherwise turbulent journey. It also gives off the “orchestra” ligament of the “crash-orchestra” (a sub-genre sound created by JAYTHEDØN, coined by himself and his followers) element of the project, thus making it a perfect introduction. “Would you feel better if there’s no regrets when you die? Let’s walk this path together, me and you and you and I.”, Jay sings. His voice is backed by guitars, bongos, and maracas, all combining to create a trippy kickstarting tune. Next is “POLYNESIAN” featuring verses from Steezy Kai and yvngxchris. The track was one of two records released as singles leading up to SANTANA. Then, comes “KINDERGARDEN” featuring BenjuCold, where JAYTHEDØN spits one of his more introspective verses after Benji brings you in with his refrain. “If you love, you’re lucky to have it. I’m killing my time just to pass it. I come from a dark place where I used to just settle for anything average.” You can tell he’s spent time finding himself, learning how to appreciate his own abilities and to cherish the time he’s been given. “I talk on the beat and I think that’s the key to put food on the plate so I finally eat. Look at my eyes but you still wouldn’t see. I’ve always been stubborn and that’s to a ‘T’, cause nobody every would listen to me.” Jay is lifting his voice for the voiceless and those who have felt rejection at some point in their lives.
On “FLAWLESS”, the crash-orchestra-constructor recruited Houston-native Xanman$hawty who shouts out JAYTHEDØN and fellow feature Steezy Kai in his verse. “HOT HOE” comes right afterward, one of Jay’s most popular songs to date, which he performed on the CareFree Corner Performance Series this summer. “NEVER WAS COOL” is a telling track about the social structures amongst high school youths, and how Jay felt within them. Delineating his reasons for neglecting his studies along with conventional employment routes to follow his dreams…and a female here and there. “Mama told me that I needed a job to get the guap but I’m already doing it”, Jay spits. Rapper sinzsuicide appears on the track, using his verse to fit right into the ballad’s theme.
“DAZED”, the album’s triumphant lead single includes YZNPlayboi on the hook, and an auto-tune switch up from Jay. “KEN PARK” is the shortest song on SANTANA but the Chesapeake-bred lyricist manages to fit some memorable bars within a few flows. “DOIN’ THE MOST!” is a flashy standout with a beat containing R&B undertones, on which Jay uses a punch-in flow. “HURRY” has a laid back feel, containing melodic-heavy features by Thrxsh and Lil Gally. On “CRY ME A RIVER”, Jay delivers a catchy hook and minimal verse over a beat produced by LORDFUBU. “I’m tryna zoom out out of the picture, I’m tryna think outside the box. I’m tryna come up with anew type of flow that’s gon’ knock these niggas out their socks”, Jay raps.
The project’s last two songs are very different in just about every aspect, but both leave listeners with crucial parts of JAYTHEDØN’s talent as an MC and his depth as an artist. The animated and bar-heavy “GET ACTIVE!” features yvngxchris, who doesn’t waste time, rapidly-rapping as soon as the song starts. Chris then takes then hook, after which Jay comes in with a fire verse. The dynamic duo finish out the song going back and forth about how to handle business if ever crossed by an “opp”, or an enemy. Finally, this tempestuous debut comes to a close with “KEERA”, a song written like a diary-entry of unsaid words following a confusing and harmful end to a relationship. In the initial couplet Jay states, “There’s a time and a place to address it, but I think that it’s time to confess it. I admit I was falling in love so why did you think that we never connected? And I asked you multiple times, and I told you I wouldn’t get mad.” In 3 minutes he manages to get it all off his chest, as his train-of-thought goes from questioning her to attempted comprehension. Then, in hindsight Jay becomes the bigger man, ultimately wishing her the best despite the situation. “But now that my thoughts are collected, I’ll continue on with the lesson. But I still wish you the best.”
Overall, SANTANA is a strong comeback after his last full length effort, BURN FOREVER, DON was met with less than favorable reviews. This being one of the reasons behind having a slew of artists featured. “I could’ve handled santana myself, not trying to sound cocky or anything. I noticed that before my rap name was JAYTHEDØN, I’d drop projects left and right but never seen any traction with it. Especially with BURN FOREVER, DON. It’s doing well now, of course, because people already listen to me. But when it first came out, it was an absolute flop. That album flopped so hard and was one of the worst bodies of work I’ve put out.” Over time, he’s took that feedback and let the ones who told him to go back to the drawing-board. Two years later, he has leaned into his distinction while bringing some other notable up-and-coming names along with him.
Following SANTANA, JAYTHEDØN plans on dropping one music video as well as a documentary about the making of the album.