The Bay Bridged: How’s life?
Rayana Jay: I can’t complain, everything is great. I feel like I’m waking up to good news every day. It gets a little busy and I have to figure out how to maneuver or to delegate certain tasks — what’s important, what’s not so important — but other than that, everything’s good. I’m good.
TBB: What has it been like since you’ve started getting national attention from publications like Fader, NPR, KQED, East Bay Express, etc.?
RJ: It seems unreal to think that we put Sorry About Last Night out in October (2016) and it’s barely been six months and all this is happening. I’m super grateful for it, and that’s really all it is, I’m just super grateful. In such a short time, I feel like I did a good thing. I’m really proud of myself, I’m proud of my team and I’m just trying to see what’s going to happen within a year. When it becomes a full year since we drop the record, what are we going to have accomplished by then? I’m excited for the future.
TBB: Are you working on a new record?
RJ: Yes, it’s going to be a full album, like 10-13 songs. I have production from ROM from London, Mikos Da Gawd, Drew Banga, Esta again because I really like working with him. I have some records with these cats from Fete Records, they’re a group of producers and rappers based out in Washington, DC; They’re tight, I met them when I was out there.
TBB: “Sorry” was something that came out of a messy breakup, what’s your next record going to be about?
RJ: This record is pretty much the clarification; It’s the waking up and things finally make sense. It’s when the hangover blows over and this is what I actually meant to say. It’s more about healing and making sense of things and the good side of relationships. “Sorry About Last Night” was about me being sad and we’re going to sing about it. This new records is like, I’m finally getting my wave back, it’s time to turn up, let’s go.
TBB: The communities in Oakland recently hosted its first ever Women In Music festival and you were featured on the cover of the local paper highlighting the event and its efforts. How did you get involved with that initiative?
RJ: Evangeline (Elder) and Carmina (Woodward, b.k.a. DJ Red Corvette) put it together — Evangeline is my manager, Carmina is my DJ — and I remember Carmina said she wanted to do it the first month of the year. And I just watched it become a full thing. It started just as an idea and then a few months later, it’s a weekend-long event. It was amazing. And at first I didn’t have anything to do with it, I wasn’t on any showcases or anything, but I wasn’t trippin’, I just thought that the idea of it was tight. To take all these women, and not just performers, but managers, talent buyers and publicists, like the women that people don’t really pay attention to. It’s like if you’re not in the limelight then people forget you even exist, that you even do anything. So just to see them put that together was amazing and for them to hit me up to get on the Women Breaking Ground panel, I said absolutely. They didn’t even have to ask, they could’ve just told me to show up and I would’ve been good with it.
“I feel like there’s been a shift, a Renaissance type thing where the rap is cool but people need music that is more soul-filling. The Bay is definitely an untapped source for good music.”
TBB: I’ve read that you really close to calling it quits on music until Evangline came into the picture.
RJ: At that point, giving up seemed like the only option. I kind of wanted to get into artist management like Vang, but I don’t think even that was for me. I tried working jobs again and that wasn’t for me so I was really in this stagnant place. I was getting really sad and I felt like I knew I was supposed to be doing something but I wasn’t getting it done. And that’s when Vang came into my life. She was like, “Well you can sing” and I’m like, “Nah, you just saying that.” Fast forward a couple months later and we’re in the studio doing “Sleepy Brown” and I guess the rest is history.
TBB: But even before that you were at (Oakland nonprofit) Youth Radio and you recorded “Marty McFly” (produced by Mikos Da Gawd). What was going on between your time at Youth Radio and recording “Sleepy Brown”?
RJ: I went to Youth Radio and put the song out in 2012. I got into a relationship in 2014 and moved all the way to Pennsylvania so I was away from home and I didn’t know anybody. I knew nothing there, I didn’t know any of their musical resources. I was kind of living in a village, it wasn’t even a city, it was like a township. It was dry, cold, rainy and I was still writing music. I had started on an EP before I moved and it was finished while I was out there. So when I came back after the breakup we put (the EP) out but it wasn’t doing what I wanted it to do. I’m a really impatient person; I like to see instant results, but I’m working on that to this day (laughs). But because it wasn’t doing what I wanted it to do so I thought, “Forget it, this obviously isn’t for me.” Vangie pulled me out of that.