There is something to be said for defying expectations and following your creative spirit; few producers in today’s landscape can lay claim to a career shift as unexpected as that of 22-year-old former Vine star Jay Versace.
Over the past two years, the New Jersey-native has been on a path distinct from his core brand: producing soulful, low-fi Hip Hop. Things took a massive turn in his career this year, following placement on Westside Gunn‘s Billboard Hot 200 charting Pray For Paris LP.
“The journey has been liberating because I almost felt boxed in from only being known as the kid from the funny videos,” he tells HipHopDX. “To be able to express myself musically and receive appreciation and opportunities is extremely relieving … and exciting.”
Finding himself part of Griselda 2.0 — as it expands beyond the main trio — his most significant contribution to date has been alongside Detroit MC Boldy James, as the sole producer on his label debut, The Versace Tape.
“Gunn is a genius at curating people together,” he says. “For him to bring me and Boldy together was entirely something that only he would have put together.
“At first, I was curious how my sound would collide with his, but it turned out to be a classic,” he notes, adding the Boldy was relatively easy to work with.
What makes the pairing so unique — and in fact, what makes Jay’s current relationship with Griselda so unique — is the differentiation in their backgrounds. Far removed from the rather dark origin story shared by Griselda and Boldy James, Jay (an openly gay comedian) came to prominence via his Vine account, which boasted over three million followers and over 2 billion views before the platform’s inevitable demise in January of 2017.
Jay continued to thrive, even landing his own web series via Fullscreen, Jay Versace is Stuck in the 90s. It was in 2018 that be began making beats, though. One of the first of which became Westside Gunn’s “Versace.”
The particular sub-genre of Hip Hop he inhabits is one that is often soaked in a certain level of stigma when it comes to LGBTQ issues. But, something he isn’t doing is allowing himself to be restricted by preconceived notions.
“[Hip Hop] can be very homophobic in some respects,” he explains. “Me being able to navigate through that makes me feel like I’m somewhat paving a way for the next queer producer.”
Having risen to musical prominence amid both COVID-19 and an apex of global racial tension, he says the unprecedented transitional period has fueled his output in the best way possible.
“The current climate makes me hungry to express art,” he says. When under pressure, I feel more creative — so, I’ve been utilizing this time to express myself like never before.
“People are seemingly receiving it well, so I’m not taking this experience for granted. If I can help someone with my art, I’ve reached my goal.”
Jay has always been unapologetically outspoken on issues centered around both mental health and blackness — something he feels anyone with a platform should be striving to do, as well.
“It’s extremely important, especially if the community that is feeding you needs your voice,” he says. “I can’t eat off people and abandon them when they are troubled. The very least you can do is use your platform to amplify essential conversations, and that’s what I’ve always believed.”
One thing he’ll never be is creatively stagnant, noting that fans can be on the lookout for upcoming collaborative projects with artists that have always inspired him.
“I’m excited for y’all to experience this with me,” he proclaims.
Exciting stuff, indeed. Stream Boldy James and Jay Versace’s The Versace Tape below and check out his highly entertaining Instagram account @jay.