The hyper-kinetic pulse of Jersey club is taking over the world, and one of its most prolific young talents is New Jersey polymath, SJAYY, whose determination to introduce new sonic elements and maximise his own creativity knows no bounds
Jersey club Queen UNIIQU3’s ‘Heartbeats’ EP was one of 2021’s best dance music releases. But while you might be most familiar with lead single ‘Microdosing’, the fourth track on the record, ‘Drown’, featured another star of Jersey club: Ugandan-American producer SJAYY. With steamy vocals (“pussy so wet you’ll drown in it”), rap horns and a killer trap beat, ‘Drown’ was an exciting and playful offering. “The dancefloor is a tangible asset again,” SJAYY tells DJ Mag, “and now Jersey club is more global than ever.”
Born in Plainfield, New Jersey, SJAYY is intensely creative, turning his hand to production, DJing, photography, fashion, and creative direction. In recent years he’s been particularly prolific on the music front — there have been three SJAYY albums since 2019 (‘A Big Jersey Club Album’ in 2019, ‘So Far So Good’ in 2020, and ‘Constant Dedication’ in 2021) — and is fast gaining notoriety as one of the scene’s most exhilarating artists. SJAYY has always been a tastemaker; at school, his friends relied on him for the best new Jersey club tunes, taking turns with his MP4 player each day on the bus. He recalls some of the first CDs he owned: Drake’s ‘So Far Gone’, Kanye West’s ‘Graduation’, Soulja Boy’s 2007 debut, ‘Souljaboytellem. com’. He was already interested in art and design back then too, he says: “I’d go through the albums back and forth, trying to redesign the CD covers with my sharpie.”
At 13 years old, SJAYY got a place at Plainfield Academy for the Arts and Advanced Studies (PAAAS), where he studied stage acting. Around the same time, he started experimenting with production on a hand-me-down Compaq laptop his mum had found for him. Later in his teens, he and his friends would throw block parties, direct music videos and make tunes together.
“My mother’s side is the soul,” SJAYY says of his upbringing. “My dad’s side holds the music, the faith and love that I carry within me.” When he was younger, on trips to Uganda to see his mother’s family, he struggled with his identity; experiencing an entirely different way of living to his life in Plainfield. But those trips proved instrumental, he says. “I’d come back to my hometown with all these musical ideas because I wouldn’t touch the internet [while I was there], I’d just listen.”
Listen to SJAYY’s mix for DJ Mag’s Radio 1 Dance residency here.