A few weeks ago we talked to Bentley920, a rap artist out of the Fox Valley in Wisconsin. We discussed then how there isn’t a lot of hip-hop talent to be had in the area, but careful examination can find you a couple of gems, like Alexander Jay. Being a musician in and of itself is a grind, so is being a student, and a parent, so imagine trying to be all 3 of these at once and you begin to get an idea of how hard Alexander Jay has to work. Trying to keep up with these tasks could easily make a guy reserved and gruff, but anytime I’ve met up with him it’s been an overflow of energy and excitement. The artist is 27 years old with the passion and drive of a kid at just 18, it’s both parts inspiring and a bit infuriating because what he pulls off shouldn’t be humanly possible. But not only is he succeeding at being an artist, he still puts in time as a student, and a great father. Following his social media, it sounds like his oldest son is only moments away from taking over his dad’s spot as the family artist. You can read the full interview with him below and also check out his Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Soundcloud while you’re at it.
Tell us a little bit about how you got in to rapping?
AJ: I started listening to hip-hop music at a young age and really fell in love with rap when I was a freshman in high school. I remember taking my brother’s Eminem cd’s and I instantly fell in love with his music. As years went on, my passion for listening to rap grew. I’d buy new cd’s every Tuesday for years. I actually got into rapping after getting clean & sober in 2010. That Christmas I got a turntable and started writing raps for fun. Shortly after that I bought a mic & started seriously writing. My early music was a mix between spoken-word poetry and rap, though. But after just six months of messing around with music, I knew that’s what I wanted to do. Making music helped me express myself as well as keep me out of trouble. I was on probation for my first 2 years in recovery when I started rapping so I had to be cautious in all that I did. There was night’s where I wanted to go to the bars or use, but music kept me grounded. It pushed me forward and still does to this day.
You definitely have a unique sound and flow, but who are some of your influences?
AJ: Yea, I get that a lot. Eminem, Jay-Z, Tupac, Kid Cudi, Yelawolf, Jon Bellion, Samson and CDS are some of my biggest influences. Throughout the past ten years, Eminem and Jay-Z were who I listened to most. I didn’t hear of Macklemore until I got sober, but I could relate to his music so much. He’s also a recovering addict so his message hits home for me. I have a huge passion for local Wisconsin hip-hop artists, because everyone in this state is so different & creative. From artists such as Webster X to Klassik to Oshkosh’s own Mozaic. I listen to a little bit of everything, but ultimately I want to listen to artists that I can relate to on some level.
Oshkosh is starting to fill up with solid local talent, how do you stand apart from the pack?
AJ: There is a lot of talent in Oshkosh now, and I couldn’t be more happy about that. All of the hip-hop artists in this city are so unique. It’s also not about competing with each other. We all work together in some way so it almost feels like we’re a team at times. We collaborate on songs, do videos together and rock shows together. We even promote each other’s music. It’s all love. We all stand out in our own way and I find beauty in that. I stand out by being myself and carrying the message of recovery in my music. My music is personal and tell’s my story. I also create my own music video’s and I’m huge on video promotion. It’s the most fun way to connect with people so I’m always sharing different types of videos. Over the past year, I’ve been working very closely with my Full EFFeKK labelmate: CDS, whom has helped me hone in on my craft. He’s made me a better artist and we’re creating music that feels timeless.
With all that new local talent, and you being one of the veterans, do you try and help those younger artists out?
AJ: I’m always willing to help someone out and I try & do what I can. Like I mentioned before, we all work together in someway, so I think we all have the power to help each other out. They may learn from me, and I definitely learn from them. Knowledge is meant to be shared so if I can stop someone from making mistakes I’ve made, I’d gladly do that. I do believe the biggest way for me to help other artists is by creating videos for them to help make them stand out. I’m just as passionate about creating music videos as I am music. I have several music videos in the works right now with artists in the area, and I’m excited to help make their vision come to life.
Talk to us about the experience of trying to be a father, student, and artist all at the same time. It can’t be an easy balance.
AJ: I think finding balance is one of the hardest things in life. There’s days where I feel like I have it and there’s days where I feel like I don’t. As long as I have some days that feel like I do, I’m good. I truly love what I do, and wouldn’t change a thing. My boys and I connect more because of our love for music & film. We break into wild dances in the car or on long drives we play this rhyming game. I’ll go back & forth with my eldest son to see who can rhyme a certain word with another the most. I’ve put my son Carter on a song before and last year he even came to a show & started dancing on stage to it. The crowd loved him way more than me, haha. It was one of the best moments of my music career. I can get pretty frustrated with school, but I know it’s good for me. I major in Radio-TV-Film with a minor in the Music Industry so I love all my major & minor classes. It’s just the gen eds that frustrate me at times. I’m getting close to being done though, and that will be a huge accomplishment for me. Being a father, going to school, and running a video production company makes me a better artist. I do a lot of different things and meet a lot of cool people that constantly inspire me.
Was there ever a moment when you sat down and thought “Man, I have two kids I need to take care of, maybe I should forget about rap and get something more stable” or were you set on making it all work?
AJ: There is no doubt that it’s harder for me to do what I do because I have two young boys. I’m not with their moms and I have them 50% of the time. When I’m not with them, I usually stay up all night working on music or videos for clients. That hard work is paying off, though. The beautiful thing is, my music career spawned my video career. I’ve realized I’m passionate about both. And doing both allows me to never get sick of one or the other. To be honest, there has been moments in my career where the thought, “Is this all worth it?” came up, but it quickly passes. Usually that comes to mind after being up all night working. Really I’m just super tired and need to go to bed. Year after year, bigger & better opportunities arise so I keep pushing forward. It’s taken me many years to actually get good at what I do so all I think is, how can I stop now? I want to be great at what I do so I won’t stop. I have two beautiful boys that will grow up seeing their father chase his dreams. They will know they can do anything they want in this life if they work hard and stay dedicated. I believe their heart has to be in the right place and they have to be passionate about whatever it is that they want to do. I just hope one day they find something that fulfills them like music & videography does for me.
All that said, you do seem to pull it off being a great dad, a good rapper, make visually stunning videos and photos, I gotta ask is there anything you can’t do well?
AJ: Thank you, I appreciate that. I definitely don’t feel like I can do everything. Being a father is fun and makes me feel like a kid again at times. I get to act like a weirdo & the kids think I’m hilarious. I have amazing parents who’ve helped teach me how to be a parent. They’ve set a good example so that helps. Being a dad teaches me kindness & patience. As I get older, I feel like I’m becoming a better father. Just like with music… The longer I do it, the better I get. I work with people who are better than me & that makes me better. My labelmates: M.A. Johnson & CDS have pushed me to be a better writer & all around artist. What I truly love about the music & film industry is, it revolves around technology. Technology is always advancing so quickly and there’s always something new to learn. Whether it be a new recording program or a new camera. I need to be challenged and this industry is one that will constantly push you. There’s always someone redefining how you can do things. It’s amazing, there’s so many people to learn from. I can never stop learning & growing.
With so many different talents and interests. what is the goal for Alexander Jay? What’s the current definition of “I’ve made it” for you?
AJ: The overall goal is to just simply keep creating. Keep making music, keep making videos, but out-do what I’ve previously done. I have a lot of faith in my Full EFFeKK team as well as other artists in the area. I believe if we keep working hard like we have been, something big will happen. I try really hard to live in the moment, so I don’t like to think about where I’ll be in five or ten years. I’m happy right now and I just want to work with more people who have the same goals & aspirations. I’m writing all this at 1am after a long weekend of shows & moving into a new place. I feel very humbled from the support of others lately. With music, videos and everything else. CDS & I have had some big song & video releases lately. The amount of love on each release has been unreal. Earlier tonight, I was sitting at a stoplight and my song “Devil Daughter” was about to be on the radio… I thought, wow, we had several awesome shows this weekend, had an interviewon Friday, people are supporting us like crazy, and I just moved into an awesome downtown apartment that will serve as my home, studio and office with my best friend Cullen Sampson. I started to get chills, the hair on my arm stuck up, and I was damn near in tears of joy… That moment right there made me feel like I made it.