Words by Ashley Lyle
Maryland rapper Jay IDK has partnered with Adult Swim to produce visual content in conjunction with the release of his upcoming album, he tells Billboardexclusively.
Adult Swim has been delving heavily into the hip-hop space. Last year, the late-night Cartoon Network programming block rolled out its sixth annual installment of the Singles program — which releases a series of singles from underground artists — featuring music from Mike Will Made-It, Vince Staples, Earl Sweatshirt, and Run the Jewels.
Jay IDK emerged on the scene with his 2015 debut album Subtrap — home to the gritty standout “God Said Trap” — and followed up the conceptual album with the full-length project Empty Bank, released last September independently via his own HXLY label. Fast forward a year later, and the MC’s buzz earned him a spot on tour with rapper Isaiah Rashad for his Lil Sunny tour in the U.S. Jay’s aggressive yet conscious style of rapping has put him on the map as a lyricist to watch coming out of the DMV.
Billboard recently spoke to Jay on his Adult Swim partnership, working with Mike Dean, and what he hopes listeners take away from his music.
Did you watch Adult Swim growing up? What were your favorite shows?
Yeah, I did. Robot Chicken was one of my favorite shows. Wonder Showzen too.
How did the partnership with Adult Swim come about?
It was an idea I had in terms of finding a new way to drop my album. I did a conceptual album previously [with Subtrap] where it’s important to understand the story, and I just thought it would be great to paint a picture visually and then have a TV component. And even before that, I was getting my project together and taking beats that sounded like it could be on Adult Swim. Actually, I had the Adult Swim logo as my screensaver. I was seeing it everyday, putting it in my mind. Law of attraction. So then, that’s how I came up with the idea.
Why Adult Swim?
I just like their music a lot — their music on their commercials. There’s something to it that no other channel has. It feels like late-night TV.
How did you get in touch with them?
I reached out, but what’s crazy is Jason DeMarco, SVP/Creative Director of Adult Swim, saw my album Empty Bank when it dropped and tweeted about it. So then I reached out to him. I didn’t know him at first but knew he worked at Adult Swim. I was like ‘Yo, I really like Adult Swim’. He said thank you, and we just kept in touch. So when the idea came about, I was making my album sounding like Adult Swim, not thinking about him or thinking about trying to hit him up. I was just thinking about the project. But I remember he said if you ever want to drop a visual with us, let me know so I always kept that in the back of my mind. So when I came up with the idea, I hit him up.
When you say sound like Adult Swim, what is that sound?
It’s hard to explain it. It’s nothing you really can explain. Everyone who watches Adult Swim knows there’s a sound to it, a feeling that’s nostalgic sometimes but then it’s also different and outside the box. They play a lot of J Dilla and stuff like that.
What are the terms of this deal? Is Adult Swim apart of the creative process or just funding the project?
It’s definitely for my next album, but it’s multiple components. I’m going to work with their creative team to come up with certain visuals to paint the picture we’re trying to paint for the album. That’s all I can say for now.
Where are you in the process of recording the album?
We’ve recorded about 40 songs so far to date, and I’m doing two to three [songs] a day. I’m looking for records to help tell the story I want to tell then I’ll start planning out days.
I saw a picture of you working with Mike Dean in the studio. How did you link up with him?
Someone wanted to do an interview with me from a publication that didn’t really listen to rap that much. But he really liked my music, and I didn’t know, but he happened to be friends with Mike Dean. So he was playing my music one day and Mike asked who was it, and he said it was me. From there, Mike was like, “I want to meet him. I like his music.” Literally after that, we met up at his pop-up show. I performed there and he liked the performance. And then we just built a relationship from there.
What story do you want to share in your music?
It’s the story of my life as a kid and growing up. Coming from a middle class home, parents going to college and having education but then me going to a school where if you don’t go to a private school, you’re going to go to a bad school even if you live in a decent neighborhood. I just went to a bad school and went a different path than my parents so I’m going to talk about that.
What do you want people to take away from your music?
I want people to understand balance. I might make a banger and that’s the way that I feel and then I may want to make a song that’s really deep. It’s a representation of my name, Ignorantly delivering knowledge. If you also see on my social media, my name is Baby Scale. That scale represents balance.