• Sophia Hill

First Listen: Jay Dako

For this First Listen feature we are introducing South West London native Jay Dako and his latest release ‘Third Eye’. We give our initial thoughts on the single and chat with Jay about his own perspective.

Enterprising in sound and scope, Jay Dako’s latest release – ‘Third Eye’ – acts as a vivid ode to having been raised on the buoyant Pan-Arab sounds of Zukra and Chaabi music. This included turn-of-the-century greats like Cheb Khaled, Cheb Mami and Gnawa Diffusion. The list continues with a diverse catalogue of influences from various celebrated musicians like Bob Marley, Gregory Isaacs and Marvin Gaye.

Born in Roehampton Jay learned to adapt to his surroundings with ease – a by-product of frequently moving around while growing up between West and South West London. Eventually, Jay returned to Roehampton and set a base for himself there. Talking about his hometown Jay acknowledges “South West London is my ends and I’d love to be a musical representative for this part of the city. Growing up in places like a large estate has clearly had an influence on not just my music but the way I talk, walk, dress and my perspective on life. It’s given me an innate sense of self-confidence because if you don’t stand up for what you believe in people will just walk over you. As the saying goes, if you don’t believe in yourself why should others buy into you?”.

The rising artist creates an intersection between an upbringing in London and his North African roots. His lineage seems like part of a formula to the rare antidote of a rap scene that often dismisses such a high level of consciousness. Speaking on his upbringing Jay notes “coming from a mixed African and North African household, I’ve naturally been exposed to a variety of ideas and cultures. As my career progresses I definitely aim to tap into this side of me more, exploring what it means and feels like to be from different places and whether you can ever call one place home.”.

First Listen

Upon first hearing Jay’s single I noticed a sense of calm that Jay emits through his music. ‘Third Eye’ hones in Jay’s pensive nature and emotive brand of story-telling, portraying a richly detailed depiction of Jay Dako’s inner thoughts. The track has just the right amount of vulnerability as Jay sheds light on his own vices.

His delivery is well-patterned and his message is relayed with gusto, a guide to discovering your own spirituality and a reminder that in order to continue moving forward in life you must also appreciate what steps brought you thus far. The narrative becomes increasingly profound as the production on his track rolls out soft inflections of flute with thanks to producer Infrared.

Artist’s Perception

“This single is about tapping into your spiritual side by gaining knowledge and wisdom that will enable you to be positive and righteous. Through the lyrics I really explore my vices and the experiences I have had in life, eventually concluding that they have given me strength and I am a better person now because of them. The song also teaches you to be more cautious of the energy you keep around you and to notice people’s fake traits.”

“While I want listeners to feel a vibe when hearing this song, I want to promote consciousness within my music – allowing and encouraging the listener to tap into themselves more often and explore the reality they live in. I like to think I’m spiritual and I want to spread positive vibrations through my sound. It’s definitely a form of spiritual connection with the homeland that allowed me to stay in touch with my roots despite living so far away – and it all ties back into the theme of the ‘Third Eye’, being watched over in life and guided on this journey. ”

Jay is creative to the core and is constantly raising the bar for himself – “I love the feeling of accomplishment when having started something and seeing it through to the end. I’m also obsessive and always look to improve my craft. Recognition is not what I’m chasing, I’m running after perfection and even if I get close – well then I’ve done pretty good. I also want to promote consciousness and take care of one’s mental health. Too many rappers out here are one dimensional and only offer materialistic visions of life. I want to be an antidote to this culture.”

Some musicians play instruments, some even produce their own music. For Jay, his voice and his writing are the instruments. “Writing is one of the few activities that I feel truly at peace while doing and it allows me to get thoughts and feeling out in a way that I sometimes struggle to articulate in other mediums. It just flows. Pursuing music as a hobby or career is also one of the few things that doesn’t feel like a chore or obligation in my life. I want to be free and self-reliant, music allows me to do exactly that.”

First Watch

Presenting a perfect counterpart to the single, the visuals are shot on the very estate which Jay grew up on, located in SW London. The video illustrates Jay returning to this estate and the very spots he used to hang out in when he was younger.

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