Speaking to Jay and Josh from Room4 – an upcoming, UK based, music label/collective, this week presented real insight into the trials, tribulations and goals of the next youthful influx into the music industry from both a musical and business perspective.
Room4 started less than a year ago in a university room, number 4 unsurprisingly, where Jay says him and Josh would go ‘create music and vibe.’
Jay Radia says he is the executive and A&R figure at Room4, comparing himself to a Dame Dash or LA Reid figure; whereas Josh Ogunmokun is more hands on with the musical side. It feels as if there is a fluidity to their work however, Josh says ‘there is no line in the sand’ regarding who works on what.
Whilst working at Relentless Records, home of Not3s, Professor Green and Nadia Rose, Jay found his motivation to become part of the music industry. He told me he once had the chance to sit with legendary radio DJ, DJ Semtex by coincidence at the Sony café where Semtex offered his advice, telling Jay to put out his own tapes, create your own portfolio and learn along the way.
This is very much a running theme in the ever evolving music industry now days. A do it yourself attitude where producers, videographers and artists alike network and create product for themselves and worry about label attention later. Something I feel Room4 stand by too.
Room4 just released Future Memories Volume 1, a project that showcases various sounds, styles and genres. There are hints of afrobeats, grime and more American style Hip-Hop all over this tape, something Jay says was intentional - ‘we don’t really look for a specific sound, just raw talent.’ However he did mention their next work may well be more cohesive.
I wanted to find out more about the pair’s musical inspirations. Jay states he’s more into U.S music and Josh is more in-tune with the U.K scene as well as also loving American artists too.
Jay claims Kanye West and G.O.O.D music to be his ultimate inspirations both musically and business-wise. I asked him one of the most polarizing questions in modern history – ‘What’s your favorite Kanye album?’ ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, I cried when I first heard Runaway’he admits.
I delved into a music orientated conversation with Josh, as the self-proclaimed music fiend, I felt it was only right.
What is you earliest memory of music?
‘Dancing! Me and my brother used to dance to like, MTV, I really cant dance, my parents probably used to laugh at me but that’s probably when I realized that I really love music’
Josh’s brother is Afrobeats artist/producer ATG music and his father sung in the choir, therefore he was encouraged from a young age to learn about music and play an instrument…
‘I started playing guitar around 7 but didn’t really enjoy it till secondary school, then my brother got fruity loops so started playing round with that – from there I played with the idea of producing.’
First album you bought?
‘The first album I actually bought was Good Kid M.a.a.d City, but the first album that was bought for me was the NERD album with the red cover (Fly or Die). Obviously I had other albums before that through other means on the Internet but I felt I owed Kendrick my money, it was that good, it’s the only CD I actually own still’
Who was the biggest inspiration in deciding to pursue music?
‘My brother was my inspiration when it came to production, I saw him making beats and thought –oh that looks cool. He told me if you wanna do this properly, buy your own equipment. I did it for myself, as an emotional release. I’m a quiet guy. Then my friends started rapping and singing over my stuff.’
So did your brothers involvement in Afrobeats attracted or repel you from creating that sound?
‘I never really was interested in making afro beats until it was undeniably the wave, but sometimes people would ask me to make something like that and although I wasn’t really studying it I was still around it so much, I'd be able to produce it.’
You mentioned studying, who were you studying at the time?
‘Early days the people I was studying would have to have been like Frank Ocean around Nostalgia Ultra and Kanye was of course a big big inspiration. Then Joey Badass came out with the east coast movement so it was all boom-bap sounds and learning how to sample. As things kinda progressed then I got into electronic stuff like Flume, tryna understand sound design.’
What about your producer inspirations? Who are your Top 5?
‘Pharrell, Kanye, 9th Wonder, Timberland, Dr Dre. No Order. I’ve got a poster on my wall that has 9th, Pharrell, Dre, Timberland and 40 on. Those are the people I try to hone my sound on, and Kanye obviously. But I’m still looking for my sound, I’m still on a journey.’
If you could work with one US and one UK artist who would they be?
‘Frank Ocean for U.S. UK, not right now, but in a year or so I’d say Young Teflon. His verse on GMO is one of the best UK verses I’ve ever heard. But I don’t think I’m ready just yet.
I asked a similar question to Jay: If you could sign one artist right now who would it be?
‘Lil Pump, numbers don’t lie.’
Said like a true music executive.
Josh brought up Frank Ocean a few times in our discussion so I asked – Blond or Channel Orange?
‘I cant even tell you. There are moments on blond where I’m like this is fucking insane. I actually think I might prefer blond.’
What about rappers, Top 5?
(After lots of thinking) ‘Kendrick, Biggie, Jay-z, Wretch 32 and Kano. Like I can hear Big L and be like yeah he’s going in but Kano is from east and I grew up in east, or when Skepta says 'I went wireless then walked home in the pouring rain,' I’m like yes! I feel that. I just connect with it more’
After Josh and I nerded out over music for a little bit, something we could probably have done for hours, we spoke more about the business side of things. Something I spoke to Jay about also.
I asked how they see Room4 as an overall brand and how they will collaborate and grow. Jay replied:
‘More than just putting out music, we want to throw events too. We had a showcase recently – it was an intimate event with performances from Kwoli black and others – Josh made a beat on the spot and people came up and performed’
Josh added to the topic:
‘I like the idea of meeting people, everyone on the tape we know them in real life. Like at the event we had in Nottingham, I just got my MPC out and created a beat on the spot and like 7 people came up and spit, so if I hear something I like or can see where I can help you, that’s what I prefer, rather than oh he’s buzzing lets reach out to him. Or his followers are on this much etc, there are enough people that are doing that. I’m tryna exist in a real world.’
On how they aim to get noticed in such a saturated market:
‘I got into music because its an addiction. Some people do it for their own gain, like doing it for clout or whatever. But when you’re addicted to something its different. Obviously I’m working a 9-5 now because I need money in my pocket but then its right back to the studio and I’m never going to stop that. So if I blow up, I blow up, if not I just want my music to connect to people. Whether it’s a hundred people, a thousand people or a million people. There is no real formula, I’m just here to bring good music.’ – Josh
I then asked about any artist to have caught Josh’s attention in recent times and he hilariously mentioned Octavian. The hilarity is due to the fact that just 10 minutes before the interview I had posted this piece on Octavian and it was almost as if Josh was quoting directly from it.
‘The last person to grab me was that Octavian guy. He’s so cold with it. Everyone wants to be the plug or an A&R, everyone is saying oh this kids the future but they all sound like J Hus or Kojo Funds, but I think Octavian, I just couldn’t put my finger on it. When I hear something that grabs me like that, it goes straight to the playlist.
Before we finished speaking I asked what their goals are for the coming year. Jay says how he hopes to release a few more tapes and throw more events, but it is tough to balance work and the music especially with his dissertation due in in a month.
It’s an interesting dynamic balancing university or 9 to 5 work with trying to make it in the music industry at such a young age. Room4 seem to be taking it by the scruff of the neck in trying to develop an authentically birthed entity that will hopefully live within the music business for time to come.
Be sure to keep an eye out for their future projects.