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The Crackle: We caught up with underground GOAT, Jay Alpha

The first in a new series exploring up and coming talent in the underground hip hop production scene

26th Dec 2016

The Crackle is a new series exploring, celebrating and shining a light on those artists that are still on the way to making their art fulltime.

Everyday these artists grind in their bedrooms or garages making beautiful pieces of music and developing their own unique styles. In this series I will be talking to these people. Finding out what makes them tick, exploring their music and getting an inside look on a world too often overlooked.

For our first entry into The Crackle we have an interview with the Brooklyn producer, Jay Alpha. His newest album, ‘Opus de Alpha-ism’ dropped on the 15th and I got a chance to talk to him about the project and his music.

Hello Jay Alpha! So your new album ‘Opus de Alpha-ism’ has recently dropped. How do you feel?

To be honest I’m very casual about it. At first I was very excited about the deal that it was gonna be released on vinyl. But after spending months trying to get it into fruition, now that it’s finally happened… not gonna lie kinda not as hype as I was before. I guess I’ll wait to get the record to know it’s true. It will be a surreal moment for me.

Ah Okay. That’s interesting. So almost like you have spent too long with it and it doesn't feel real?

Kinda like that. Those beats you heard were made months ago. You know that feeling you get on hearing old beats over again? I try to be fresh but I'm def proud of my project.

I get you, I get you. It’s been released through Radio Juicy. You have worked with them a few times before. How did that partnership come about?

Crazy you say that. I was a part of Blvnt Records before Radio Juicy. Before the boom (at Blvnt Records), I was let go. All of a sudden this guy messaged me on Facebook saying he wants to show my music to his brother. Turns out his brother is in charge of Radio Juicy and works with Urban Waves! Crazy how things work out!

Wow that’s mad! So was vinyl release something you had planned for a while with them?

Ultimately vinyl release period was my goal but I didn’t know they were gonna do it. As a matter of fact it was after ‘My Saga’ they wanted to do a vinyl deal and I thought they were joking but they wasn’t. Haha

Oh wow so a total surprise for you then as well!

Yeah it was and to have released a cassette and vinyl within the same year!

It must be crazy! Definitely seeing movements though. So moving on to the album itself. There’s a distinct Latin vibe to some tracks. Not just in sample choice but also certain rhythms and sounds. It’s a style that seems quite popular at moment. Not just with your music but across the underground scene. Why do you think this is and what drew you to it?

Yes the Latin vibe... I don’t know if I can speak for others but to me it sets a calming mood. Especially bossanova. Hearing the vibraphones and the Fender Rhodes in some tracks and on others hearing the complexity of the percussion. From hats to bongos and congas and wood putting it all together to make such wonderful music it puts me into a different place.

Yeah I get you. I think your sample choices are really interesting and you seem to go more for ‘vibes’ than specific loops? Would you say this is fair?

Kinda a mixture together. What I do mostly, if you're familiar with Ableton and the MPC, is taking a specific slice of the sample; putting it into simpler or 16 levels respectively and making a whole new melody from that one little sample. Since I’ve been copyrighted before. Don’t get me wrong looping is life.

So is the chopping more a necessity or do you see as an artistic choice?

Artistic choice. More props to anyone doing the chops but as long the vibe hits and sounds amazing that’s all that should matter.

Absolutely. When you are searching for this vibe, are you seeing the final beat as more of a standalone instrumental or as the basis for a rapper to spit on? Or a singer?

Standalone instrumental absolutely! Not trying to diss rappers but that’s why I got into beats, why I mainly listen to instrumentals. I remember looking up J Dilla beat videos on Youtube and a lot of people commenting on them saying they don’t want any rapper to spit on the beats. Just listening to them says a lot. I’d rather inspire you to go on a trip to space then to rap. I might give a little leeway to singers.

Fair enough. I’ve been following your music for a few years and I’m actually really interested to know which musicians influence you? I think a lot of beatmakers get compared to the ‘classic’ producers, which is no bad thing, but your sound palette seems very rich and like you perhaps take influences from a more diverse place?

Madlib has been inspiring me a lot lately. Mainly from a musical perspective, more of his ‘Shades of Blue’ and ‘Yesterday's New Quintet’ work. I like to evolve. Not just in making beats. I want to make jazz and sometimes I get influenced by Dam Funk and make some 80's funk.

Ahh cool. You can really hear that broad array in your work. You’re also from Brooklyn. Has that played a part in your sounds development?

It has but in a weird way. It’s not my main source of developing my sounds but influences me trying to grind. Almost having to force it out because to put it lightly, it’s not easy living here in my area.

I get you. Like your area has pushed you to work harder than anyone else?

Yes to try to escape. I can think on traveling through space in my beats. Just far away from dealing with grey Brooklyn. It does have its shining moments though.

Ok yeah I feel you. Alright so just moving into something that I and I’m sure many others have noticed online. You perform in blue surgical gloves on stage. Is there a story behind that?

My late aunt/godmother passed away before my first show. As a kid she was the first one to tell me what it’s like to have a passion for something as she was a nurse/caretaker, hence the gloves. I remember her asking me what I want to be when I grow up when I was 12. I probably said being a cartoonist/gamer. She told me if that’s what I really want to do I should not allow anything to put me off that goal. Even if I was poor she told me to keep doing what I love to do.

Oh wow that’s beautiful man. What a nice tribute.

Yeah it was to be only that first show but people caught on and who knows? It might be as famous as Doom’s mask one day.

Absolutely man! Thank you so much for taking time to talk to us at Keakie! So ‘Opus de Alpha-ism’ is out now but where can we find more excellent music and follow you, Jay?

Alrighty. Peace! Y’all can follow me on Facebook at ‘Jay Alpha’


Listen to cuts from ‘Opus de Alpha-ism’ below:

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