Entering Jaya’s dream

Over the coming days and weeks, Leicestershire Press will be showcasing the work by some of this year’s graduates from the Journalism programme at De Montfort University. Our Class of 2020 series kicks off with a profile of JayaHadaDream by Rosie Vacciana-Browne

It was an overcast afternoon in mid-January, terrace houses stretched up and down the street grazing the drizzly skyline. Everything was grey. Everything but a single burst of colour beaming from a window; it was wide open, the vibrant green and yellow of a Jamaican flag dancing in the blistering wind. X marks the spot.

This window belonged to 20-year-old rapper and student JayaHadADream (Jaya). A Cambridge native, Jaya started her musical journey in 2019 after moving to Nottingham to study. Like many creatives, she balances her art alongside other responsibilities. “I rap, I sing, I produce, and I study at the University of Nottingham.” Diverse in every sense of the word, JayaHadADream is a self-sufficient musical entity with the brains to back it.

Her music is powerful, as much a challenge to society as it is rhythmic in its beats. Her debut album, titled Hypersensitive, was released late last year. It explored love, life and the experience of a mixed-race woman living in a culture that is quick to label people as “hypersensitive snowflakes”. From top to bottom throughout every inch of her music, Jaya is trying to spread a message. She challenges austerity cuts, politicians, misogyny and explores her Irish/Caribbean heritage, emotions and mental health. A bucking of the rap trend that often focuses on monetary and physical booty.

With a warm smile, JayaHadADream opens the door to her student digs. “Come in. We’ll go upstairs. My friend uses the living room to sell his Depop clothes.” On paper, this could be a house share in gentrified London or the plot to Netflix’ next big series ‘The Rapper and the Fashion house’. “Do you want a tea or anything?”, her hospitality was beyond anything I had experienced in halls. We headed upstairs to discuss her music and upcoming ventures.

Her room was vibrant and energised. The walls painted a mustard yellow, covered in pictures of friends, family and her boyfriend. There were incense sticks and a mic already set up. It felt like her music, the consciousness of her lyrics scrawled across her room. “I try and get the most run-down places, so they can’t complain about me smoking weed.” This bedroom was the beginnings of a rap star, I was sure.

While some have greatness thrust upon them, others seize it by choosing a stage name like ‘JayaHadADream’; an intentional nod to Martin Luther King Jr’s ‘I Had A Dream’ speech. It seemed fitting to ask what Jaya’s dream for present-day Britain would be. “It’s quite unrealistic, but if I could eradicate inequality, a lot of other things wouldn’t be a problem. Like cultural appropriation wouldn’t be a problem if everyone was equal and respected equally.”

In recent years, the right-wing press has made its views on British rap abundantly clear, tearing down artists and demonising the genre. One of those leading the charge is Daily Mail writer, Good Morning Britain presenter and online troll, Piers Morgan. Piers is ever labelling liberals as ‘snowflakes’ and loves to head to his Twitter to have online spats with those who he does not agree with (popular rapper Stromzy being amongst them).

It seems at this point to be a rite of passage for those at the forefront of activism to receive an online attack from Mr Morgan. As a political, black female rapper, I knew that Jaya could be at the top of Piers’ list if she were to burst into the mainstream, but to block or to reply? That is the question with Twitter. “I’d 100% reply, he’d probably end up blocking me, but I’d reply. I’d love Piers to message me. It’d make my day because I hate him so much. I’m sorry it must be said. The whole Good Morning show needs to be banned. They can’t be reproducing that.”

The 14-tracks on Hypersensitive take listeners on a journey through JayaHadADream’s mind; it’s honest and real. I asked her to pick her three favourite tracks for people to listen to if they wanted to get to know her music.

The first song she chose was ‘Admittedly’. “It perfectly encapsulates the daily routine of my life before I was proper making music and came to university; writing music, smoking weed and feeling angsty and depressed. Things weren’t right and so much was unfinished before I left (home). It reminds me of where I am now and of habits that everyone has like ‘admittedly I spend too long on my phone’.” The track features rapper Ben DSP.

Her second choice was ‘Challice’ 99’, a song that challenges the (unwanted) opinions put onto us by older generations.

 

“I wrote it in summer, I was just chilling, I had no Wi-Fi, and my head was in a weird space, but I made some sick music. I like the way I mixed my harmonies and what it’s about. I re- spect a lot of my elders. But, I think a lot of them can be quite condescending when it comes to music because it’s very different now and it’s way more possible (to make it), I think some of them try and hold you down for their ego. Not all of them, a lot of them have helped me, but there’s a few I get a vibe off. The songs quite vengeful but sometimes that’s necessary.”

Jaya’s third and final track was ‘Real Love’ a modern-day sonnet and love letter for the youth. “It bounces up and down it’s so hard to perform because it’s singing, then slightly singing, then rapping, then singing – there are no breaks. It’s just about the difficulties in love because I think social media and expectations have ruined a lot of things.”

JayaHadADream is only just at the beginning of her career but at the start of 2020 she looked to have a bright year ahead of her, with numerous performances lined up across the country, including the Nottingham and Cambridge stops of rapper Shay D’s Queens of Arts Women in Hip Hop Tour 2020. “That was going to be a big thing for me, especially to meet and network with all those female artists,” she says.

We all know what happened next. But live music will be back, one day, and seeing JayaHadADream is an experience that goes far beyond your average gig, so catch her when you can.

JayaHadADream’s Hypersensitive is available on all platforms.

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