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Southern Rap is Alive and Well: Getting To Know Elevator Jay

By Austin Stallings

August 8, 2015

Those that are unfamiliar with North Carolina hip-hop artist Elevator Jay surely won’t be in the dark for much longer.

The Charlotte-born, self-produced rapper continues to make serious strides for the hip-hop community, namely Southern rap. Carefully treading the line between true-to-the-culture and innovative pioneering, his music pays homage to the greats before him that fostered the sound, yet remains unequivocally his own niche. His lacing of real-life lyricism over soulful, funk-infused beats speaks to that of Outkast and Big Krizzle, and lands itself comfortably in the wheelhouse linking personal and relatable.

His newly released Sum’na Say EP bands together 11 tracks ranging from introspective R&B to up-beat Southern Slab Anthems– not to mention visuals by NoDa-based filmmaker Shamus Coneys, of Wu-Tang collaborative acclaim.

Upon first listen, standouts such as My Turn” and title-track Sum’na Say” emerge as the album’s cornerstones, but it’s continuity throughout becomes its crowning attribute and is what helps separate itself from other projects. Its ability to facilitate hit records, but more importantly tell the artist’s story within its tracks (and between them) is what makes the EP greater than the sum of its parts.

And if you appreciate emcee’s who rock both the mic and the boards, you’ll be treated with an Alchemist-esque instrumental foundation, housing  robust original content within it’s bars. Succeeding on both sides of the studio requires extreme musical talent, and there are very few that can. The Sum’na Say EP is a true throwback to real, soulful music– and it’s maestro seems intent on keeping it coming.

In the wake of the successful release, we sat down with Jay to talk about influence, creative process, and the state of rap as we know it.

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CLTure: What was it that originally got you into hip-hop?

Elevator Jay: I had family members that always had the latest tunes in their possession. I would always be curious, wondering what and who they were listening to. My first taste of rap was when I heard Kriss Kross for the first time. It blew my mind and had me wanting to be just like them. Hell, I even remember trying to wear my clothes backwards lol. From that point on I started to have a love for hip hop and actually wanted to create it.

CLTure: Who, past or present, would you say you draw inspiration from? What would you call your style?

Elevator Jay: All my life I’ve listened to nothing but Southern rap, West Coast rap, R&B and oldies….. oh yeah I grew up in the church and my mom made me sing on the choir when I really didn’t want to. Mix all of that in a blender and you get Elevator Jay.

CLTure: So, who are your favorite artists out right now? In other words, what makes your Top Played list?

EJ: To tell you the truth, I listen to a lot of random underground artists, but not as much as I want to. I’m so busy making my own music that I just don’t have the time to explore like that. So for the most part, I listen to a lot of myself… I study and critique my own music ALL the time, only to be better each day.

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CLTure: How do you approach the sound you want to broadcast for each project? How do you approach your beat selection?

EJ: It’s all about how I feel and what I’m going through at the time. I come up with sounds through emotions.

CLTure: Dead or alive, who would your dream collaboration be with?

EJ: Hmmm….Elevator Jay ft. Anita Baker (Produced by Quincy Jones & Elevator Jay)

CLTure: Being that I’m born and raised in Charlotte, I don’t think the culture within our city is accurately portrayed to the national stage, especially in the hip-hop community. What does being a voice for the city mean to you?

Elevator Jay: Being a voice for the city means giving the people the lifestyle, slang or anything that would paint a picture of Charlotte. Allowing the listener to see the city in their head and actually want to come and see what it’s about.

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CLTure: What does bringing Charlotte, North Carolina, into the hip-hop discussion mean? What will it take for rappers to stop getting labeled and judged by the region they’re from?

EJ: Personally I don’t see anything wrong with being judged by the region you’re from. It’s like getting mad when someones says that they can tell you’re from the south… I don’t get it. Be proud of where you’re from and fly the flag high. It’s not really my cup of tea when someone from one region tries hard to sound like they’re from somewhere else. Sound like your neighborhood. Sound like your city. Sound like yourself.

CLTure: What’s your perspective on the state of the game right now?

EJ: New music is still being released faster than you could blink your eyes. Everybody has the right to make whatever they feel like…I ain’t mad at it.

CLTure: What do you like to do when you’re not in the studio? hobbies/likes/etc.

EJ: When I’m not in the studio I seriously would rather be somewhere fishing… On the search for the biggest bass.

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CLTure: How is the Sum’na Say EP different from your previous albums or works? Sound, lyrics, process etc.

EJ: The Sum’na Say EP is a part of the Evolution of Elevator Jay. Every project will showcase the growth of my lyrics, production and me as a person.

CLTure: You’ve had a lot of success in recognition and have performed with a large list of notable artists. How have your goals in hip-hop changed over the last couple of years?

EJ: Even after all the recognition and shows with notable artists, I still push myself to do better than I was…This is a lifetime goal that will be reached and pushed up higher, only to be reached again.”

CLTure: Do you have any projects you’re working on now? What’s in the pipeline?

EJ: I’m not all the way sure on what’s gonna come next, but I’m always in the studio cooking up new tracks for the world to hear. Stay tuned.

Follow Elevator Jay on twitter and facebook.

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