Elujay is not any stranger to Interstate 5. A 3rd-year enterprise scholar on the University of Redlands, he is made the roughly 400-mile journey between SoCal and his hometown of Oakland a number of instances in the previous couple of years.
In reality, it was as a result of he was nonetheless driving again from Los Angeles that our authentic interview needed to be postponed. About every week earlier than, he’d obtained an e-mail from an A&R government at Atlantic Records who’d found the 20-year-old’s music by means of SoundCloud and wished to satisfy him.
With his finest pal, Derell, and photographer-videographer, Andre Malik, in tow, Elujay headed south the day earlier than the assembly was deliberate. Though he has a distribution take care of San Francisco file label EMPIRE and is represented by Oakland rapper Kamaiyah’s supervisor, Elujay remains to be very a lot an unbiased artist.
“I was excited,” he says of the assembly. “One of the things he told me was that he doesn’t get artists in there often. He pitches artists to his bosses a lot, and they just kind of are not hyped about them. Me getting in there was rare.”
The 45-minute assembly, which befell on a Wednesday on the label’s workplace on Fairfax Avenue, concerned plenty of speaking and a tour of the ability’s studios — the place they met Drake’s ghostwriter, Quentin Miller. At the chief’s behest, Elujay additionally performed tracks from his upcoming debut album, Jentrify, out Friday, Aug. 25.
“This is going to be a breakout record for me,” Elujay says. “And they loved it.”
From a younger age, Elujay was concerned about music, selecting up guitar in elementary faculty, and later trumpet and beat-making.
“I used to sing around the house,” he says, nevertheless it wasn’t till highschool when he began taking part in poetry slams that he started writing his personal verses. Around that point, he was additionally concerned about skateboarding and graffiti tradition, and, if it hadn’t been for a detailed brush with the legislation when he was nearly caught by police whereas tagging public property, he most likely would not have turned his full consideration to creating music. “It was scary,” he says, “so I was just like, ‘I’m going to drop the cans and get serious.’ “
Catching the emcee Kev Choice at Hiero Day in 2014, throughout his junior yr of highschool, additional impressed Elujay to pursue music as a result of it helped him notice that he might mix rapping with singing and stay instrumentals. He dropped his first mixtape quickly thereafter, which included trumpet solos alongside along with his FruityLoops-produced beats.
With Jentrify, his most complete mission up to now, Elujay is hoping to cement himself as an artist on the rise and acquire followers nationwide as a result of he does not “want to just stay local.” More than half a dozen producers labored on the 13-track album, which options visitor appearances from seven Bay Area artists, in addition to stay guitar, percussion, bass, and even saxophone.
As the album’s title suggests, it is loosely centered across the theme of gentrification, particularly within the Bay Area, which Elujay says is changing into stuffed with individuals who “don’t respect the culture and those who have been living in Oakland before they arrived.” The first observe, “One Time,” addresses the topic head-on with strains like, “I hear you’re rolling around the town like you own this bitch.” Songs like “580” and “EBMUD” proceed the motif.
Jentrify can also be a private album, that Elujay says, “has a lot to do with my adolescence and what I went through.”
“It’s not just me making a song like, ‘Oh yeah, I fucked hella bitches / I have all this gold on / I’m moving packs,’ ” he provides.
In “Soul Food,” Elujay makes use of the analogy of meals to speak about craving and struggling from each a private and common standpoint, and “Google Maps” might be an anthem for loners, or not less than an ode to taking time away from society to give attention to oneself. On “We Don’t Mind,” a fragile, piano-laced track with visitor appearances by Oakland singer Samaria and Berkeley rapper Caleborate, Elujay pushes forth his agenda of individualism once more, urging listeners to be happy with who they’re regardless of their variations.
“I’m very blunt and honest about my life,” Elujay explains. “In high school, I really wanted to do what people thought was cool. I was a kid that was really worried about what other people thought.”
Collaborating with different artists, particularly native up-and-comers like singer ymtk and rapper Rexx Life Raj, was one other aim. Referring to them as “gems,” Elujay says he wished to “catch them in a rare moment, before they blow up.”
Many individuals — most of them unpaid — have been concerned within the manufacturing of Jentrify, which was recorded all through 2015 between one among Elujay’s producer’s dwelling studios close to Lake Merritt and All Bay Studios in Berkeley.
“Building the album was not easy,” Elujay says. “It got crazy and hectic, and there were a lot of people in the mix. There was actually a lot of people that wanted to be a part of it that I had to turn down.”
But there have been those that he didn’t say “no” to, like his photographer-videographer Malik. In reality, it’s partly due to Malik, who’s now a member of Elujay’s artist collective One Time, that he says he will not signal to Atlantic, even when a deal have been to be provided.
“I just want to maintain being independent, at least until the right deal comes around,” Elujay says. “I want to bring my team with me. I want all of them to see similar success because they’re the people that helped me brand myself and got me to this level that I’m at right now.”
Jessie Schiewe – archives.sfweekly.com