New Jersey DJ and producer Kalayisa Drake, also known as KAYY, is pioneering her way onto the local and European club scene. Her specialty is Jersey Club music, but she never fails to please the diverse crowds, offering mixes of Trap, Moombahton, Ballroom/Vogue and more.
Originally a solo artist, KAYY eventually joined the Jersey Club collective, Brick Bandits. Since then, she’s DJ’d all over, been featured in various blogs and music documentaries and had a mention from The Fader as “Jersey’s First Female Club Producer.”
Last summer, she had the opportunity to go overseas and do shows for Radar Radio. Her mini-documentary outlines the journey to date and the highlighted London tour.
What exactly inspired you to begin your profession and when did you officially start?
Growing up, I’ve always been a big fan of Missy Elliott’s music production. I’ve had almost every album she put out. The fact she is an accomplished African-American woman in a field most men label, “A Man’s Field,” motivated me to want to do my own thing with music. Seeing women accomplish great things is my biggest motivation. In 2007, my great friend, Beach Boy Spank (FKA MIKE GIP) motivated me to get into producing Jersey Club Music and DJing because of my love for the genre, and my respect for the late “Club Queen,” DJ K-SWIFT. Starting off a vocalist, I worked my way up into actually getting down with software and hardware to start my career as a producer and DJ.
What has been the biggest highlight of your career so far and why?
The biggest highlight of my career thus far is being able to tour to other countries. Going to London was a huge turning point for me because my fan base is huge over there and they support me in everything I do. Not to mention, the club/party scene is dope and chill; the people are very welcoming, and the whole London vibe is just something you don’t feel everyday being here in America. I can also say being able to be in the same room with many of Jersey’s talented individuals at the Verboten in New York for the Jersey Club Documentary release party was a turning point, too. That was the day I became a “Brick Bandit,” standing on stage next to my peers and representing Jersey to the fullest. It was a great feeling.
How has your life changed since you began your journey and what are you expecting next?
My life has changed drastically since I’ve began my journey. I’ve lost friends because they always told me I dream too big and I was too naive. Family was proud as I started, but now I barely hear from them. There are handfuls who do cheer me on, though. Living situations changed, too, because I’m always on the go—at a studio, DJing somewhere or helping out the community. It changed positively though because music got me through so much. If it wasn’t for music, I really wouldn’t be here right now. Music has made me grown into the woman I’ve always wanted to become and I love the outcome. I’ve met some very dope artists on my journey and I continue to run into more people who are on a journey, too. I am expecting to travel the world helping others achieve their goals because growing up I knew what it felt like to always be discouraged or have no support system. I want to give back to the community and start a non-profit for children, who would like to get into arts since my love for music and art started as a child.
What characteristics do you believe are important to have in order to be successful and why?
I believe in order to be successful, you must stay humble, open-minded, consistent, confident and, most importantly, be yourself. Nobody wants to deal with a cocky artist who pushes people away. You always have to be open-minded because you have an audience you’re presenting your craft to and not everyone is a big fan of Jersey Club or Hip Hop, Juke, etc. You have to be versatile and open-minded out of satisfaction for the listeners. Consistency is key because if you don’t keep up with your work, your fans are going to assume you came across a hard spot and gave up. It can slow you down a lot. It’s important to be confident because if you don’t believe in yourself or your craft, how can anyone else believe in you? You should always be confident and a role model to those who look up to you. And last, you should always be yourself. That’s the personality you portray as an artist/musician. People will love to see the cool, creative person you are. Not the person you pretend to be. Image is everything, but your personality is what makes you as an artist.
For the young generation inspired by your achievements, what advice could you offer to those pursuing a career in the entertainment industry?
Remain humble, even if it seems like things are moving too slowly. Great things take time and for some, they move forward quickly than others. I would also tell them to be their own person instead of following after the next. Yes, it’s perfectly fine to look up to someone, but remember: your craft, your name and your story is what makes you unique as an artist. Never brag about what you’ve accomplished or what you have coming because anything can happen. Just go with the flow and remain persistent and consistent. Remember the reason why you first started and make sure it’s all for the good reasons.
What prominent individuals in entertainment inspire you and why?
A few individuals in the music industry who inspire me are Missy Elliott, Nicki Minaj, Kanye West, Just Blaze and DJ Mustard. Missy Elliott is a dope producer and her flow is just SICK. She has overcome many obstacles in life, which reminds me of myself and I have so much respect for her to keep at her goals while experiencing hardships. I love Nicki Minaj because she’s a Sagittarius like me. We aim for our goals and never take our eye off the prize. Watching her documentaries and seeing how far she’s come up is very inspiring because I can relate my life to hers in many ways. Starting off as a young rapper, going through her hardships, being mocked, judged and discouraged, I can definitely feel for her on an emotional level. You go, Nicki. Kanye? Pshh, straight D-O-P-E. He’s so dedicated to his career that he’s spent summers locked in his room working on beats all day because he knew his hard work would pay off. All work and no play until later. This is what I’ve done. I’ve locked myself in my room for days at a time and wouldn’t come out until I was satisfied with my work, and his confidence is to die for. You always have to be confident. He is a mastermind behind his production. I wish to work with these three producers soon in the future. Just Blaze, I’ve always been a fan of his work since “Girls, Girls, Girls,” which he produced for Jay Z. He’s produced a lot of records that I’m such a huge fan of, such as Flipside, Song Cry, Breathe, and the list goes on. I’ve actually got to see him spin live on my birthday at a Thread event in Newark and it was an honor to be in his presence. DJ Mustard has the radio on lock with his production, as well for the big artists today. I can’t wait until my day comes to be able to work with them.
As far as the Jersey Club scene, I look up to DJ Tameil, creator Of Jersey Club, DJ Jayhood, king of Booty Bounce music, DJ SLiiNK, Jersey Club King, Mike Gip and Nadus. Each and every single one of them have pushed me and motivated me to keep going with my craft because they always told me I was too dope of a producer/DJ to let all my talent go down the drain. Working with these talented individuals is such a blessing. They all are working towards their goals and seeing them get ahead is just more motivation for me to keep going. When DJ Tameil heard of me, he told me I remind him of his sis, DJ K-Swift, and ever since, he’s saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. He pushed me to keep going because as a female in the Jersey Club Scene at the time, it was very rare. DJ Jayhood has always been one of my favorite Jersey Club Producers/DJ’s, who has the scene on lock. I always made sure my playlist was full of his music. Ever since we linked up and started working on Bad Ink Radio, he has taught me the ropes and confidence I need to keep going. Thank you Hood. SLiiNK is another producer who filled up my iPod. His style is so different from others; his whole persona is just chill. Coming up from New Breed Crew days with him, I am so proud of how far he’s taken his craft and he’s put Jersey on the map. He’s like the ring leader, paving a path for everyone else to walk down, but also letting them choose where they want to take their craft. Mike Gip, known as Beach Boy Spank is a big influence. Being the only two producers/DJs coming out of Long Branch, we’ve stuck together since day one making things happen, becoming one of the dynamic duo’s of Jersey Club. He has always been one of my biggest believers and I appreciate him for the support and long talks about where we will go next. Nadus – he’s like my guidance. Nadus plays a big part in my journey. When I feel discouraged about why I began in the first place, he brings me back to reality. His inspiring words are just the right ones to keep you confident in yourself and your craft. Not to mention we both produce Juke/Footwork, one of my favorite genres. I’ve learned a lot from this man and he’s definitely a great person to work with.
How did you feel you contribute to the innovation of music, and what message are you trying to perceive from your influence?
Being able to collaborate with other great artists and get my sound out there is an honor. Not only music wise, but also helping those along the way to shape their future and guide them, too, with what I was taught. Being a woman motivating, supporting and building other women up in the music entertainment is one thing I’m big on. I feel as if the world needs to see more women accomplishing great things. They say if you want to see change, you have to be that change. It all begins with myself. My influences made me become aware of how talented I am and that there are others out there who look up to me and enjoy my music. They always told me nothing worth having comes easily and you have to work hard for what you want. Your struggles can also be your motivation to push forward and the story of your journey will inspire others to be like you and follow their dreams.