We recently caught up with Jay Sean at 300 Bowling Alley in Chelsea for his intimate “Neon” album listening event hosted by Monster Headphones.
So why did you decide to call your album “Neon”?
Jay Sean: Well “Neon,” for me, not only was one of the most important songs that I wrote, and one of the most powerful songs I wrote on the album. I think it also symbolizes hope, you know? Faith and positivity. And that’s everything that I’m about in my life and I think that when we write music, it’s a message that’s going out to a lot of people. It’s almost like hypnosis. So I like to give a positive energy out there to my fans. And I felt like nothing symbolized that more than neon.
Your first single “Mars” features Rick Ross. Tell us about how the collaboration with Rick Ross came about and what it was like working with him?
Jay Sean: Well first of all, that song is one of the most important songs for me on this album because I think it really is a bit of a shocker for America and it was important that it was a single for me because I needed America to understand my roots, my background. I came from an R&B background before I got signed onto Cash Money and America does not know that because my biggest hits here have been pop songs. And I said to Cash Money and I said to Baby and Slim, “I’m done with this pop lane because I’m not finding any soul or substance in it. I can’t go on like that – it’s my fourth album, ten years into the game, I don’t want to do that. Can I just give my fans what I’ve been doing before I signed with you guys?” And they were like, “You know what? You do what you got to do, man. You know your fans, you know your music, and we’ve got your back.” And that’s what “Mars” is. And of course once I wrote this song, I knew that it would be right for Rick Ross because me and Rick Ross have known each other for about three years and he always said to me, “If you find the right song, get it to me.” And I did. And he killed it.
And what was the concept for the video for “Mars”?
Jay Sean: Well I wanted the video to be very left field, very different, outside the box, creative. It’s very easy when you’re doing R&B songs and do the clichéd bedroom thing or the club thing. And I was like “I don’t like clichés, I don’t like generic stuff. I want to be creative, I like to be artistic.” And so I wanted to give you what you least expect. And that’s what the video represents.
What do you admire about Rick Ross?
Jay Sean: I just think he’s got mad swag man. His voice, his tone, what he represents, his songs, I’m just a fan of his music and a majority of the stuff that he puts out, I’m like, “All right, I need to get that asap.” And that to me is the sign of a good artist.
Can you speak more about the Hip-Hop influences on “Neon”? You collaborated with Ace Hood on “All On Your Body.”
Jay Sean: Well I’m a big hip hop fan and I have been. You probably know that I’ve been into hip hop before I was into anything else. I grew up at the age of eleven listening to hip-hop and I was obsessed with rap and for me, I respect good MCs. I’m not so much a fan of the hype. I’m not into “Whoever’s the hottest” and “Whoever’s the Streets are digging” because I think you really have to find out for yourself whether you really f*ck with an artist and Ace Hood is a classic example. I listened to his stuff and I listened to “Trials and Revelations” while it was being made and I said, “This guy is a real MC” and I wanted him on my album before he blows up and I know he’s about to blow up big time. That’s how that came about.
What was it like working with Ace Hood?
Jay Sean: Again I had to find the right song for him. It had to be the right flavor and when you hear the collaborations on the album, you’ll understand why they work because I always try to match the tone of an artist and the texture of an artist’s voice and the flavor that they have to the sound of the track. You can get two voices and if they don’t match, it makes the song sound completely wrong and you can tell it’s not meant to be. But when the voices and the tones, and the textures come together and everything’s right, it’s magic.
Tell me about the Busta Rhymes collaboration on your track “Break of Dawn.”
Jay Sean: When I was 11 years old, I would listen to Leaders of the New School and that was Busta and I fell in love with his music since I was a little kid you know what I’m saying? So to be able to put him on one of my albums is my dream. That’s a kid’s dream man! You grow up idolizing someone and the next minute, they’re your homie? That’s a weird thing. And so I was like, “Yo I need to get Busta on this album,” and we found the right song for him!
What was the most challenging part of making the album?
Jay Sean: There’s basically a couple of different musical influences on this album. It’s not a pure R&B album. I would like to say that it borrows influences from all the music that I love, the majority of it is R&B and Soul. But I still listen to people like Guns N’ Roses and Oasis and Keane and Coldplay and I love their big melodies and emotions. So you’ve got a song like “Neon,” which is almost reminiscent of a Coldplay song, how do you go from there to an Ace Hood song? So I had to make the album take you on a journey that would flow and the most critical part for me was how do we get the right flow of the album and I think we accomplished that.
Do you have any final thoughts or a message to your fans?
Jay Sean: I just wanted to say Thank You to all my fans out there who supported me from ten years ago when I dropped my first album up until now and I want to say the only reason we’re around is because of fans like you who go out there and buy our music and do the right thing and support us and go buy it legally because that’s what keeps this music industry alive, so thank you so much!