I was driving to work listening to the indistinguishable music on the radio and a track stood out to me as something fresh and different. What I now know that this was Janum Khan, better known as Birmingham born and bred Jaykae and this track that I couldn’t get out of my head was “Moscow“.
Jaykae describes his grime as a “quite gritty, bassy urban sound”. He is inspired by his young son, by performing, struggling, balancing everything and then finding ways of expressing it.
My excitement was understated when I saw that Jaykae would be opening the BBC 1Xtra stage on Saturday at the Great Escape 2019. He played five of his tracks, with fellow Birmingham boy Bowzer Boss and Manchester’s Aitch joining him on stage.
After only putting out a few independent releases in 2013-2014, and appearing on Skepta’s “That’s Not Me (All-Star Remix)”, Jaykae has had a considerably fast rise in popularity since breaking back into the scene in 2016.
“Moscow” featuring producer Bowzer Boss is not only a legendary track but has a music video to match it. The video is inspired by the Peaky Blinders; real gangsters from the 1920s from Jaykae’s hometown Small Heath. The gangsters had beef with the Russians in the past, hence the song name “Moscow” and the Peaky Blinders visuals.
The song sounds like a rap battle style diss track, Jayke bullying the man he is rapping it to. It’s a slower track from Jaykae, with a constant trippy flute beat and a nagging agitating tone in his voice. His prominent Birmingham accent stands out in the effortlessly eerie track.
Another Jaykae “Toothache” gained attention when featured as the backtrack to a dramatic scene in the 50 Cent produced TV series Power. Toothache is simple but powerful, made up with a vocal choir melody throughout the backing of the song. This paired with a magnetic looped clap gives the track a haunting foundation for raw lyrics.
2016’s “Toothache” was Jaykae’s first track back to the scene since his hiatus and showed the Grime scene, he was one to be reckoned with. “Toothache” expresses a dark gloomy reality of the violent situations through which Jaykae has lived. He raps about chasing down the man that stabbed grime artist Sox but no one helping when he was stabbed.
Jaykae also offers a nod to close friend and fellow member of the Birmingham squad Invasion Alert, Depzman, who was murdered in 2013 at 18 years old. You feel the intent and purpose of each bar, as he hits them with engaging aggression. The song makes you feel hopeless and dark, no help from Jaykae telling a violent story or hearing the haunting backtrack. The track’s lyrics end with a more hopeful reflection. He has a child on the way to provide for.
“Heartache“, which dropped on Valentine’s Day this year, in my opinion, is his best song so far. The bars flow from one section to the next so effortlessly. Jaykae notes how much he has gained from the grime game, but still raps about where he has come from and what really matters to him. Perhaps a track for the people from his past and a memoir of his struggles, in comparison to his offers of success today.
“Half a mil on the table, I still ain’t took it / Hands reached out but I still ain’t shook it / Still can’t believe how far we’ve took it”
He also talks about being a dad but reminds people they still can’t mess with him. It is impossible not to feel the emotion of the song, the beats were sampled from “Gloomy Sunday”, also known as ‘The Hungarian Suicide Song’, composed by Hungarian pianist and composer Rezső Seress in 1933. The song was banned by the BBC until 2002, after claims that many people committed suicide while listening to it.
The howling haunting backtrack, right from the intro, makes you feel it is a sad track without hope. Racking up 1.1 million views on YouTube in the last 3 months, this can be noted as high numbers for a Birmingham grime artist.
Although the vanguard of Birmingham’s new wave Grime scene, Lady Leshurr has led the way, Jaykae is helping put Birmingham back on the map to establish respect for the next largest Grime scene after London. He offers a neoteric sound, reflecting the cultural diversity of the city.
Maybe his songs stand out to people because of his honest lyrics covering family, death and the hardships of living under the poverty line. His honest lyrics provide a stimulus for discussion and debate among listeners. Jaykae is doing it for his city and believes his success can show “younger ones that it can change your life”.
With plans to pursue an acting career, try to catch Jaykae sooner rather than later. Raking in 2.6 million views in under a month for his newest release “On The Way Home”, Jaykae is clearly the new king to the Birmingham Grime scene.
Words by Tabby Sherring