In the music industry there’s nothing uncommon about a musician/producer, but when musician/producer meets lyricist, photographer, videographer, and graphic designer, what you get is a one man production house or, in this case, Jahoia “Jay Link” Francis. Always one to be modest about his many talents, one will sooner find Francis honing one of his many crafts than boasting about them in the streets, thus allowing his talent to speak for itself. With a keen ear and the ability to bring the best out of an artiste’s voice, Francis seamlessly weaves in and out of his roles as producer and artiste. When we stopped by the studio for this interview, we were treated to a sneak peak of the many projects Jay Link’s been working on, all the while orchestrating his plan to leave his mark on the industry.
WBM: Who is Jahoia “Jay Link” Francis?
JAHOIA: Jay Link…he’s an artiste. Artiste meaning creative…. that’s a good one…[laughs] yeah, that’s a good one right there. Let’s say he’s an artiste, a creator.
WBM: I know you’re a jack of all trades, but right now we’re focusing on the music aspect. You’re a producer and an artiste as well, how long have you been rapping, how long have you been producing, and when did you know that both or either was what you wanted to make into your life’s passion?
JAHOIA: I’ve been rapping for, I would say, ten years…so a long, long time, and I wanted it to be my profession because I always used to find myself writing. First I started writing poetry, then I started making stories. I was in love with rap from the time I started hearing Nas and Biggie, and uh, Jay Z, and I just wanted…I just wanted to do that, ynahmean. The way Nas would depict a story and you could just see it and visualise it, I wanted to do the same thing, ynahmean; so that’s why I started rapping. And as far as producing, making beats, I had two friends; they used to make my beats for me, but when they went away to Full Sail – they went away to school, I had to start making my own beats. [Laughing] I wasn’t good at it, but the more I did it, the better I became, ynahmean. So, that’s how I start creating my own beats and everything like that.
WBM: How did you know it was going to be your life’s passion? Like, what was the point in time – do you remember the specific point in time when you were like ‘I want to do this?’
JAHOIA: It was from the first time I start like…from the first time I recorded! I was like, ‘I can see myself doing this forever,’ ynahmean. And then, the first time I let somebody hear a song and they were like, ‘oh, yeah, this sounds crazy.’ I was like, ‘okay.’ So people liked my music, and the more people listened to it and were gravitating to it, and telling me my music was good, then that really inspired me to keep on doing it because I wasn’t getting negative reactions from them. I was getting nothing but positive, so I was like, ‘why not keep doing it?’
WBM: So, I know you’ve resided on the mainland, in the US, and you relocated to the Virgin Islands. As an artistes with…as a rap artiste, as much as rap is big everywhere; that’s not necessarily what we’re known for in the Caribbean. So as an artiste having seen the scene in the States and now here in the Virgin Islands, what would you say is the major difference between the two, and what would you say are the disadvantages and advantages of being a rap artiste in the Virgin Islands?
JAHOIA: Well, the difference…the major difference of being a rapper in the Caribbean is like, people don’t really…well, a lot of people in the Caribbean, theu do listen to rap, but I don’t think they support rappers from the Caribbean that much, and…that’s how I feel. I think the only thing being good, coming from the Caribbean, is that um, we grow up with so many different cultures and backgrounds like soca, reggae – we grow up with all those different kinds of music, so it reflects in our music, ynahmean. I’m doing rap, so it’s gonna reflect in there anyway, so I’ll sound different – I’m coming with a different, different slangs, different um, a different type of feel; that’s how I feel.
WBM: You’ve built some bad beats, I’ve heard them myself. When you’re building a beat, what are the things that you think of? If you had to take three sounds that are common in your house, to build a beat, what would you use?
JAHOIA: Three sounds in my house that are common?
JAHOIA: Hmmm…wow…that’s a good question [laughs]. Sounds in my house…um, probably a pot, yeah the ping ping ping….um…okay, what else? That’s a good question man! [Laughing] uh…to tell you the truth, I don’t even know…Well, my kids, they make a lot of noise, so I can probably mix them in there somehow. Uh…things in my house…probably forks and spoons for the ting ting ting sound too. I can take the forks and spoons and knock it on the pot, make a little drum.
WBM: So when you’re creating a track, say you’re using those same three elements in the creation of the track, how would you go about doing it? What would you lay down first, what would you use to highlight – how would you do it?
JAHOIA: The first thing I would lay down is the pot. Hit on it, try to get like a um, a steady melody. That’s kinda hard…that’s kind of a crazy question [laughing], ‘cause most of the time I’m making beats I don’t go in knowing what I’m gonna do; I just start playing around with sounds, and whatever I feel at the moment, that’s what I come out with, so like…that’s kind of like a crazy question, ‘cause most of the times when I’m creating, I just create out of thin air, ynahmean. Just start playing around with different sounds…that’s how I create.
WBM: Okay, so as a producer you work with various artistes. How do you decide what sound to go for when you are working with a particular artiste? What is it about that person in particular that triggers the direction in which you go with a song?
JAHOIA: Most of the time when I do do beats for artistes; they’re beats I’ve already made. I’ve never um, really created a beat to somebody’s words like that before. Like, basically, I had told you, I started producing because my producers had gone away, so I wasn’t like fabricating beats for people just like that, ynahmean. But the sounds I really like a lot are like strings, pianos and, so…that would be the basic sounds you’ll hear common in a lot of my beats – like string, violins, classical pianos – I like those kinds of sounds.
WBM: So why does what you do matter?
JAHOIA: As far as rap or…?
WBM: As an artiste – your artistry.
JAHOIA: Well, ‘cause I feel I have a story – just like everyone else, but they might be going through the same things that I went through, and they don’t know how to voice it; so if they listen to one of my songs, they can be like, ‘wow, this is one of my situations; and he said it perfectly. This is exactly the way I’m feeling right now.’ So I think it’s important…like, music is soothing. Sometimes I might have some wild songs and sometimes I might have some storytelling songs, some party songs, I think it just sets peoples’ moods, ynahmean. If anybody can change someone’s mood, I think it’s important; and that’s what music does – it changes peoples’ moods. I think that’s why it’s important, what I do.
WBM: If you could teach one thing to someone who wants to come up, following in your footsteps, being a rapper, being an artiste, being a producer, being a jack of all trades – what is the one lesson you would teach that person?
JAHOIA: Don’t stop dreaming. I think, if you don’t stop dreaming, then you can never stop learning, ynahmean. I mean, the more you dream, the more you’re gonna wanna do and experience different stuff. You understand what I’m tryin’ to say. Always have drive. Never stop believing in yourself, ‘cause first of all you have to believe in yourself before you even start to venture into trying to be an artiste, trying to be a basketball player. You have to believe you can do it, ynahmean. Maybe that’s not teaching, but I’ll tell them to believe in themselves, and always dream big, and never stop believing in themselves; that’s the main thing I would tell them, I think. That’s the main thing I would tell them.