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Kayjen | “Most Rappers Would be Ashamed To Say This, But I Don't Have Much Shame”

The 24-year old, LA-based hip-hop artist Kayjen was born and raised in New Orleans. His mother, from Guam, ensured he grew up immersed in both cultures (the people, the food, the language), Cajun and Islander alike. Musically on the other hand, it comes as a surprise that growing up, he was reared on a steady diet of rock.

Kayjen’s new single too is somewhat of a culture clash, or maybe the opposite; a fortunate mesh. ‘Alive & Numb (feat. Valerie)’ is what happens when your collaborative efforts span oceans and continents. Featuring on the track are the shimmering guest vocals of Valérie, the Mauritian-born, Australian-based singer also on the Damasta Recordings label. Valerie recently found worldwide attention with her singles ‘I Wanna Know’ and ‘Fierce’. Produced and arranged by the team at Damasta, (an Argentinian and a Swede respectively) and co-written with Kayjen, (who describes himself as an “Islander with a dash of Cajun redneck”)

‘Alive & Numb (feat. Valerie)’ is lush and multi-layered, a genre-bending pop/hip-hop hybrid with echoes of island harmonies, with an infectious and energetic hip-hop hook.


Q: You come from a pretty musical family. What are your fondest musical memories from when you were growing up?

A: Aside from many car rides blasting Pat Benatar with my mom, there was one memory that really stuck with me. When I was probably 6 years old, my father found old cassettes from his days as the lead singer of a rock band. I was blown away at how good his voice was. Even to this day, I long to have the talent that I heard on the cassette that day. I know that he did not make it as far as he may have wanted in the music industry, so in the back of my head, I've always hoped that I can let him live through me with my music and show him what it could have been like to make it further in the industry.

Q. Have you always written songs? When did you start?

A. I started writing my senior year of high school, at the age of 17. I started writing and recording on a video game headset microphone, just for fun with my friends. I didn't start creating music as a career goal until I performed live for the first time, in front of a few hundred people crowd. When I realised I was comfortable being on stage, and had a lot fun while doing so, I decided to chase the dream of being a music artist. I love writing, and I take pride in what I write because I put plenty of emotion and self into the writing process.

Q: What was the first album you bought with your own money? How old were you?

A: Most rappers would be ashamed to say this, but I don't have much shame. Around the age of 17, I bought my first album called "Red." Yes, by Taylor Swift. She's just talented, and I was able to vibe really well with the tones and relatable lyrics that she created. Coming in at a close second was Drakes "Nothing was the Same," the following year.

Q: Give me three words that describe you as an artist

A: Three words that I can personally say describe me as an artist are:

Multi-tooled – I am confident with my ability to jump across genres and even blend them into one song with the skill set I've worked on for years. For example, I can go from hardcore rap, then that same day create a melodic pop track. Again, no shame, I just enjoy the challenge across the board.

Focused – the lifestyle I am living causes me to struggle, but also allows me to focus most of my energy into the music.

Ambitious – I have big goals in mind.

Q: What are your favourite songs of all time? How have they influenced your own music?

A: One rap song that I love and had a big impact on me as a rapper is "Donald Trump" by Mac Miller. Just a very good rap song that made me want to rap. Another song is "Fall For Your Type" Drake Version. This song has smooth, beautiful melodies and lyrics that I vibe very well with. Growing up, "Hell is for Children" was also a song that I loved listening to in the car, and even to this day I can easily get into this intense Benatar song.

Q: You have a pretty unique sound – people are going to recognise your voice anywhere. How would you describe it and how has it developed?

A: I've been working on my vocals for 5 years and I just now feel like I'm starting to figure out my voice and sound. I had many awkward stages with my voice, mainly due to working with uncomfortable producers and not being able to open up. Luckily, working with Trevor Laake of Echo Studio, I've been able to do a lot more with my voice. With my first song of the year, Cautious, it was the first song I ever committed to melodising on. Ever since then, I have really pushed my vocal range. I'm really not too sure how to describe it though, it's just me.

Q: What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given? (music or life in general)

A: The best advice I've been given and continue to push forward, is to follow your heart. If you follow your heart, you will find whatever you're looking for as an output over time, and maintain happiness while doing so. To me, doing what you love is the ultimate goal in life. I may consider myself being unlucky loving music creation, being one of the toughest industries to get into, but the unlimited amount of creative possibility in music makes it worthwhile and such a blast to do.

Q: What do you imagine you’d be doing as a career if you didn't have that massive talent and voice?

A: I've been studying nursing for the past few years, because I genuinely enjoy helping people who need the help. Though, if I did what I've always wanted to do since childhood, it would be to work with animals. A dream of mine would be to have a traveling show researching and video-photographing exotic animals. I've recently started volunteering at my local Zoo, and if the music doesn't work out, I see myself jumping back into the Zoology field.

Q: Tell us about “Alive + Numb (Ft. Valérie)”. Sounds like it wasn’t your everyday process in terms of writing recording because of the geographical inconvenience of having an ocean in between you guys!

A: The process working with Damasta Recordings has been a real pleasant experience. They are a great group of people who genuinely enjoy creating music. I feel like I share the same passion as they do, so it has been a smooth process with communication and building the song top to bottom. Working with some quite unprofessional people in my past, I really appreciate the work and time they put into the process. Also, with technology nowadays, it has been easy to transfer files and make calls when needed. It almost felt like we were in the same room working together the whole time.

The song itself stems from one of my most recent experiences in my love life. This song was very easy to write, having fresh emotions to write about. In the song, I tried to illustrate my feelings and emotions through metaphors such as sound vibrations and physical, bodily sensations (numbness). I don't like to be too direct when I write. I like to give the listener a chance to imagine what they want based on their experiences and own imagination. I just like to guide them in a direction.

Q: What’s next? Are you already cooking up the next release?

A: Certainly. Damasta Recordings has been courteous enough to want to continue working with me. I feel so blessed for the opportunity and I'm very optimistic about what we can achieve together. I see more potential in my music now than I ever have before, I think we will have something soon for the world to hear.

Kayjen Social Links:

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