Unless you live in the Bay Area, chances are you probably haven’t been bumping Jay Stone. He’s a 29-year-old MC from Oakland who’s got a knack for painting vivid portraits of everyday life in the heads of listeners. Flying mostly under the radar, Stone has picked up a bit of buzz in the Bay for his thoughtful lyricism and measured delivery, which work in tandem to produce a sound you shouldn’t be sleeping on. His music isn’t rap — it’s something more nuanced that you can judge for yourself as his vocals ride atop lo-fi instrumentals.
Stone’s songs can best be likened to the jumble of thoughts that run through your head before you go to sleep. These range from nostalgic yearnings to random bits of philosophy to straight-up horror stories. Browsing his Bandcamp is a musical roller coaster that’s just right for fans of all ages. You’ll find childhood anecdotes, tales of sex and smoking, and advice on how to navigate the muddy waters of adulthood (among other obstacles). I was fortunate enough to get to talk to Jay about his roots, his inspirations, and his upcoming record.
JAY STONE INTERVIEW
PETER MAROULIS (HIGHLARK): So what got you into making music initially?
JAY STONE: Well what got me into making music was being a fan of music and always kind of playing around with it a little bit, but I never got serious with it. Then I was just kind of bored one summer and went into wanting to do something with my time, so I started writing lyrics and stuff. It was probably like 2007. Part of my DNA as a musician was the music that was being presented to me when I was real young, before I really chose what type of music to listen to. What I was listening to [then became] embedded into my subconscious, into the rhythm inside of me.
PETER: You’re from the Bay Area, which has produced tons of great artists. How has that had an impact on you?
JAY: I grew up in Oakland — and Richmond, which is 10 minutes away from Oakland. I feel like the music from the Bay Area, the funk music like Sly and the Family Stone, and the jazz music, that type of music is embedded in me. I always categorize it as “good” music because it gives me this good feeling and sounds nice. It’s always just hella reminiscent and kind of just that classic type of sound. A lot of people hear my music and they’re like “Oh man, this sounds like some classic shit.”
PETER: It’s been a couple of years since your last mixtape [Foreign Pedestrians]. When can we expect another project to drop?
JAY: If it’s not at the end of this year, it’ll be at the beginning of 2018. I’ve been working on it since 2015, ever since I finished up Foreign Pedestrians with Monster Rally.
PETER: Sweet! Do you have a name for it yet?
JAY: It’s called Calibration of an Altered Mind.
PETER: Is it a full-length album?
JAY: Yeah everything else right now is an EP, so this is going to be my first LP.
PETER: Do you have a favorite track off of the new album?
JAY: Man that’s a hard one, ‘cause with this album there have really been some miracles. I have a couple songs on the album that I worked on that were really fun, this one song called “Told You” that was going to be one of the singles. That was really dope because I was working on it with Black Spade from Hawthorne Headhunters out in Brooklyn, and I really admire him as an artist. And my homie from Philly, Dahi Divine, laid some sax down on that song too! I feel like there’s a lot of emotion encapsulated in this album that hopefully listeners get to experience. I feel those feelings all over again when I listen to that song.
PETER: Could you describe the upcoming album in 5-10 words?
JAY: Calibration of an Altered Mind, that’s five right there. What it really means is what the album’s title is: Calibrating an altered mind. We’ve all got altered minds and I’m seeing it right now with my newborn son, who’s only been alive for 5 weeks, and seeing how he doesn’t know what most people let control their lives. Things like fear. Things like doubt. He doesn’t know what that is because he doesn’t know fear, he doesn’t know doubt. That’s not part of him. For him to know fear and doubt he would have to be taught fear and doubt. But they don’t exist in him. A lot of people are controlled by those things and it stops them from accomplishing all that they’re capable of accomplishing. This album is getting back to just being a human being and trusting yourself and knowing who you are.
PETER: That’s fucking awesome.
JAY: Well it’s not 5-10 words, but that’s what it is. That’s what it’s all about.