Tinder. If by some miracle you’ve never heard of it before, it's a mobile app which is intended for creating social interactions and forming romantic interests. However, I recently found out it has another potential function - musical taste-making. During one of my hopeless swiping sessions, I noticed a trend. Several users had their anthem set to a song by an artist simply known as ‘JAY1’. As I saw this name pop up more and more, I questioned ‘Who is this JAY1 fella and how had I never heard of him?’. So, as soon as the opportunity arose for me to attend his Manchester gig, YOU KNOW I had to go!
I’d been to a few gigs at the Academy 2 in the past. Without any exaggeration, the queue for JAY1 was easily the longest queue I had ever seen for the venue. Once inside, there were two things I noted about the nights’ crowd; 1) I had never seen so much neon clothing in my life and; 2) The hype and energy of the steadily-forming crowd was astounding. Even when the venue was barely 1/5 full, the hype of the crowd was resounding. A crowd had already collected at the front and ‘Aussie Aussie Aussie, Oi Oi Oi’ chants already filled the entire room.
First on stage was a rapper called Romzy. He was a true entertainer and got the crowd engaged with his set. He displayed dance talent and also caused an ear-piercing scream from the females in the audience as soon as he removed his shirt. Whilst he definitely set things off to a flying start, I also felt like he forgot that he was there also to actually perform his own music. Within his 15 minute slot, I swear he performed no more than three full songs. It's not like he was exactly short for time either. For easily about 5 minutes of his set, he kept commanding the crowd to ‘hold it’ (a pit) before finally letting the beat drop, only to then have the DJ rewind the beat and rinse and repeat over and over again.
Next on was DJ Trixx. One thing I learnt during his set was how evidently bad my general knowledge of rap music is. Sure, he played some Kendrick, Skepta and Drake, giving me a brief window to pretend I knew any of the world. However, for the most part, I just had to awkwardly bop and just act like I knew the music he was playing. My personal highlight of his set though was when he played Mo Bamba and I got to hear far too many people within a majority-white audience blurt out the ‘n’ word. Sure, it's fantastic that you knew the lyrics. However, maybe omit from saying that one word next time!
After Trixx came the last of the support acts for the evening, JB Schofield. Unlike Romzy, JB squeezed plenty of his music into his short 15-minute slot whilst still attending to the crowd and keeping the energy up. Unfortunately, I don’t have too much else to say about JB Schofield other than I did enjoy his set, even if it felt like it abruptly ended.
Finally, the moment had arrived. After a quick turnover, JAY1 was ready to grace the stage. Now, when it comes to reviewing artists and gigs, typically it's a very good idea to actually listen to their music. However, I wanted to experience this JAY1 rite of passage in the purest form possible so instead, I opted for the “going in blind” approach. I had little idea of what to expect and no set expectations, yet he still certainly surpassed them!
As an artist, JAY1 showed great versatility to his craft. He displayed that he could tackle multiple rapping styles and execute them all strongly. Whether he was performing more aggressive, intense, grimier songs or more melodic, slight tongue-in-cheek raps, he delivered strongly and consistently. At one point, he even performed a slower, RnB-inspired track (Tropical Love) and yet it matched the standards of the rest of his tracks and didn’t feel at all out of place or gimmicky.
Back to his performance. The level of energy radiating from both him and the crowd was an absolute pleasure to watch. But, there were two moments which provided me with great amusement. The first of which came when he was performing ‘Sweet One’ and I got to hear JAY1 say ‘But I love how you grind on me’ to a room to a room which definitely had a strong 13-16 presence within it. I just uncomfortably laughed that line away and out of my mind.
The second of which came from when one of my few wishes for the evening actually came true. Before I left for the gig, I jokingly remarked to my roommate, saying ‘I hope the phrase Jay1 from day one’ is said at least once during the night. He laughed and said ‘I bet at some during this evening, I’ll get a message from you saying HE SAID THE THING’ and much to my surprise, he did! The context it was used was different to what I hoped for, with him exclaiming ‘this next one is for anyone who’s been a fan since day one’. But still, my face completely lit up when my silly remark actually became a reality.
If I had to critique one thing, its that Jay1 was not on for nearly enough time! On the lineup, he was scheduled to be on at 9:30, yet his set abruptly ended at 10 pm even though the curfew for the gig was 11 pm! Now, whilst I am someone who definitely agrees with the sentiment that any good performer should leave you wanting more, performing at a sold-out show for only half an hour is borderline daylight robbery! It's just a good job that myself, as well as the rest of the crowd, did thoroughly enjoy the set which he did put on.
In conclusion, after seeing Jay1 live and finally getting to learn exactly what he’s all about - I can definitely see how he’s managed to amass a large fanbase and a somewhat reputable name. With him still being quite young (20) it's highly impressive that he’s managed to amass two top 20 singles, especially considering the fact he only decided to properly pursue his music career three years ago. Whilst I don’t follow the UK rap music scene too heavily and perhaps I wasn’t the best person review this gig, I still amassed a lot of enjoyment from the gig. Even though I still strongly think that he was definitely not on for nearly enough time and the sheer thought of performing for only half and hour at a headline slot still makes me wince a little, I can still find it within me to recommend others to go see him live at the next available opportunity.
Sadly, the rest of his One Wave Tour is completely sold out. However, when he no doubt embarks on his next tour, or if you see he’s performing at a music festival you’re attending, I do recommend you attend as he still put on an incredibly thorough and versatile performance.