Sounds Like: Afropop meets Caribbean dancehall and soca by way of New York
For Fans of: Kevin Lyttle, Rupee, WizKid
Why You Should Pay Attention: Ayo Jay's smash single "Your Number" was recorded several years ago while the London-born, Lagos-raised singer was attending Baruch College in New York and studying economics and finance. But after a long, slow climb — and a remix with Fetty Wap — it's about to cross over in the United States. Ayo Jay grew up on American pop music (he names Eminem, 2Pac, Michael Jackson and Akon among his influences), but didn't invest himself fully in the homegrown Afrobeats sound until after he left to attend college, becoming obsessed with making his own music in the wake of Nigerian artist Wande Coal's 2008 breakout Mushin 2 Mohits.
Immediately after graduating college in 2013, Ayo Jay signed to One Nation records and released "Your Number," the success of which took him by surprise. Although the song fits in well with the cutting edge Afropop sound, it was immediately apparent to Ayo Jay that the song had a bigger following internationally than in his hometown of Lagos, Nigeria.
"It was a difficult song to push in Nigeria because it's not the usual vibe that we vibe to in Nigeria," he says. "But online, when I put the song out, a lot of the comments weren't even from Nigeria — from the UK, from the United States, from the Middle East. So we knew it had international potential."
He Says: "That song was actually recorded in the projects in Brooklyn, East New York, in [producer] Melvitto's room. I used to go there because my cousin lived in the same building. One day he played me these beats, because he just came back from Nigeria and he had a bunch of beats that were free, that no one was using. I did a freestyle, and the first thing I sang was "Can I get your number?" And we built around that. I think the process took two days, we recorded the whole thing. And that was it, put it out."
Hear for Yourself: "Your Number" is has a melody so perfectly simple you'll wonder how no one stumbled across it before. David Drake