American Hip Hop singer Daye Jack did not follow the typical pathway to becoming a renowned rapper. In fact, with Steve Jobs as an idol and a head full of deep reflection about technology and the future, Daye initially decided to study coding at New York University. From there, he established links between computer science and music, and chose the latter to express his views about the new digital age. With song titles such as “Surf the Web” and his latest album called “No Data”, Daye proves to be part of a generation deeply attached to technology, not only as a technical tool but as a way to do some soul searching and finding one’s identity. Matters of connection and disconnection, loneliness and the potential future are all central to Daye’s mind and songs. In exclusive for Fucking Young!, Daye discusses his life experiences, technology, Black Mirror, and music.
Hi Daye, thank you for your time. Can we begin this interview with a bit of background information about your early life?
I was born in Nigeria and grew up in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia – I moved there when I was 6. The culture switch was really cool for me. I feel like Nigeria was more family-based, your whole extended family lived in the same house. You’re always around culture and good food, sure there was poverty and other things going on outside of your home but home always felt like a safe place. Atlanta is more separated; you just stay with your immediate family.
For me Atlanta was the place where I was finally finding myself, leaving home and going into tackling what my identity is and starting to make music and pursue a career.
When did you start to make music?
I started writing when I was 13.
Do you go back to back to Nigeria often?
I’ve been back 5 times; I still have my grandparents out there.
It’s a nice way to disconnect out there. You know, with social media and this new generation, it’s cool to escape.
I learned that you studied Computer Science at New York University. How does one go from computer science to Hip Hop?
I went to NYU to study coding; I started coding around the same time I started writing rap. I had read the Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson and it was all about his life story and a lot of it was mostly about the fact that even though he wasn’t the most technical person when it came to code, he wasn’t a genius in that aspect but he was a genius when it came to ideas. There were a lot of parallels for me between a Steve Jobs and an André 3000. I feel like André 3000 isn’t the best singer but when he sings you feel something. It’s about people whose ideas are greater than their technical skills.
I didn’t feel like I was the best coder when it came to technique but I felt like I could impact with my ideas, and that’s the same thing with Hip Hop and writing music.
There were always parallels and when I went to NYU, I put out my first mixtape “Hello World”. Some people and blogs started picking it up and I started flying back and forth between LA to record and work with producers and New York to go back to university on a Monday morning, on a red eye. After doing that for a couple of weeks I decided to drop out.
It’s always been about both for me; I still try to get ideas from computer science and the future of tech in my music.
Yes, it is a recurring theme in your songs.
“Hello World” is the first code they teach you – having a computer say “Hello World” on the screen. That’s why I named my first mixtape “Hello World”.
On this new project I’m working on, “New Data”, it is going to explore some Artificial Intelligence, and what its future could be.
It seems like you have a very particular way of thinking about the Internet and technology. Could you describe what you think of it?
The Internet has become this thing that is fully attached to your life. From deciding what you’re going to wear, looking at what everyone else is wearing and seeing their Instagram accounts or blogs, to finding a girlfriend or love or whatever you’re looking for, to launching a music career where you throw music on Soundcloud and see what happens. I feel like we are so attached to it but I’ve never really known otherwise, besides when I was in Nigeria. It’s just interesting to see how dependent we are on the Internet, and how it’s not just a singular thing or you deciding to be attached to it; it’s become this part of your life and we almost forget that we are constantly looking down at our phones.
Do you think we should do otherwise?
I don’t know if we should do otherwise but I think it’s good to acknowledge it. When I realize that I’m always looking down at my phone it inspires me to look up more. By acknowledging it, you build better technology for the future. I read a lot about what’s next to come when it comes to technology and it seems like the next frontier is Augmented Reality and a lot of that is bringing people away from their phones, and seeing all the information you need as you’re going about your life.
Acknowledging something like that is a step towards building the future.
Isn’t it a bit scary though, how technology will be everywhere?
I think it’s super scary. They said that in the future A.I. will look back at us the way we look back at fossils. It is scary to think about, but I think we have this natural curiosity that keeps on building and maybe at some point it will backfire.
Did you watch Black Mirror?
I love Black Mirror! It’s my favorite show.
I watched the “Where’s Waldo” episode and that just reminded me of Trump. The little cartoon character that’s rude and brash and for some reason people think it’s the politician for them and then he ends up destroying the world.
Sounds like it was a prediction. Which one of your songs do you think epitomizes your views on technology?
“Deep end” is one where I touch on it. “Deep End” is about going through front headlines, clicking video after video and falling into a metaphoric deep end where there is so much information in front of you and you realize that the world is a messed up place from all these headlines and things you see. You basically feel like you’re drowning.
Do you think we receive too much information?
I think so. But that’s just part of it now. You can’t really be curious; have questions and have these questions sit with you and figure them out later anymore. Now you just google the answers.
You’ve cited Steve Jobs as one of your icons. Do you have any person you look up to from the music industry?
I love André 3000, Big Boi, and their duo OutKast. Growing up in Atlanta, their music really influenced mine. With “Love Below”, everyone saw André 3000 as a rapper and he decided to sing for a whole album and only used rap as an instrument. When I listened to that album it completely changed my approach to wanting to make music.
I love Eminem – “Relapse” is amazing. And I also love Red Hot Chilli Peppers.
Recently I’ve been listening to a lot of Skepta – I think he is a genius.
In what way?
For someone like me who wasn’t fully caught up on grime, I felt like when I listen to his album I got a very good introduction, not only to him as a person but also to a whole genre of music. It is all simple and the core of what you need – everything needed to be there. There is something genius about that.
What was the inspiration behind your latest album, “No Data”?
It’s inspired by Spike Jonze’s movie “Her”, where Joaquin Phoenix falls in love with a computer, an A.I. She kind of betters his life as she learns about herself as a computer. That whole relationship is so futurist to me, where you’re using a computer to learn more about yourself, but you’re also realizing that it’s hard to find answers even with all that technology. I think there are a lot of parallels between that and right now, where we have so much technology, these iPhones, and our computers, you would think it’s so easy to find yourself but the fact is kids are even more confused and even more lonely today than before. There’s this false mirage that we are all super connected because we have the Internet, but instead, we have built a different kind of loneliness. You feel lonely but then you ask yourself why when you have all these people that are your Facebook friends.
My new project is basically that – how do you find yourself in the digital age?
That’s a very contemporary and interesting reflection.
What do you do with your free time?
I like reading – I’ve just re-read “Fight Club”. I watch a lot of movies. If I’m not doing that I’m just writing songs. I feel like I spend most of my time working though. I feel like if I have free time I’m not working hard enough.
But then if you love what you do it doesn’t really feel like work!
How would you describe your clothing style?
My style is really retro. I do a lot of thrifting where I get a lot of retro, colorful stuff. I’ve been really into Atlanta ’96 Olympics gear, jackets, T-shirts and even lighters as memorabilia from this year. I love the fact these clothes have “Atlanta” on them and they say “96”, I was born in 1996. A piece of clothing that tells a part of your life wherever you go.
Wearing your identity.
As the last question: according to you, what is very Fucking Young!?
Being yourself, being an independent thinker, not following ay trends. Fucking shit up. Thinking about what you want to get done, what your dreams are, what your goals are and making them happen. Not caring about whoever is trying to hold you back and telling you can’t achieve whatever you want to achieve, I think that’s being fucking young.
What a great message, thank you!