After taking a break from releasing new music, Chicago rapper Jay2 returned last month with a new EP aptly titled ‘4 Tha Wait’. The 7-song project features some of Jay2’s most energetic music yet, taking the same fast-paced flows and animated wordplay that’s remained consistent throughout his work and packaging it in a more melodic way–a natural progression for his already lively, lighthearted style.

Jay2’s evolution as an artist has been an ongoing process, beginning when he first started working with engineer Chris Classick. Through Classick, he met Smino and Bari in 2012, and started working with Monte Booker not too long after that. Coming up with a tight circle of collaborators and friends, which later led to the formation of Zero Fatigue, has allowed Jay2 to hone his craft over the years. Now, the 24-year-old artist is gearing up for a headlining show at Schubas this Friday. Read about the upcoming show, his favorite Lil Wayne mixtapes, and his forthcoming album in our latest interview:

MDR: How/when did you get into music?

Jay2: When I was maybe 15. I always liked it, and I used to do little freestyles when I was younger on a voice recorder. Then I actually met Chris Classick and started going to his studio and recording when I was 15. I didn’t really take it seriously until 18 when I started releasing stuff and it was getting a good response. I really decided that it was what I wanted to do when I was 18. I was fully like “this is what I want.”

When I first started making music, I was doing the Lyrical Lemonade shows and cyphers. Cole was booking me for shows with the homie Logan, we were young as f**k. I f**k with Cole taking it to the next level. He’s really legendary, bruh. I remember the first cypher he did. He hit me up and asked me to come through. At the time I was rapping with people like Taylor [Bennett] and Logan [Cage].

MDR: How long have you known Smino and Bari?

Jay2: I been on them since 2012. I was like 17. They inspired me to really do it. Aside from having my own things and kind of buzzing in the city, like I had a video out with 100k views, but they inspired me to do music even further. They were like 22 and 23, and we met at Classick Studios. That’s where everybody linked up and how everything happened. 

MDR: Did you also start working with Monte Booker around the same time?

Jay2: It was a little later, probably like 2014. We knew each other through mutual friends, so we instantly clicked. That’s when we started working, and it just has been growing ever since. He started coming to Classick and Smi was like “you gotta meet Monte.” It was just natural.

MDR: Who did you listen to growing up/who are your favorite rappers?

Jay2: My biggest influence is definitely Lil Wayne; he’s the reason I started rapping, honestly. I fuck with Jay Z, Drake, Ye, Future. Those are most of them. But Wayne started everything. 

MDR: Do you have a favorite Wayne mixtape?

Jay2: Damn that s**t hard. I’d probably say like Drought 3 or Dedication 2? But that’s hard, bruh I don’t know. I like ‘No Ceilings’ too… There’s just so many.

MDR: How about Wayne albums?

Jay2: Carter 2. A lot of people would say Carter 3, but I would go with Carter 2 easily. Bruh “Fireman”, “The Mobb”… I can’t even think of all the song titles right now, but all the smashes. All the s**t that hit home.

MDR: How would you say Wayne influenced your style?

Jay2: He just had the crazy metaphors, the punchlines. That’s kinda where I got really formulated bars from. And from Hov too. Just the wittiness of it, you know?

MDR: I feel like the influence from both of them really shows in your style too. 

Jay2: For sure. My sound has grown a lot too. When I first started working with Monte, I was solely bar driven. Then as I grew, I wanted to just make good songs. I focussed on that instead of just rapping the best. I’ve realized I want to make that balance, to make a good song and really bar up at the same time. That’s where I was at with it, and I’ve been growing on it.

MDR: You’ve been in the game for a while now, but this album will be your first full project, right?

Jay2: I did release a project in 2013 called ‘Visions’, so that was technically my first project. But I ended up taking it down. … I signed this deal or whatever, and it was kinda janky. The project was part of that, so I just took it down. I just didn’t want anything to be associated with that. But it did like 80k downloads, so a lot of people still have it and show it to me; the same people who’ve been listening to me since I was like 18 years old always show love. 

MDR: So you’ve been building your fanbase for a while now

Jay2: Yeah. I took a long time off releasing a project, so it kinda died down. But it revved back up and all the people who have really been fans are now seeing everything come together.

MDR: What made you want to take that hiatus?

Jay2: I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with music, who I wanted to be. I was just cooking in between, making songs, practicing, basically getting my reps up to get to this point. On my EP ‘4 Tha Wait’ was older songs, and I got hella new s**t and new vibes. That’s what I’m looking forward to the most.

MDR: Why drop a project right now?

Jay2: For me, it was always time. I just needed time to grow. I feel like everything happens for a reason. This is happening just because this is the moment. Prior to this was just getting me ready for it.

MDR: What could people expect from the album?

Jay2: Just vibes. With my music, it puts you in my particular vibe. That’s what you’re gonna feel, and hopefully, you f**k with it. It’s just me and what I was thinking.

MDR: Have you been collaborating with anyone on the album?

Jay2: Just the homies. Bari, Smi. I don’t have any surprises or anything like that. But I still f**k with all of Chicago.

MDR: What’s your process like in the studio?

Jay2: It depends. Sometimes I write, sometimes I don’t, and I usually just punch. Whatever comes out, I just keep punching it and put it together. I literally just go, and then we’ll cut it like “alright, this is the hook and that’ll be the verse”. I just do different parts, and then I’ll bring it back. Sometimes I have memos in my head of things I want to say, and I’ll work off of that. Sometimes it’s completely off the top.

MDR: What’s the vibe like when you’re working with Monte Booker?

Jay2: It’s smooth, everything is always genuine. He’ll just start cooking and I’ll start formulating a song. We used to work at night a lot. We’re bros first, so cooking is nothing. We’ll already be hanging the whole day, and then just start cooking at 1am after we catch a vibe for the day. 

MDR: What do you tend to rap about mostly? 

Jay2: Love bro. That’s what I’ve been on as of late. I also feel like my s**t has always been motivational in a way, people always tell me that. So I naturally am always on that. But, bruh, I be writing a lot of love songs. It’s crazy. I don’t know why. I still like to flex and stunt and s**t too, though. Sometimes I’m flexing, sometimes I’m in love, just whatever I feel. Whatever happened that day, that’s what it is.

MDR: When are you planning to release the album?

Jay2: Man, I’m not even gonna give a date right now. I don’t even wanna do that to people, ‘cause they’re gonna be on my heels if I give a date out. But at the end of the year. I’ll just put it like that. I just want everything to be right. Coming soon is all I’m gonna say *laughs*. 

MDR: Tell me about your upcoming show

Jay2: August 31st at Scubas. It’s gonna be lit. The homies are gonna be there: Badland ZZ, Sean Deaux, Frsh Waters… I’ve headlined before, but this is my first one in awhile so we’re trying to sell that b***h out for sure. I’ll be performing some s**t from my album too.

MDR: How do you feel about performing?

Jay2: I love performing bruh. I think that’s my favorite part of all of it. I toured in 2017 with Smino so I got more experience. My shows are usually real rap shows. Just performer and DJ. It’s gonna be a lot of energy, that’s all I could say.

MDR: What have your interactions with fans been like?

Jay2: They be showing love. When people come up to me and say “your music got me through s**t”, that’s another one of the best feelings next to performing. People saying that they f**k with it on a deeper level. That’s love.

I know a lot of artists give off a lot of big energy. I mean if you’re my homie, you know how I’m coming. But I’m just not that person in the room who’s gonna be like “hey, everybody look at me!” I just love making music, bruh. I’ve always been me and to myself, but I’m a person that you could talk to. We could still vibe and just rock out on some s**t. I never tried to be a certain way. I always just tried to be me.

MDR: Any Goals moving forward?

Jay2: I’ve never been on Chicago radio yet, so I wanna do that. I wanna go on my own tour, sell-out shows. I just want my s**t to get played everywhere.

Jay2 plays at Schubas Tavern supported by Frsh Waters, Sean Deaux, Ambi Lyrics, Bandland ZZ, and MattAudioDope at 8 pm, doors 7:30. Tickets are still available here!