JayFROwNS cover art by EyesWideShu7
There is a heaviness in the tone of Jay Cinema‘s voice, presumably from the weight he’s shouldering. He opens the pages of his rhyme book in an attempt to make sense of the past. Breaking down pieces of himself, excavating for the tarnished shards we keep submerged in doubt and insecurity. He pulls at his own truths like a coiled thread; The more he unravels his reflections on where the world has taken him, the closer he gets to rewriting the lessons learned from the mistakes of his old self. The Yonkers bred vocalist is only 22 years old, but songs like “Realize” from the Jacob Barlow produced Peace Of Mind, Mind Of Peace showcase his heavy hearted hopefulness that shines through as he tries to understand the answer to questions like, “Who am I? What can I really do?” Since the release of Better Days Ahead at the end of February last year Jay Cinema has tapped producers Jacob Barlow, Brwnsounds, WilfMerson, and FROwNS, to produce cohesive collaborative projects together. With those producers he created Peace Of Mind, BrwnCinema, What You Need Ain’t What You Want! and his newest collaborative release JayFROwNS.
In a brief exchange through Twitter DMs Jay Cinema told me “I love working with one producer on projects just cause it’s much more cohesive.” JayFROwNS without a doubt comes though with the desired cohesiveness, presenting itself as a collection of thoughts and feelings reported from the internal fight of self love and sabotage. Building off of the momentum of his recent collaboration projects, JayFROwNS is an artistic self portrait painted across a sea blue canvas. The EYESWIDESHU7 produced cover art reflects Cinema’s themes of hoping to preserve, nurture, and protect himself while trying to avoid letting the past hold himself back from embracing the future. The project opens with “Intro (Change)” where jubilant childlike giggles are accompanied by piano chords and an introspective conversation that feels like an adult man talking to his inner child, as FROwNS loops the word “change” throughout the project’s prelude. Jay Cinema looks to change the “despair” echoed by the adult voice as the intro concludes, to self-love. With that the first of many excavated shards is discovered as Jay balances expressing his truest self while pointing to the difficulties of growth.
The first beat that made the project, “Pass Me By” reached Cinema via an emailed pack from FROwNS back in July. Jay Cinema’s opening lines are unmatched; he never wastes a bar. “Watch as life pass me by, got my hands up in the sky // The walls know my secrets, and they know my lies, speak to them often, almost all the time” before continuing to rap “plenty mistakes I recognize mine.” The chopped sample and sparse hi hats and drum loops lay a bed for Cinema to plunder his self criticisms and attempt to rectify them in the same breath. He lists off his insecurities before taking responsibility for the negative and positive things we can’t always account for. He’s expressing a sense of loneliness on the track, and the remedy to those suffocating feelings comes from acknowledgment of the situation at hand and dedication to moving forward from it. On “Pass Me By” Jay builds a bridge between the id and superego, recognizing a battle with his true self lays at the center of the conflict. “Every problem, it begins with me / My own enemy, and my biggest hero / All my life I failed, but fuck it here we go”.
FROwNS gives room for Jay Cinema’s voice by using waning distorted samples to create a buoyant pattern that feels both chaotic and doleful at the same time thanks to how he places his chops. He is notably sanguine in his use of soul chalked source material. When blended together it gives the soundtrack pockets of pop that mirrors the shift between past trepidation and a sunny future. “Huntman” follows the intro track, opening with the line “Why can’t I stop breathing? Can’t seem to find a proper reason.” While digging into the troubles of his own struggles Jay Cinema’s lyrics can help open the same level of soul searching for his audience. While pondering the level of self awareness it takes to begin a project like that, you can very naturally be immediately pulled into questioning the topic for yourself. If there is no greater meaning of life, what’s the reason for continuing to survive when everything seems against you? Attempting to answer that question Jay raps, “The man in the mirror be my enemy, I’m trying to keep my mind in tact.” The self plays an equal role in positive and negative thoughts. Cinema’s focus is on tending to himself in order to create purpose and garner self-love he and many of us strive for, all while keeping his philosophy aligned with the one he described in the intro.
“Light Gleams” sounds like it was crafted early in the morning. Appropriately named, the expanding buzzing at the beginning of the track leads into a tumbling piano scale that reminds me of the disorientation felt from the sunrise peeking through your window. There’s a sense of mourning for the old person he was. Although he is clearly stuck and full of self doubt, the repetition of “What happens when we fade?” sounds like a frightened “past” Jay speaking to the uncertainty of the change he’s trying to under take, afraid to lose himself in the process of getting better. “Godspeed” conversely sounds like it was crafted in the dead of night. An empathetic eulogy to the ancestors we’ve lost and the people we continue to lose. Feeling the loss and fearing he’s next, the dreariness of FROwNS loop begrudgingly hums a weeping lull alongside lines like “Another black man on his way to the Pearly Gates at an early age.” Placed sequentially in the track list these songs play as a full cycle night and day grievance on different degrees of empathetic and personal loss.
My favorite track from this project comes on “In The Air” feat. SeFu. FROwNS provides another canvas with a similar loop as the groans from “Godspeed”. An uplifting and forceful chant of “In the Air” bellows the song’s title repeatedly over FROwNS’ chord progression, giving all the room possible for the swelling of confidence Jay Cinema gains throughout his verse. He opens the song in isolation, “I’ve been in the crib trying to get my mental straight, lotta apprehension, tension in the air.” As the instrumental continues its chorus of chirping birds and summery serene chords gives Jay freedom to release the shackles of his isolation, spitting, “Trying to be the voice for the hopeless, I gotta give hope to the voiceless / Focused, I remember life wasn’t joyous, now I’m spending every moment like it’s golden”. The song provides the pivotal change of Jay Cinema having one foot in the door of depression. To a full plunge into using his truths to guide his future positively. The instrumental swells in its brightness and the clarity it provides gives Cinema a golden path overpassing despair.
“I stopped living for others, started living for me”, he affirms before 18-year-old Houston artist SeFu gives the project it’s only guest vocals. SeFu provides a unique rhyme pattern, playing on words in a paradoxical way that mirrors the back and forth sentiments of the project. “I cocoon my room, my momma kicked me out, I couldn’t grow right / Replace our daddy’s with crack and liquor, wonder why we can’t grow right”, stands out as SeFu illustrates his frustrating inability to successfully change. While using the imagery of protection with the words “cocoon”, “mother”, “father” and the safety of one’s room to contrast the traumas of single motherhood, addiction, and isolation. SeFu toils his past viscerally spitting, “Why I’m desensitized, what is death? // Why when my family die I don’t be flinching I knew who was next”. He goes on to rap, “Remains of my childhood I’m sweeping what’s left / I was stiff I put some grease in my step”. Reconciling with as much of his past as he can before confirming dwelling on and hiding from it no longer serves him. The only path to the end is forward. Jay and SeFu preach to themselves, each other, and us listeners “Running don’t work now.”
The music video for In the Air/ Sun On Me shows the clarity that Jay Cinema is working towards. Videos for songs like “Doubt Into Trust/Tired of Running” and “Locked Doors” feature distortion effects similar to that of A$AP Rocky’s “Yamborghini High” video. In the “Air/Sun On Me” video directed by Caleb Callahan we see Jay in front of the Manhattan Bridge on the East River. It is an image close to what we see on the video for “Realize” but with Jay clearly in frame throughout while he delivers those triumphant bars. The video transitions to Sun On Me with a sun kissed Jay Cinema spitting the victory lap of his project on the streets of New York City. “Used to be a loner, they didn’t understand became a soldier / All part of life” stand out before his ending on the mantra, “Just a regular guy, got my eyes to the sky”.
FROwNS gets the last artistic touch on the project’s outro with a sample singing “I’m on my Way”. After being lost for so long there is a light at the end. Jay Cinema is trying to show us we have to look within ourselves for the way out. Trying to hold on to the past for the good or the bad makes you unable to wholeheartedly accept the future. And even that change will take time to get comfortable and adjust to. The outro’s instrumental gives this feeling of ascension, an uplifting parting gift from JayFROwNS. The evolving Yonkers artist is letting us know he’s on his way. In fact he has another anticipated collaboration project JUNECinema with IND (I’ll Nevah Die) member and collaborator Charlotte artist Shawn May on the way. See you there, on the other side of ascension.
Jay Cinema’s past projects are currently available on all streaming platforms as well with JayFROwNS arriving on all DSPs shortly.