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INTERVIEW: Jay Zayat talks latest single ‘ANGEL EYES’, spirituality & Melbourne’s hip-hop scene

Melbourne-based artist Jay Zayat is as universal as they come. From producing, singing, rapping and writing his own music, this talented individual has almost all aspects of music creation covered. Typified by introspective lyrics told over a range of styles and genres, the Burn City artist can also be found connecting the city’s hip-hop culture to create an open community of creatives. We spoke to Jay about his latest single ‘ANGEL EYES’, the meaning behind his insightful lyricism, his mental conflict with spirituality, his evolution from being an EDM producer to becoming a rapper, and his unstoppable hustle and drive to create an open and collaborative music scene within the 3K.

Released on the 16th of June, ‘ANGEL EYES’ dives into Jay's fluctuating relationship with faith. Growing up he was undoubtedly intact with his spirituality having come from a spiritual home and upbringing where it was expected. However, over time the artist became skeptical of his beliefs and began to question where he stood on the matter. That was until September last year when his spirituality began to speak to him again.

“Late 2021 I started seeing random angel numbers. The first number I started seeing was 444, every time I was at work I’d coincidentally check the time on my phone and it'd always be 4:44.”

And whilst this to Jay at the time started as a slight coincidence, he then continued to see 444 in the strangest of places, especially in spots that didn’t make sense, he explains.

“I was staying at a place in the city, and I parked my car overnight and I didn’t realise it was in a Clearway. It’s like 8:20 in the morning, I walk out and I’m like ‘someone's car is getting towed that’s shit for them’...I walk over and it was my car getting towed on a Monday morning…The guy’s like ‘yeah okay I can give you your car but you’ve gotta pay a fee’ he stares me dead in the eyes and goes, ‘it’s $444’ - I was tripping out.

“One time when I was at work and I was printing these docs out, there was an error on the machine, it printed out 3 pages that had time stamps - 4.43 and 58 seconds, 4.43 and 59 seconds and the last one was 4.44 and zero seconds.”

Angel numbers were everywhere and for Jay, the sight of them seemed inescapable. He decided to take it as an opportunity to open his mind and dive deeper into what these recurring numbers were telling him.

“444 is like you’ve got angels protecting you, so keep moving, keep going and that really hit me because at that time I’d just started to drop a couple songs, I just dropped some things I produced on Spotify for the first time, I started seeing editorials and I was starting to see numbers. It led me to be half skeptical and half believe in it.

“ANGEL EYES’ is a song about me not believing in them but trusting them at the same time. So when I say “I’m in the stu’ right now and I'm so locked in, Hoodini gonna’ ask for the key and that’s on 444 til the fam gon eat” - I’m trusting the numbers, like 444, don’t worry trust in the world, your whole family is gonna be eating soon, everyone’s gonna be up soon, 111 you're gonna see penthouse suites, you’re gonna be in a whole different lifestyle like trust the numbers.

“The last verse towards the hook was the biggest one “You better not fuck this up coz’ the angel has finally given me eyes” and so it’s called ‘ANGEL EYES’ because I believe the angels have given me eyes to start seeing angel numbers. Every where I look it’s 444, 11.11, 12.12 but at the same time I said “you better not fuck this up” because Jay this is a moment for you now, take it.”

Accompanied by a mystifying and engrossing music video, inspired by Jim Carrey’s appearance in ‘The Number 23’, the visual is dark and powerful. Director Nick Rae worked alongside Jay to create a physical display of what Jay's consuming thoughts of angel numbers look like.

Listen to Jay Zayat's 'ANGEL EYES' on Spotify here.

Before Jay Zayat, the multifaceted artist that we know today went by the name of MLNIUM and produced strictly EDM and House beats and re-mixes. No singing, no rapping and no hip-hop productions either.

“I look back at MLNIUM and say the reason why Jay Zayat is where he is today is because of him.

“I made a whole album under MLNIUM that I've taken off of the internet because I don't want it to be out right now, but it’s something I’ll bring back one day. It’s part of something special. I love that music and I love that I captured Jay in the album…It was the first big body of work I ever did, and that album on some high key shit, made me broke as fuck, depressed as fuck and stressed, but to this day it’s the most proud piece of work i’ve ever released.”

“Motaki [Melbourne-based EDM producer] hit me up and he’s like “Yo, do you want to come out to this bar and we’ll make music?” and at that point I was like “Fuck It, let’s just live it”. So I met him in the city, and to this date it is one of my favorite ‘studio’ experiences, not only were we in a pub but we were making music out loud, we didn’t even have headphones on.”

At the pub Motaki briefly suggested an idea - what if they went to a house with a bunch of producers and singers and just made music for a straight week? 2 weeks later Jay and about 25 other artists were thrown into a group chat with plans to do exactly that.

“He just threw everyone in there who he’d love to make music with.”

On the 4-day getaway down the Mornington Peninsula, Motaki introduced Jay to some of the most pivotal artists he would ever come across including Ivoris, Jade Alice, Julia Lostrom and BANTA., to name a few, who encouraged him to try songwriting, singing and rapping in front of a mic for the first time.

“Making EDM I could never express myself, I could never look at EDM and say I'm so glad I said that because it just sounds… It wasn’t me. I just really want to speak my mind. A lot of the time I'd be robbed of explanations, I'd often be all ears to people and listen to them but when it was my turn to speak they didn’t wanna hear it.”

Whilst Motaki had formed a creative environment for Jay to express all aspects of his talents, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Jay realised that there was no longer a viable space for producers and artists to collaborate effectively. With help from some of his friends, Jay created a discord community for Melbourne and overseas artists to connect, share advice and cooperate to make music during lockdowns.

“When I was making EDM I never felt like I had help, I never felt like I was in a zone. So it was like if you are a creative, I want you to have a space where you can ask questions and not feel like you're being shunned by the world.

“I would always say, “if you ever need anything, my DM’s are always open” because, personally, I wanted that when I was making music. If one day you’re on Ableton, and you’re like ‘How the fuck to I do this?’, you can go to your homie and just jump on discord and they can show you.”

Now that the lockdown days are long past us, Jay is ready to headline the first ever live Melbourne Made It event, ‘Rager’ with support from Kill Carter, Yung Shōgun and Jono. An anticipated night that will focus on high energy hip-hop performances to showcase just how hype the 3K can get.

“I was feeling like I’d never seen a live show dedicated to hip-hop, because Melbourne is really diverse in terms of sound. When was the last time we just turnt up? When was the last time we just put a hip-hop show on and we just raged.

“I want to do Melbourne Made it events, I want to do Melbourne Made It meet & greets, it’s for the community, not for me.”

You can catch Jay Zayat live on the 9th of July at Collingwood’s Gasometer, where you too can connect with some of Melbourne’s most bustling individuals in the hip-hop scene. Whilst the multi-talented artist has already stamped his name in the Australian music industry, it is just the beginning for this young go-getter.

Photo 2 By @bydumar

Words by Violet Murphy

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