JAHKOY knows a thing or two about switching it up. Formerly rapping under a different name, the 20-year-old Toronto-born producer/vocalist was reborn as JAHKOY, a smooth electro-R&B crooner with a full heart and a story to tell. It wasn’t long before he swerved again, leaving the lush northern lands of dark, electronic R&B for the brighter lights of Los Angeles.
The transition ultimately fathered one of the best songs of the year. While working in LA, JAHKOY linked up with co-producers Tony Tritone and Nova on “Still In Love,” a heartsick slowburner with layered vocal hooks and a pacifying electro groove.
In advance of his forthcoming project Temptations, JAHKOY has commissioned 7 different reinterpretations of the track on the Still In Love Remix EP. It features an eclectic set of re-works by Instrum, Vasta, Sailors, Bolier, NYMZ, Mickey Valen, and Krs. & Masego.
We talked to the Toronto expat about the West Coast, the bi-polar sound, and his relationship with Willow and Jaden Smith. Check out the interview below, and keep scrolling for the exclusive premiere of the Still In Love Remix EP.
You were born in Toronto, but last year, you made the decision to relocate to Los Angeles. It surprises me, given that Toronto is kind of a hotbed for talent right now. Can you explain your motivation to switch it up?
I needed a new environment. I got too used to being in one spot, and it started to bore me. I wasn’t getting excited anymore. Don’t get me wrong, Toronto is an amazing place, but I discovered everything I was looking for there, and I wanted more. From Toronto, I didn’t go straight to LA—I made a few pit stops on the way. It’s actually pretty funny because LA was my last option. I left Toronto in November 2014 to go to Memphis to buy a cheap car to stay with my family in Atlanta. Long story short, I spent some time there, decided to visit my girlfriend at the time in Edmonton, and then I found myself in LA.
So what has the move done for your career so far?
The move has definitely opened up my ears to a new atmosphere. I made a lot of great friends, some I consider family. I was inspired to write the entire Temptations project there.
Does being from Toronto give you any extra credit in LA? How does the West Coast perceive the North?
Being from Toronto does get me attention. Everyone loves what’s been coming out of the city. The west coast is so friendly, I love it.
Who are your major influences right now?
It’s strange because I don’t have a modern day influence. I look at artists like Pharrell, Andre 3000, Craig David. What inspires me is the '90s era to the early 2000s and that’s where I’ll always have my heart when it comes to music.
Describe the “bi-polar sound.”
The bipolar sound is everything you expect not to expect.
How did your relationship with 1234 Creations come to be?
It happened in LA. I connected with Jaden Smith before making my way to LA and I met with Daniel D’Artiste in my first few days of being there. One thing led to another, and we became family.
You’ve worked with Kaytranada, Willow Smith, and many others...how do you approach a high profile collaboration vs. working alone?
When doing a song alone, it’s always very personal, I generally tap into my feelings or it happens naturally and just try to use the best words that describe all of it. Collaborations usually happen when one writer or the other comes up with an idea, and we run with it, or keep exercising ideas until we get the one that’s the best.
Is the same true for working on someone else’s beat vs. your own?
It is very much the same, except there are a lot of times where I get taken away by the instrumental and start reacting with all this emotion. [laughs]
Tell me about this remix EP. How does it feel to hear the song filtered through other producers’ sensibilities?
The remix EP is honestly amazing. I could not have hoped for more. Having remixes made to this song really introduced me to the many different ways I make people feel through the message of my music. I heard "Still In Love" was the fastest growing song on Soundcloud on day 2 of the release! Hopefully the remixes fly as well.
What’s your favourite re-work on the project?
Every remix is gold, but the Instrum take on it blew me away. It sounds like it could have been the original.
What’s next for you? Can you tell us anything about Temptations?
I am currently putting the finishing touches on Temptations. I’m a co-producer on everything, so the world is definitely going to get a taste of the real me.
What’s your message?
Self love, good health, and positivity.