Atlanta rapper, producer and songwriter London Jae is speaking his piece after 130 unreleased songs by Latto were leaked online last week. The leak led to a larger conversation on whether women rappers’ songwriting is authentic. The 35-year-old is known for co-writing Cardi B’s “Bartier Cardi” (which he also co-produced) Lil Baby (“Detox”), Kevin Gates (“Walls Talking”), G Herbo (“T.O.P.”), French Montana (“Handstand”), several of Latto’s (released and unreleased songs) and more. Now, with seven years in the music industry, Jae (born Jaucquez Lowe), typically content with being behind the scenes, is speaking up.
“I don’t get into debates about music with people that don’t do music, because it will never end,” Jae tells Complex.
Last September, London Jae nabbed his biggest hit yet with Latto’s 777 lead single “Big Energy,” which boasted a remix earlier this year with Mariah Carey and DJ Khaled. While the song’s success has landed Latto twoGrammy nominations (Best New Artist and Best Melodic Rap Performance), it also made her a target for the self-proclaimed Queen of Rap, Nicki Minaj. In October, Minaj shaded Latto on Twitter, saying that if her first No. 1 single “Super Freaky Girl” doesn’t get nominated in the Grammys rap categories, neither should “Big Energy,” which sampled Tom Tom Club’s 1981 smash “Genius of Love.” Latto attempted to respond to Minaj in a DM, which Minaj revealed to her followers, spawning an all-out online war between the two rappers, instigated by their respective fanbases.
London Jae, also known as “King Pen,” co-wrote “Big Energy,” which has since become Latto’s first crossover hit. Prior to the song becoming double platinum certified, London Jae was an artist on B.o.B’s now-defunct independent record label, Label No Genre, dropping his own projects including Better L8te Than Never, Pain Killer and 10 Summers. In the last five years, Jae’s comfortability as a songwriter expanded when his placements—especially for women rappers—gained traction. Ironically, BIA’s remix of “Whole Lotta Money” featured Nicki Minaj a year before the Queens native called out “Big Energy” on Twitter.
“People don’t understand the process.”
Luckily, Jae’s accomplishments have surpassed recent controversy. “Bartier Carti” earned Jae his first Grammy Award when Cardi B’s 2018 debut album Invasion of Privacy won Best Rap Album the following year. In 2023, Jae might receive his second Grammy if Latto’s “Big Energy” wins for Best Melodic Rap Performance. The pop-influenced song has allowed the Ohio-born, Atlanta-raised rapper to diversify her reach as an opening act on Lizzo’s The Special Tour. Along with “Big Energy,” Jae also contributed four other songs to 777, affectionately calling Latto his “twin.”
“I try to expand the artist. I’m gonna put you in a space you ain’t never been in,” London Jae tells Complex. “That’s probably gonna win because ain’t no money in comfort. Even with ‘Big Energy,’ that wasn’t a Latto type of song, but that shit worked.”
Complex exclusively spoke with London Jae about his reaction to Latto’s unreleased material being leaked, his comfortability with writing for women, social media feuds between rappers and more.
If you were to guess, where did the leaks come from or what was it in reaction to?
Man, I don’t know. It really caught me off guard, like, the whole shit. I was in the studio and it probably had been going on for five, six hours and I didn’t know. My best friend called, like, “You don’t see what’s going on?” She started sending links to my phone, I’m like, “The fuck is this?” I still don’t understand how that can happen, to that depth with that much music. I’ll probably never understand that.
Even before [the leaks] did happen, Latto was having a back and forth with Nicki Minaj on Twitter. So do you think it was probably caused by someone on Nicki’s team or The Barbz?
Ain’t no telling. How music works and how people work, there ain’t no telling. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s how it happened. I can’t really point fingers but I wouldn’t be surprised either way, because this shit treacherous.
So I’m guessing this has never happened to you before?
Not to this extent, nah. That shit really unheard of, like, how do you get access to that? Even back when I was an artist, music got leaked but it wasn’t to where it’s like a Billboard top two song.
For those who don’t understand reference tracks, can you explain that process?
It’s basically you come up with a record and for me, I’m really particular about who I work with. If I’m on an idea and I feel like it’s for a certain person, then 90 percent of the time it’s gonna be tailored for that person. My process is a little different. Let’s take Latto, for instance—with Latto it ain’t really fully me just writing a song. What I’ve had to tell people a lot is; Latto don’t need me. She’s not stupid and she’s the type of person like, “I’m trying to get whatever the best product is, however I can make this better.”
Sometimes she’ll have a song done and call me like, “What you think? Let’s go through the song and try to make the lines better.” A record like “Big Energy,” the song was so big that you’d almost be a fool to try that by yourself with no other ears. But people who don’t do music don’t understand that. Me and Latto, we got a crazy process. Say we’re in a room working—we can be bouncing ideas and I could be like “I’m finna go lay it right quick.”
“She’s one of the few I would leave ideas with. So it’s impossible for me to know who cut it first.”
I think people got a misconception of how it happens. I think they think it’s me, like, “I’m about to write this song for Latto and give it to her.” It ain’t always that, especially with her because Latto thinks like a ni**a and her personality real strong. In real life, that shit gotta be her way, me and her just figured out a chemistry in that, because I allow her to do it however she’s gonna do it. Then I’m like “Let’s change this or make this better,” it’s more so that than [me] writing for Latto—I collab with Latto. I collab with BIA, like, BIA an animal, she’ll write for herself. She’s a songwriter anyway.
People don’t understand the process of it, so for me, I don’t get into debates about music with people that don’t do music, because it will never end, you will never understand. It’s pointless for me to do it. There’s literally a big ass process to music before the consumer even gets it. I ain’t arguing with people about no damn music. [Laughs.]
How did “Whole Lotta Money” and “Blick Blick” end up with other artists besides Latto? Was she the first one to record those?
It ain’t something I would know. Most of the records me and Latto do are basically from scratch, but in a session, I’ll still play her something like, “I did some shit, check this out.” It’s all idea-based, so if I do play her a record, I’m playing her the idea of a record then we make it make sense for her or any other artist.
If we’re in a session and I play a couple ideas, she’s like “Okay, cool. That’s dope, leave them.” She’s one of the few I would leave ideas with. So it’s impossible for me to know who cut it first. When I did get with BIA and play the idea, it was instant for her and made the most sense. It landed where it was supposed to. We catered it for her, that’s all it is. The thing I don’t like about how music be working is, they don’t be doing this with the n***as. It’s weird—n***as don’t go through this.
There’s been a lot of conversation about whether female rappers are genuinely writing their bars. Why do you think that’s a dialogue now?
The only people that care about that type of shit are the people that don’t do music. People that have been successful at music, they don’t give a fuck about that. It ain’t even a conversation. From my experience, the only people that I ever encountered that got a problem with a writer or—I definitely don’t like calling it ‘ghostwriter,’ I ain’t no fucking ghost. I’m human, I ain’t hiding. If you know me, you know what I do. The only people that seemingly got a problem with writers or whatever you want to call it are the people that do write their own music but ain’t successful. It’s almost like you want one hundred percent of zero or fifty percent of $10,000,000. That’s a decision to make.
“Why is it so much of a big deal, but it’s only like that with women?”
I ain’t never seen it like this to the point where it matters that much, but it only matters to the people that ain’t successful. People who are successful don’t even think like that. Once you eclipse that amount of success, it’s like “Shit, I’m trying to get back to it. What’s the fastest route to it that don’t take from my day-to-day? I’m finna call me some help in.” Why not? You get right back to the money faster and there ain’t no drop-offs. But then you got whoever over here writing all their own bars and 19 plays on their YouTube. Songwriting ain’t just started, this shit been going on since music started. So, why is it so much of a big deal, but it’s only like that with women?
Nicki Minaj didn’t get any nominations for the 2023 Grammys but Latto did, so that might have contributed to the leaks, too.
Maybe, I don’t know. This shit dangerous. [Laughs.] Rapping is probably the most dangerous sport there is. Now it’s so many more women that’s in rap music or hip-hop or music period. For me, it’s fun because we’re trailblazing with it being these many successful women in music. I don’t get it, like, why the fuck y’all ain’t working together? N***as don’t do this, even if they don’t fuck with each other. We’ll figure out how to make a song together and get some money.
Since the leaks, BIA and Coi Leray have gone to social media to explain the situation. What are your thoughts on seeing these women feel like they have to explain themselves, and you’re at the center of it?
I don’t give a damn at all. But with BIA and Coi, when I saw it, I was like, “I would’ve never did that.” I wouldn’t have responded because I don’t know who I’m responding to. I know it’s Twitter and that shit goes from eight to eighty, but who am I talking to? Am I talking to somebody that even understands what I’m about to say? It’s almost like once you explain yourself, you gotta keep doing it. This my music, I ain’t explaining myself. The only person that needs to understand is me, my manager, my accountant and the bank.
Being that [listeners] don’t know the process behind it, when you first heard that song, you didn’t feel like that about it, you felt good about it. So how [do] you come to learn something about it change your opinion of the song? It shouldn’t, because at the end of the day, it’s all artistry. Is it a good song? Yeah. Did she make this all bigger? Yeah. If I were to put that song out, it would’ve went double paper plates. It wouldn’t have done shit.
Do you still make your own music?
I still fuck around, but I don’t really be hung up on “Oh, I need to drop an album.” I came for the money. I feel like God kind of intervened with me, like “Man, you don’t even like cameras, just do this.” Now I get to do something that I like doing and I don’t gotta deal with something I don’t like doing. I don’t like being in the lights, so what I do now made more sense for me. If I do drop music, it will be because I wanted to versus me needing to.
Was there an adjustment for you when it came to writing for female artists?
Nah, because I got a lot of sisters. So it’s really me understanding them and [being] like, “Alright, let me transfer that to this.” I wasn’t nothing, it was easy. I know what a girl would say to me, I take that approach. Most of the music I make is like conversation music, I take conversations and make music without it being corny.
First, you gotta understand women, then it’s based on where I’m from too. Atlanta women are just different from a lot of women, it’s like super confidence. Everybody in Atlanta is famous, so when famous people come, they don’t feel that famous. A n***a with nothing is a celebrity, because you can’t tell him he not. We basically never needed money to be a celebrity—we know how to look the part. So I take that shit and put it in music. That’s why I understand how to make certain songs, especially with women in music; I’ve been dealing with women all my life.
Do you have a response to anyone who criticizes men for writing material for female rappers?
Yeah: Show me what your account looks like. Show me what you do for a living. Show me if you matter on Earth and then I’ll have that conversation with you. But it don’t make sense for me to do that. I know who I is and I know what I do. But [songwriting] has been going on forever but social media kind of shrunk the world, so everybody know everything about everybody.
Do you think that female rappers should return to making diss tracks instead of responding to each other on social media?
I rather it than the social media shit. Nine times out of ten with social media, it gets to a place of emotion and we probably hit where we shouldn’t be hitting at. If it’s a song, it’s defined like “I’ma say this and it’s over.” With social media, the more you dig, the worse it gets when it ain’t even that serious.
“With Latto, I know she don’t care, so it doesn’t affect her long-term. But every artist ain’t the same.”
That’s where I think the n***as separate because they’re just make a song and leave it there. Women carry so much emotion and passion it’s like, “Bitch, I’m finna get off right now.” Sometimes that shit be better for tomorrow. You can live a song down but you on social media and you just going, it’ll get to a place where it can’t come back from.
So you’ll probably be writing a diss song for Latto next?
Latto don’t need help with no diss song. That’s the crazy part about all this because she wouldn’t call me for that. None of them would call me for that. They know like, “Don’t call me unless you trying to go to radio because I ain’t getting into all that.” I ain’t writing no diss song because it ain’t how I feel.
But Latto, she gonna go nuts on her own. Sometimes it’s good for the sport just to see two artists going back and forth trying to destroy each other, but it’s all in the name of artistry. We gotta get back to that, because if it’s about bars then write. Y’all can argue on Instagram and Twitter all day, but where the bars at? But arguing and arguing – that ain’t it. Y’all basically giving y’all shit away for free. Take it where you gonna make some money off your input. Don’t just argue because you leave too much room for speculation.
I think too, though, they gotta leave these girls alone without always critiquing them. N***as don’t each critiqued on, but they gotta let these women be themselves and let the music be judged, not the process of the music. It don’t matter because if you didn’t know [about] it wouldn’t matter.
I think it might hurt an artist going forward after some shit like that. With Latto, I know she don’t care, so it doesn’t affect her long-term. But every artist ain’t the same. Some of them didn’t come into the game knowing. Some of them brought only their star quality. So the fact that they even took that challenge on like, “I’m gonna go do some shit that I don’t know how to do but if I can get a couple with me that’ll help me get it done…” Ain’t no harm in that shit. They taking it seriously, especially if they’re putting the work in for real. The people doing all the talking ain’t putting in no work.