While you can’t draw a direct correlation between a rapper’s ear for beats and career length, the better the artist is as a self-contained A&R (or as a listener to good suggestions), the higher the survival rate through peaks and valleys.

While 19-year-old Brooklyn-based rapper Jay Bel is, as any young rapper, still coming into his own, new single “Kate” seems an indicator that his ears are working just fine.

“Kate” explores the familiar tug-of-war between the dream of life as an artist and practical reality. “I attended college for a semester; I got kicked out of college that same semester,” says Jay. “Once I got kicked out, I knew it was a sign to make music my entire life, I had no other choice.”

As ever, execution separates Jay’s take from similar stories; over a hypnotic, skeletal beat that evolves subtly over its five minute run time—peppering woozy synths and vocal samples on clattering percussion—Jay exhibits a considerable tool kit for telling his narrative. While he isn’t as focused lyrically as he could be, his ear for compelling production gives him an upper hand as he tweaks the perception of the college dropout as a useless layabout. He is a member of a generation sold a bill of goods by elders who grew up in a strikingly different world, walking the treacherous path of dream fulfilmment by following his passion.

Listen to “Kate” below.

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