When you first listen to "Dream Killas," the vocals immediately give a relaxed west coast vibe—but with ominous undertones and an infectious hook that make you want to dig deeper: “Dream killas, dream killas, dream killas, don’t kill my dream.”
The smooth voice on that hook comes from a young lady from Sacramento, California named Jayala Hollis. Her sharp lyrics roll off the tongue with conviction as she delivers quick, coherent bars that tell a gripping story about the difficulties of coming up on the underside of L.A: “Three things: dead, broke, or in jail/ pretty much the precinct is pre-hell.”
The video for "Dream Killas" brings that story to life, showing Hollis and her crew grappling with the odds that have been stacked up against them, all while trying to keep their faith (literally) and rise to the top. "Dream Killas" is the first official song and video from Hollis, but it has the craftsmanship of a seasoned artist.
Hollis self-directed the video, which features members of her crew, the Ku Cove Klan, who she met while coming up in a youth shelter in Los Angeles called the Covenant House. She explains, "There was a studio in the shelter where we'd all record. We'd skate, go to parties, etc."
Beginning her career with a goal of being a songwriter, Hollis spent some time in writing sessions for Chris Brown's Royalty, but has transitioned to writing and recording her own music. Hollis describes her songs as "broke bitch anthems" and says, "I wrote most of this shit holed up in a shelter."
Watch Hollis' new video for "Need a Friend" and continue for our full conversation with the talented 22-year-old artist.
Jalaya, can you introduce yourself?
I'm Jalaya Hollis. That's my real name and stage name. I used to have a stage name but I changed it to further authenticate myself. I’m 22 years old. I’m from L.A. and Sacramento.
How would you describe your music?
Broke bitch anthems. I wrote most of this shit holed up in a shelter.
How long have you been rapping?
I’ve only been rapping for like a year. I wanted to be a songwriter but nobody was trying to buy my shit. I wanted to write pop music but I decided to be my own artist because I don't have to worry about people picking up my tracks. I don't have time for that. A chick I knew knew some dudes that knew another chick, and that’s how I got into some writing sessions for Chris Brown’s Royalty.
That’s a huge artist to be in writing sessions with. What happened with those songs?
None of the songs got placed with him. I wasn't mad. I wasn't even supposed to be there so the fact I was in the room was next level.
I wanted to write pop music but I decided to be my own artist because I don't have to worry about people picking up my tracks. I don't have time for that.
You started your own crew out in L.A. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?
Ku Cove Klan is a collective of friends. We just be joking and sharing ideas. I met most of them at a youth shelter in L.A. called Covenant House. Some were street niggas that just aged out of foster care and straight into the shelter, and some were just L.A. transplants that moved there to start careers, like me. There was a studio in the shelter where we'd all record. We'd skate, go to parties, etc. A few of my friends just got life right after the "Dream Killas" video. We also have members that go to UCLA. The only things we have in common are creativity and getting money.
I noticed that the "Dream Killas" video had hashtags directed at those friends who are now locked up. What went down?
I don't want to speak on their situation but they got locked up a few days after the video. They're fighting for their freedom and rights. I put their music at the end of the video because I'm a fan and I know with the turn of events they will more than likely not be making music for a very long time. The cypher was just us shooting the breeze at the liquor store but when they went down I told my video editor homie to add those tags.
So how did you make the video for "Dream Killas" happen?
Dream Killas was the first video I directed. My homie Chigo Kawasaki facilitated a lot with it though. I just wanted to do some shit that looked like your average hood nigga video but with a twist that no one was expecting. I bought the white people off Craigslist.
It was something I put together over the course of six months. I shot it as soon as I transitioned out of Covenant House. I had saved up $12,000 in the time I was there and used about $4,900 of it to shoot the video. I paid the liquor store, I rented a $8,000 drone, I paid my nigga Chigo. I balled out! Happiest times of my life. The guy on the hook, Xavier The Poet, is one of my best friends although I don't see him as often as I'd like. He's well known in the poet community. He's hands down the most devout young Christian I know and I met him at the shelter as well. He carries a bible around wherever he goes. He's a lot different from all my other friends like Shaef and them.
Is your faith a huge part of you and your music?
Yes. I don't do a lot of things because of my religion. Like smoke or drink. I also don't steal or try to corrupt others. I move good but I still have a lot of errors in my walk with God.
I choose the beats. I write the songs. I direct the videos. I put it out. Nobody has a say in my shit because I fund it all on my own.
Have people ever compared your music to an early TDE vibe?
Yes. Everybody says that. They say I should sign to TDE, especially because I'm California through and through. What's even funnier is I was fucking with Kendrick Lamar when he was KDot but I wasn't a real fan until the Kendrick Lamar EP. He has the first song I ever cried to, "Keisha's Song," as well. My homie played it for me and when the song stopped I didn't realize a thug bitch was crying! I was like whimpering with tears rolling down my cheeks.
Would you say that you’re very meticulous about the stuff you put out? Do you like to have full creative control?
I choose the beats. I write the songs. I direct the videos. I put it out. Nobody has a say in my shit because I fund it all on my own. After the "Dream Killas" video, a camera company of film students called Federal Copycats reached out, and now they let me borrow their rich equipment to film as long as I shout them out so shout out them niggas for life!
Are you planning on putting out a full project soon?
I will put something out in 2018. I'll probably name it after myself. I'm never on social media or anything like that so when I do. It'll be on some Beyoncé out the Blue Ivy type shit.
Do you think it's important to build a following before you put out a project?
No. I think social media is cool but I'm outside in real life. I hardly ever have my phone on me anyway. I'm always using my homies' phone.
What is your goal with music?
I just want to have all my friends and I make money solely off music.