It’s a frigid winter morning in New York City, and a Complex camera crew takes refuge in a strikingly bright (and spacious) SoHo loft. They await the arrival of a 17-year-old social media phenomenon and recent Atlantic Records signee.
15 minutes before call time, in walks IV Jay.
Shy at first, yet remarkably polite and mature for her age, the curly haired teen quickly finds comfort in the music reverberating throughout the sunshine-filled space. She impressively lip syncs nearly every song played, and adds a few dance moves to accompany the blend of current hits and old-schools jams. Her energy makes the loft shine even brighter.
Four years ago, IV discovered she could sing in the shower and began posting covers to classic tracks, like Alessia Cara’s “Here” and Childish Gambino’s “Redbone,” to her platform of choice: Instagram. Fast-forward to January 2018, she submits an original verse on DaniLeigh’s “Life,” catches the attention of her fellow Latina recording artist, and goes viral. IV reveals she gained 20K new IG followers overnight (she now has 448K and counting).
“As a girl growing up, there's always so much trauma and stuff you go through. It's time for women to take a stand… ‘Cause we run the world. Period.”
The Puerto Rican-Dominican-Colombian leveraged her social media savviness and soulful voice to land a deal with Atlantic Records. Just last October, she released her self-titled, four-track EP IV. The ’90s R&B influence can be heard on songs like “Thirsty,” which samples Ginuwine’s “So Anxious,” and her down-to-earth vocal technique is on full display on “Understand.” The Paterson, New Jersey native’s effortless, tomboyish style even echoes that of the late iconic singer and actress Aaliyah.
Perhaps most impressive about the neophyte lies not in her talents, but her commitment to using her platform to spread girl power. She founded an empowerment group for “S.I.C.K. (Strong Intelligent, Confident, Kind)” young women that she calls her IV League initiative. “As a girl growing up, there's always so much trauma and stuff you go through,” she states. “It's time for women to take a stand… ‘Cause we run the world. Period.”
While social media is what put her on, IV Jay’s sound—both musical and socially-conscious—is what places her on a unique path. Rocking the Puma Nova '90s, the singer breaks from recording to discuss her cultural heritage, the current impact Latinx artists are having on music, her writing process, and more. Without much probing, she also candidly speaks about the challenges women face and why time’s up for men in power.
IV On Heritage
IV Jay’s Latinidad serves as a huge source of inspiration. “As a Latina, there's so much to love. You've got the food, the music, the dancing. Honestly, I just love the features of every Latina woman. It's always beautiful hair, it's the texture. It's the accents, and Spanish. The language is so beautiful to me. Everything about being a Latina woman, girl, boy, is just so beautiful. I really love all of it.”
IV On Her Writing Process
“I have to be by myself for some reason. It's easier for me to write when it's kind of just a few people in the room. And I have to have some type of candle, low lighting. I need to be in a very calm environment, and I'm actually a writer writer. I like to write with pen and paper rather than type. So, it always has to be super chill. I'll probably draw little doodles on the side [of the page], and then it'll just start flowing out.”
IV On The Latinx Music Explosion
Salsa and merengue were (and still are) frequently played in IV’s household. So, too, was the music of Latino icon Marc Anthony—a favorite of her mother’s. But, IV admits, the Latinx artists she was exposed to as a child never quite received the global attention they’re experiencing today.
“It's amazing, honestly, 'cause growing up, I never really heard of any Latinos or Latinas being so big. I was more on pop, but now it's like…they're even on the pop train. They're mainstream. I feel like it's a very inspirational time for Latinas and Latinos to get up and get going. They're having their moment right now. They're bringing that sauce, that new sound. Bad Bunny, Ozuna, all of them.”
IV On Style
“I never wear tight clothes. I'm always in baggy pants and loose shirts, so my style is very chill, comfy, laid back… I love a sneaker that can almost go with anything. That's the best. You slide it on, [it] looks dope with every outfit. If I could run in them, that's always great ‘cause I’m always jumping around, hyper somewhere. It’s gotta be fire.”
IV On Female Empowerment
“I always tell my fans—well, I don't like to call them fans—my supporters and my family, that as a girl growing up, there's always so much trauma and stuff you go through. It's time for women to take a stand. Time to get together and to rise up and crush it.
“A lot of women get scared because it feels like everything is being run by men, you know? But it's time for women to remove that [fear]. Replace it. 'Cause we run the world. Period.”
IV On Her Influences
A fan of reggaetón, IV reveals a certain Puerto Rican star who she's eager to work with. “I really love Ozuna. He’s on top of my collab list… A dream collab, which is a super extreme dream of mine, would definitely be Lauryn Hill because I love her [music] so much.”
When it comes to her pop and R&B roots, they’re heavily influenced by several leading ladies. “My musical influences would have to be Lauryn Hill, Mary [J. Blige], Aaliyah, Alicia Keys… I love Adele. Very soulful, down-to-earth R&B is my jam. It's what I really stick to.
IV On The Haters
As someone who broke through via social media, IV fully appreciates the love of her supporters, but also faces IG trolls on a daily basis.
“When I got my first hate comment, I ran to my mother crying. It used to affect me a lot. It used to bring me down. And then I realized people are gonna do this no matter what. Think about it: Beyoncé has haters. Look at Beyoncé. She's freaking Beyoncé! And these are people who just don't wanna see you successful. So I've decided to block them out. At the end of the day, me winning is gonna make them the more mad. So I'm gonna make them mad.”
Creative direction by Hunter Mak.
Styling by Taisha Suero.
Hair and makeup by Roxanna Chowdhury.