Jadasea on Sad Raps, Getting Robbed in Barcelona, and the South London Sound

Jadasea on Sad Raps, Getting Robbed in Barcelona, and the South London Sound

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I was really knocked out by Peckham rapper Jadasea's The Corner Vol. 1 last year, a collaboration with NYC beatmaker Laron. His latest record, Too Many Tears, came out last Friday; it's largely self-produced and sounds excellent. I got Jadasea (real name Jack D'Cruz) on the horn a few weeks ago to talk it all out, including his early days as part of the Sub Luna City collective with King Krule's Archy Marshall.

How's it going today?
It's going good, bro. I just got to my studio, so I'm just easing in for the day. About to get into some work after this.

Where is your studio space?
Peckham, in South London. We literally got the studio this week, so it's quite a big deal for us. It's literally around the corner from where I grew up, so it's pretty perfect, man.

What was your recording setup like before?
Just at the crib, bro. Just my computer and a sound card and a mic. We would get a studio every now and then, but I've never really been a studio artist. I've always just done the crib stuff. But I'm getting older, so the whole idea of a workspace is making more sense.

How old are you now?
I just turned 29 last week.

Happy belated birthday.
Thank you, bro. 

What'd you do for your birthday?
I actually didn't do anything. I just got back from the tour with MIKE.  We finished the tour and then went to Paris for a couple of weeks. Then we went to Marseille for a week for a little holiday at the end. I literally just got back.

How was the tour?
Bro, it was amazing. This is maybe the fifth tour me and MIKE have done together over here. We've been doing it for a minute, and this one was—not, like, a full circle, but kind of like a full circle. I was like, "This is really making sense now." All the shows were sold out, bar maybe one or two. It's just a lot of love, man—a lot of good energy, and it's a good thing to be part of.

MIKE also exudes a certain energy that people pick up on. It's always good vibes. It's never, like, that classic rap shit of "Put your fucking hands up." That shit is kind of corny now. He's doing it the right way, to be honest.

Tell me about your approach to performing live.
As a kid, I was quite shy and socially anxious. Even my mom says to me that the fact that I do this as a job is nuts. No one would've seen this coming. But my live approach has not always been that thought-out, and now I'm trying to think about it.

I've seen my friends perform who do this as a full living, and if you perform a lot, you have to separate your energy. You kind of have to become an actor. I've been doing this music thing with Archy since the beginning, and he's got a mad stage persona. That's my best friend, but if I look at him when he's on stage, like, that's not Arch. That's King Krule—whatever character that he made up. I see that with a lot of people whose shows I enjoy, so I'm trying to grasp that a bit more.

I've been playing lots of shows throughout my career, but it's never been mad consistent. One year I do ten or twelve shows, and the next year I do two. I've never been rehearsing, so I'm now trying to take it a bit more seriously.

What was the first concert you ever saw?
I feel like I've been around live music because my family fuck with music a lot. I'm pretty sure we would have seen some shit. But I'm actually trying to think...I saw Odd Future when I was 15. That was the first thing I'd gone to myself. Before that, I don't even know.

Tell me about the impression Odd Future made on you as a young person.
Oh, bro, a huge impression— seeing kids doing their own shit and being themselves. I guess it's quite a cliché, but at that time, it was a big fucking revelation to me. Quite quickly, I started rapping after that. Mainly, it was just representation. They had that weirdo energy or whatever. I was fucking with that shit because I wasn't seeing that. I was trying to be like them because they're from thousands of miles away—a completely new, different place. 

But it was the energy of Ratking and Wiki too, and all the underground shows I've ever been to. By the time I saw them, the Odd Future shit was already kind of big—they were already doin Brixton Academy. But underground shit like Wiki really fucking got my cogs turning. I give a lot to Earl and Wiki for being my peers—but, also, when I didn't know them, as soon as I heard their shit, it was clicking in my brain. I can't really say that for too many people.

You mentioned being around music a lot with your family—tell me more about that.
My pops used to be a house DJ, and he used to run a music publication—like, the first hip-hop magazine in the UK. It was called Touch Magazine. It's a dead publication, but it was sick. We all got copies at the crib, and they're mad funny. They had crazy people in there—Snoop, Beyoncé. These were the times where hip-hop over here was really just growing and starting out. We're not 10 years behind America in terms of hip-hop, but we're just a smaller place, so it took us longer to develop, I think. So when those people were coming here in the '90s, I don't think they were as big as they were in America.

And then my mom loves music, so she's listening to music in the yard constantly, and my dad's been DJing on the weekends, and then I'm loving music from early as well. It's just always been a thing, and I think that's the thing for a lot of musicians—similar backgrounds.

Tell me about putting this new record together.
This one was written over the course of 2023. I produced about 10 tracks on there. I made most of them throughout last year. With life, a couple bad things is happening, and I feel like that was like me pouring out into that. I was living by myself in my crib. I had a little studio flat, so I was really just locking in on some emotional shit.

I've been making music that's, like, for me, therapeutic-wise. If I go through something—if I'm grieving or something like that—I might write really personally, mentioning names and really personal stuff that's just for me. I don't put that stuff out because I literally hear that shit and I'd start getting really emotional. This album is my halfway step to maybe putting those out—because I know that if I do put those out, that can help connect with people.

A lot of tracks I like is when someone really does raw, pouring their heart out, gearing up to it type of shit. I've been emotional. My music's been emotional. I'm just that way in general—not even emotional, but kind of cynical. I'm cynical and depressive, and this project is just me going into that. The Corner Vol. 1 was more—well, it is that as well, because it always is that—but it was more me trying to do the rap mixtape kind of shit. Hard beats, hard raps, hard features. This record is just me, and it's a lot of my own beats.

That's why I've actually been struggling with it. With other projects, I can be like, "I just did the bars, it's not too much pressure," but with this shit, I'm like, damn. If people don't start with this shit, then it's over.

Tell me more about the evolution of your writing style—about how you've grown and changed as a lyricist.
With regards to general maturity, I started writing when I was...I mean, that's always been my strong point. It's the only thing I was ever good at in school. Everything else was F's and E's—sometimes a C. It was bad. In English, I was second or third set. In England, the top set is the smartest kids, and it's based on your grades from when you're 11. I was always bad at them exams, so I was put into kind of a bad set. But in English, they put me up mad quick, so I know it's always been like my thing.

In terms of writing, I've always had my little thing that I wanted to say, but it's constantly changing and being influenced by outside things and internal decisions I make. I need to be more minimal—like, I can't even listen to a lot of the shit I made when I was that age because I was trying to do so much. I'd be taking down some of my tracks every now and then, cringing out. I don't need my 16-year-old fucking brain out there. It's the worst time. You think you mad fucking lit at that age and mad knowledgeable about politics. "I'm just gonna play history, I just got out of school." What the fuck do you know?

I feel like, in another 10 years, I might be able to appreciate that, you know what I mean? It's like seeing baby pics when you're 11. You're like, "Oh, hell no, that's the most embarrassing shit ever." But when you this age, you're like, "Oh, damn." I'm hoping it changes.

Let's talk more about production. Tell me about your ear and approach as a producer.
I guess the literal approach is finding a sample, putting it into Ableton, and then just chopping or looping it. For this tape, my boys George and Archie, they had got a couple MPCs around, and they'd lent me one. I made most of this tape on that as well, on some hip-hop shit. I had to learn the MPC, so even this tape's intro beat is the first thing I made—just messing around and not knowing how to use it, and learning how to use it over six months.

I actually, um...it got stolen. I actually haven't told one of my friends that gave it to me. Maybe if they read this, though, they're gonna see it.

How did it get stolen?
On tour. I had it on tour, and I was DJing for myself, so I could just trigger it. In Barcelona, you know, I guess we had a bit too much to drink and smoke, and then I just left it sitting on the street for about 30 seconds. You can't do that in Barcelona, at all.

Tell me about learning a new instrument like the MPC.
It'sthe first time I've learned an instrument, barring learning how to do it on my laptop. I've never used any drum machine or sampler or whatever you call that. My brother dropped it to me, and I was mad excited and just started trying to learn it. The way it's set up is actually quite annoying, but I worked it out, kind of. Chopping drums in it was different.

Some of them tracks on there, like...[Thinks for a minute about which track he wanted to mention] See, also, this is the thing about this tape. I labored over the mixing of it so much that I now have completely discarded it in my life.

 You're not the only artist I've talked to that's felt that way after finishing a project. When it comes to working with other producers, what catches your ear?
It's really a feeling. My process of making beats is the same as my process of selecting them. It's an instantaneous chemistry that flicks off in my head, and I'm like, "Oh, yeah, that feels good." I can't really whittle it down to any genre or anything, because it kind of spans over a lot of things, but it's the same energy that I'd be rapping with—shit be having some yearning, sad shit. Soul samples usually have an emotional spark over whatever it is—a girl, a man—and that's how I write. When I hear that in someone's beat or a sample, I'm like, "OK, let's go." I need to go and recreate that feeling, either by writing bars or actually making the beat around it and trying to get that feeling.

I guess it's hard to explain, but it's one of those weird, existential things. You can be on YouTube all day, bro—all day, clicking through things, and it won't happen. You get mad, defeated. That can happen for a week, bruv. But it's definitely a feeling, which leans towards like sadness, yearning, or cynicism. I am trying to make some happy shit. I'm not against happy shit. I'm not, like, anti-happy music. It just seems a bit more difficult for me. I'd be starting off with a happy bar, and then four bars in I've gone back to my normal subject matter and I'm like, "Fuck! I couldn't keep it up for more than eight."

Tell me about your relationship to the NYC underground scene. I listen to a lot of what's coming out in the UK and what's coming out here, and your stuff sounds a lot more like what's been coming out here.
I feel like it's an "If you know, you know" kind of situation. Even where I'm from, Peckham was never really known for, like, rap music in particular. There's definitely have been some acts from Peckham—I don't want anyone to come to me on that. Giggs is kind of the Godfather character out here—he calls himself the Landlord, he's from my area. They did do faster shit in the beginning, and you have to be able to do the fast-paced shit—but my area in particular was rap shit: Styles P, D-Block, Mobb Deep beats, Dipset beats, New York beats, real hip-hop shit. That's what I grew up on locally.

When I started making music with Archie, he literally just messaged me one day when I was 15 and was like, "Yo, pull up, I heard you used to freestyle on the ends. I heard you can put some words together, pull up." I didn't really know who he was either, so I pulled up and he was mad into DITC, Big L—fucking real '90s hip-hop shit. When you're 16 and you mad up on the "retro shit" for the first time, you think you're a genius. We've also got London Posse—that's hip-hop shit, the beginnings of hip-hop out here. This is me going in some documentary shit, but because of the nature of like the club shit out here, the faster tempo shit became more popular. They're more likely to not want to hear me chatting about my own fucking problems.

But UK rap has always been what I do. I'm not doing an American thing—it's hip-hop. I think New York's definitely the mecca, if there was one. But we've been doing it out here just as long. The only thing is, we used to do it in American accents, and that was keeping us back. That's why London Posse are legends out here, because they were the first to do it South London accents in '95. But up until, like, 2006, people was really doing the American accents out here.

We've touched on this a little already, but tell me more about the Sub Luna City days.
Yeah, so that started when Archie hit me up and was like, "Yo, I heard you can rap a lot." We put out a few tapes before Sub Luna City that are still up as Edgar the Beatmaker. There's ones from 2012 and 2013 that I hope stay kind of buried. I shouldn't even be giving out the links. We made the Sub Luna City record over a couple days, and it got a really good reception, which was crazy for me. It was that era of underground shit with Soundcloud, where no one even knew what I looked like because there was like some blurry-ass photo that we put up, and no videos.

I still meet people that tell me, "Do you remember this?" And I'm like, "Bro, yeah that was me." That shit really got out there, and people were fucking with it—and, at the time, I kind of knew, because we had made a couple grand on Bandcamp and we were like, "Damn." This was before Spotify, so we weren't even making money through that yet. Now I get kids over here that tell me that was the first shit they heard. That's awesome—and I can relate to hearing something where it makes you want to add to the tapestry of influence. It's really what puts the battery in my back, so it's really important to keep doing this shit.

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Jamie Larson