“That’s the fourth time this week
Another fast brother shot dead in the street”
I’m tired of writing about young rap stars being killed. I hope you’re tired of reading about it. Either way here we are again with JayDaYoungan being the latest rapper gunned down in the United States. I chose a KRS-One quote to open this review as a reminder that this has been endemic since before his deejay Scott La Rock was killed but neither rap nor the culture has had any answers to this problem. Kris made a heartfelt plea to “Stop the Violence in hip-hop” and almost 35 years later nothing has changed.
I realize this could be a moment for depression and despair. It seems hopeless. Despite the evidence to the contrary I still think we can do better. The problem is complex and my words certainly aren’t the answer. Hearts and minds need to change, and young people need real opportunities for a better life so that the “fast” way isn’t so appealing. Wealth needs to be re-evaluated as a measure of success. Creating a better life for your peers and your kin is a success. Living and breathing is a success.
“Baby23” may be the only studio album JayDaYoungan released, but he was incredibly prolific outside of that, with at least a dozen mixtapes and extended plays since 2016. This is our first time covering Jay and it’s admittedly overdue. His 2019 video for “23 Island” was the very definition of viral, and its inclusion on this album guaranteed the release would do well. It’s over 170 million views as of this writing and the unfortunate truth is those numbers will mushroom following his death. If there’s one thing we’re far too good at it’s celebrating rappers after they die young instead of while they’re still alive.
Javorius Scott was once quoted as saying “I don’t see me sounding similar to nobody else” and with respect to the dead I looked at his album with that thought in mind. Try as I did though songs like “Shottas” draw obvious and immediate comparisons to AutoTune crooners like Lil Tjay and YNW Melly. It’s not that Jay is tying to imitate them or anybody else; rather, it’s the predominant rap style for going from the underground to the mainstream quickly. Some have called this the SoundCloud rap generation. I think that’s a gross oversimplification given there are still a wide variety of new artists in rap, many of whom do not use AutoTune even once on a song, but Jay and his “Draco” are very definitely part of the trend.
This is where the inevitable hand-wringing will come in. If JayDaYoungan is proudly rapping about the “brand new body” his gun caught on the hook, is he guilty of promoting the very violence that brought him down? I look at it as a mirror reflecting off the experiences Mr. Scott had in his young life. Bogalusa, Louisiana is described as having among the highest crime rates in the state, and Louisiana didn’t have a low rate of homicides and gun violence to begin with. His death like his music is a an uncomfortable reminder of the consequences when communities spiral into chaos while people stand around saying “that’s a damn shame” but the bodies keep dropping. “That’s the fourth time this week.”
“Try Me” may seem like it was inviting people to take shots at him, but let’s remember that this is a song and not real life, and even if it was real life such bravado could only be read as a defense mechanism. If you know that the moment you succeed someone’s waiting to take it from you, what are your choices? Talking big and trying to scare people off, or packing heat and doing it for real. Perhaps Scott did a little bit of both and hoped it would be enough to make the haters think twice. Unfortunately given the number of people who ambushed him and his father in front of their home it might has well have been a military operation. Both Jay and his pops were armed and were completely overwhelmed. Who knows what their motives were? We just know they were determined to succeed and they did.
In songs like “Nightmares” we see that JayDaYoungan letting Javorius shine though, admitting that the constant hate directed his way was keeping him up at night more than Kid CuDi. Arguably he too was in pursuit of happiness. He worked with BTGrin on songs like “Do You Wanna Go Away” where he proposes to a potential partner they leave things behind for a sexual rendezvous. It’s equally possible to read between the lines that he wants to escape his nightmares, both in the comfort between her legs and in a real sense go on a vacation with her somewhere far from Bogalusa.
It’s clear from “Baby23” that JayDaYoungan had the ambitious to succeed and a sound that would easily fit into whatever “Power” or “Hot” FM radio station is big in your city. Fitting in easily also means you don’t stand out. In a drive time mix I wouldn’t be able to separate Jay from at least a dozen contemporaries with a similar style, unless I heard a specific song like “23 Island” that went mega viral outside of commercial radio. Please pay attention to my words here and don’t just skip down to the score. I want this to be absolutely clear — Javorius Tykies Scott was a rising star in the music world, and it’s a tragedy for everyone involved that a young black man with his whole life ahead of him was gunned down over lord knows what reason. We don’t know how much more he could have grown, what he could have accomplished, how much he could have done for this world. It’s time to stop being tired of this happening and start to find some answers.