Say what you will about the Santa Barbara hip-hop scene — Jay October is forcing folks to think again. Born and raised in Freeport, Bahamas, Jay came stateside on a college basketball scholarship in 2006. The game took him to Virginia, then San Diego, then Missouri, where he picked up the mike by way of a friend. “I’m a very competitive person, and I met this guy who rapped, so I started making beats for him,” Jay recalled, “but when he’d leave, I’d start rapping. He told me I sounded like Big Daddy Kane and all these old-school rappers, so I took it as a challenge to get better, and I developed this love for it. It reminded me of the same feeling I used to get when I played basketball. You get in the zone, and you just space out.”
When school and basketball ended, Jay decided California was his next stop, and he set his sights on Santa Barbara. “It was just like home. It’s a different breeze here,” he said. That was in 2011. Nowadays, the 25-year-old rapper has posted up in a studio at Haley Ashbury Rehearsals, where he’s putting the finishing touches on his next (seventh) mixtape, Even/Uneven, slated to drop at the end of the month. “It’s a reference my two sides,” he said. “Sometimes I’m mellow, and sometimes I’m up here.”
Listening to Jay flow, you can’t help but take notice. His beats are catchy, his lyrics from the heart, and his delivery, well, it’s about as spitfire furious as they come. Subjects range from women to poverty to politics (his “Suits’ Truth Series” is an intense exercise in lost-youth poetry), and samples ping-pong between 8-bit Nintendo noise and vintage tracks, like Nipsey Russell’s “What Would I Do If I Could Feel.”
As for the future, Jay sees big things in store for Santa Barbara’s hip-hop scene, and he’s more than happy to carry the torch. “It definitely needs to grow, and I want to be one of those people who bring Santa Barbara hip-hop to the forefront,” he said. “There’s so much richness here it has to blow up, and when it does, it’s going to be insane.”
Listen online at jayoctober.com.