A reflection on urban music in its ‘mainstream form’ with Jay Sean

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When you think about old school club bangers you can’t not remember ‘Down’, “Do You Remember” or “Stay” – all R&B hits from Jay Sean. 15 years in the game it’s safe to say that we would view him as an artist who’s got both his feet on the commercial ground of R&B music on a global scale.

Jay Sean along with artists such as Sean Paul and Alesha Dixon were among those shutting down the R&B UK music scene, and pushing urban sounds into conventional platforms, shows and events. Since then we have seen a dramatic shift in terms of the way we now choose to absorb music, party and even the energy we expect at live shows. We now have artists such as J Hus or Stormzy also able to appear on mainstream events and platforms, as they’ve the ‘ceiling’ and part of the epic talent putting UK Rap on a role for 2017.

At the same time, it’s hard not to notice the decline in UK R&B, not so much in terms of rappers but singers who fuse R&B with other genres such as Pop or Funk. “New school UK RnB hasn’t existed as much as it should now. Not only is music changing but also everybody can see that genres like Grime is working so maybe brands and live events focus on acts that produce that type of music even if a lot there are still a lot of RnB singers in the UK. It will take a couple breakthrough artists to get us back on the map again, they need to be on that Bryson Tiller or Tory Lanez kind of vibe. We’ll always appreciate the old school RnB though, those were great times!” Jay told me as we chilled and had a drink at Sony Music offices. He’s well chilled!

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With all that being said what is mainstream now with the changes we mentioned? Would you now consider UK Rap as evolving to become a mainstream music genre? Although we are definitely not where we’d like to be as a genre, I think we are definitely going to see more UK rappers on widely accepted platforms, which to me seems like it has huge potential to becoming perceived as ‘mainstream’.

Link Up TV, GRM and SBTV have been perceived in the past as mainstream platforms for UK Rap, but then again one could say that mainstream for someone else is being play listed on more ‘commercial’ platforms or radio stations. I think I’m fairly right in saying that because of how widely accepted UK Rap has been over the last year we’ve now raised the bar for what qualifies as being part of the mainstream. On the other hand some may choose to base it on tickets sales or chart rankings. I do believe however that regardless of the change in perception, platforms such as Link Up TV will always be the spot for seeing the growth of the UK’s best rappers and singers in the urban music scene in the UK.

Although there is a long way to go in terms of how far we can take urban music, we have to be grateful about how far we’ve come. But will it last and if so how long for? Reflecting on his own journey and obstacles faced as a young Asian man trying to pave way intro mainstream music, Jay Sean highlighted the key to his longevity and what he felt is key for all emerging artists to hold onto on the come up, “Manage to stay current by knowing that the music landscape changes constantly. If I tried to drop a track like “Stay” now no one would take it in, you have to be able to move with the times. Even though I have been making RnB music for over a decade, not one tune is the same because I’ve adapted to the changing landscape as music has evolved – this is key to sticking around”.

Speaking about times, we touched on the current boom of the afro-swing genre, to which Jay Sean replied “I love it, and may have something in the pipeline in the future on the same wave!” We hope he does!

The 38-year-old’s new music mode is back in full swing after signing with Sony Music, check out his latest track “Do You Love Me”

What do you think? Is UK Rap moving towards a more ‘mainstream’ music genre? Tweet us! @LinkUpTV