Summertime in 2019 was captivated by a wave of Spanish-infused West Coast hip-hop thanks to Watts, California’s own Ambjaay and his platinum-selling hit “Uno.” The catchy song caught the attention of celebrities worldwide and landed on the Billboard Hot 100 chart as well as the publication’s 100 Best Songs of 2019.
With production by Almighty Quise, “Uno” kickstarted a plethora of Latino-influenced slaps such as YG’s “Go Loko” last year and Tyga’s “Ayy Macarena” remake, and though the 20-year-old is proud of his influence and accomplishments, he’s ready to show the world what he’s got with his latest release, It Cost To Live Like This 2.
The project’s only guest feature is Wiz Khalifa on “Blow The Pickle,” who Jaay says was extremely supportive of him from the very beginning as the song began to gain steam on the fun video-sharing app TikTok. As someone who blew up relatively quickly straight out of high school, the buzzing star is simply grateful things happened the way they did.
Uproxx got the opportunity to catch up with Jaay about It Cost To Live Like This 2, his thoughts on TikTok fame, and why everyone should expect more from him than just songs like “Uno.”
On It Cost To Live Like This 2, you have a song called “Blow The Pickle” on there with Wiz Khalifa and I know Wiz was one of the first people that supported you when “Uno” came out. How did that collab come about?
So basically, Wiz already wanted to get on “Uno.” My A&R sent it to him, and he sent it right back. He been messing with me for a long time. It’s not too many rappers that be messing with up-and-coming rappers like that or supporting them. He’s a real humble dude. I was just blessed for him to mess with me while I’m up-and-coming.
How did you guys first get in touch? Was it over Instagram?
He hit me on Instagram, and then he was like, “Aye, let me get your number.” I gave him my number, he FaceTimed me, and was like, “Can I get the ‘Uno’ beat, so I could freestyle it?” And then every show, some fans will just send me a video of him freestyling to the “Uno” beat. It’s crazy.
That’s dope! When did you first realize that “Uno” was a hit? You probably knew it was going to be big, but when did you realize, “Dang, this really hit.”
What people don’t know is, “Uno” been blew up where I was from. But probably, like the middle of the summer when it blew up big. I’m talking about like movie stars, actors, rappers noticing is when it started going crazy. When people first started gravitating to it, I just wanted to work harder. I was like, man, I got one, I got to get more in. That’s how I feel, you can’t just get stuck on one. I was trying to make more. I just feel like it was a catchy, fun song. When I first made it, I kind of spoke it to existence. I was like, “This the one.” The producer, he didn’t even have no faith in me. I’m like, “Bro, this the one.” Because you wouldn’t expect people to do this, wouldn’t expect people to come like this on a record like this.
Do you ever worry about sounding too West Coast, to the point where maybe it won’t resonate with other people?
I’ve got different songs that’s not West Coast, like trap, but I’m different from other West Coast rappers. It kind of be hard to branch off, to be honest — everything sound the same now. Like you might hear drum patterns in a beat, and it still be West Coast. Everybody’s got their own style, though.
Yep. Very true. Now, “Uno” blew up on TikTok. What are your thoughts on TikTok? Did you know what that app was before it blew up on there?
I love that app, man. I feel like without Instagram and apps like that, it would be hard. You know how back in the days they used to like pass off they CDs out they trunks. I swear if we didn’t have internet or these little apps, it’d be hard to blow. It’d be hard to do music. So that really helped me a lot, because people get to show how creative they is and do little videos. Actually, since we’ve been on quarantine, I fell in love with TikTok. I been learning how to use the app.
Out of all places for you to blow up, did you think TikTok would be the app that did it?
Not really. Because I had went away from it for a little while. I wasn’t really on it. But, once the labels showed me, I was like, “Damn, this sh*t crazy.” That one song helps you build up your fanbase for sure, though.
I also saw something where you mentioned in LA Latinos and Black people don’t really get along, so this song can bring us together. I want to know more about your take on that and where you have seen a positive effect.
It ain’t no race song. It’s just bringing both cultures together. What I mean about that is, “Uno” has Latino instruments and I just combine both to bring us together. I swear, if you go to jail — I haven’t been to jail, but there’s this story: If you go to jail, it’s a race card. You got to roll with your color when you go to jail. This just me doing my research. Some Mexicans don’t get along with Black people, some Black people don’t get along with Mexicans. I was just doing that just to have fun. It’s both of our cultures in one.
Are you seeing positive effects from the song?
Yeah, it’d be like 80 percent positive. 20 [percent] that be like, “It’s a race card” because they don’t got nothing else to do. It’s a fun song. It ain’t like racist words. It’s just basic Spanish words in the song.
And that’s another thing I be wanting to say. People don’t know this and I don’t even like doing this, but I was like one of the first ones to come with that sound in 2019. I made “Uno,” like, on January 3, just before I got signed. “Uno” got me signed. I been made it, we just bumped it up.
It already blew up where I was from and then everybody started doing songs like that. I feel like once you come with your own sound, and then everybody was hearing it, and [some Latino people] just felt like, okay, you wearing it out. “Y’all wearing our culture out.”
I was looking at your Twitter, and I saw you got your first plaque. Congrats! How does it feel?
It feel good! Where I come from, not too many people getting plaques and it just went platinum, too. Where I come from, it’s the projects. For me to even get signed, not too many people doing that. Most people my age give up their goals, don’t really chase their dreams, [and] don’t really want to be nothing. I had to change my life and do something positive with my life.
— Touré Ali 🖤 (@TourexAli) September 12, 2019
Growing up in Watts, what other options were you looking at, outside of rap?
If I wasn’t rapping, I’d want to transition into an actor. I wanted to be a basketball player. I was going to be one of those, though. I don’t want to just rap. I want to go into acting, do better things to open doors.
It feels like nowadays rappers can blow up so fast. Three years is a very short amount of time to blow.
Yeah, I feel I blew up at the right time. Before my time, my brother, he was a music producer, and my sister, she used to write poetry. It was always around me. It was just up to me to go through my own problems to figure out what I really wanted to do. When you fresh out of high school, you don’t really know what you want to do.
Especially people our age, most people my age don’t want to go to college. When you graduate high school, life hits you hard and you really don’t know what you fixing to do. I ain’t know what I was fixing to do. I tried to get a job, it wasn’t working for me and I was just rapping at the same time, while I’m trying to get a job. I just came with that one, and God was just on my side. Got lucky. I feel like, if you put your mind to it, everything’s going to work out. If you really try to go hard, everything going to work out.
It Cost To Live Like This 2 is out now on Columbia Records. Get it here.