Anyone who has ever lived in St. Louis knows about Nelly and the St. Lunatics. Their sound became widespread throughout the city in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Tracks like Country Grammar, EI, and Pimp Juice became instant classics. But what you may not know is the man behind their famous sound that went worldwide.
DELUX caught up with super producer and STL’s own, Jay-E to talk about his newest project In the City featuring several of STL hip hop biggest names, and his The Mind of Jay-E concert partnership with Red Bull. The multi-platinum producer talks about the career-defining sound he created, his meteoric rise to success, his love for music and what’s next for the Saint Louis music scene.
DELUX: Thanks for doing this interview with me.
JAY-E: Oh no problem, thank you for taking the time to talk to me.
DELUX: You welcome. Ok so if you’re ready, let’s get started. For those who may not be familiar with who Jay-E is, tell our readers a little bit about yourself and how you came to be Jay-E—beat maker and producer.
JAY-E: Well I’ve been a music producer for I guess about 20 years for Nelly and the St. Lunatics. There have been so many St. Louis artists that I have produced, along with artists like Plies, Three 6 Mafia, Josh Stone, and so many others as well. I was born and raised in St. Louis.
DELUX: So how did you get into music?
JAY-E: Originally, I started DJing house parties in high school, then a friend of mine who was DJing at Saints asked me to come by to hang out and meet everybody. One day when I was hanging around he showed me the studio and I became so intrigued by it. I figured if I was going to be hanging around, I might as well start making records. Then it just so happens the St. Lunatics came by one day and heard a few of my beats—and dug them so we started working together. This was way before any of them took off and our first track which was Gimme What You Got.
DELUX: Every producer has their signature sound that they leave on a track. How would you describe yours?
JAY-E: I mean I’m all over the place [laughs]. I listen to a lot of soul, blues, rock-n-roll, hip-hop, and R&B. Basically, I kind of collaborate all those sound and genres into a track like a big gumbo and kind of make it my own. I didn’t really plan for to happen that way—it’s just kind of turned out like that since those sounds were my inspiration growing up as a kid. I just love music in general and it shows in my music.
DELUX: Okay what would you say is your favorite track to date that you have produced?
JAY-E: Umm produced, let’s see. Pimp Juice is definitely up there, EI, and Splurge are my favorites from Nelly that I have done. I’ve done so many that I am fan of, but definitely a lot of the tracks on my record—like this song with Keem called Better Days that I really love—and the In the City with Tef Poe is one of my favorites as well.
DELUX: That’s dope! Now you have this new project called In the City. Tell us a little bit about what inspired it, what made you pick these tracks and what made you decide to go with these artists?
JAY-E: You know I’ve always been a fan of an entourage of artists. Like I grew up really loving Wu-Tang, NWA, and stuff like that. I’ve always wanted to get St. Louis together and do a record, even way back in the day. I’m all about timing and I felt the timing was finally right to just go ahead and attack this goal of mine. I actually worked with so many more artists that didn’t make this record, which is why I titled it volume one. I anticipate on dropping volume two sometime later, but these were the ones I chose that I enjoyed and flowed really well from top to bottom.
It’s a very diverse album from trap music to classic hip-hop, to rock-n-roll, to punk on there. It’s just all over the place, but that’s how I’ve always wanted to do. I feel like it shows my musical history. I feel like I kind of have musical ADD [laughs]. I don’t like listening to the same genre all day—I bounce around like a shuffle mode.
DELUX: Is this something that you’ve always wanted to do? Are you excited about the show and album?
JAY-E: To be honest, I was making the album already, but I wasn’t planning on dropping it this year. I was kind of going with the flow with no real anticipation on a release date. We had already released the track with Tef Poe, Kyjuan and Murphy Lee, and it was going really well. However, when Red Bull Music approached me about this idea—I was like hell yeah let’s do it. After that, I went ahead and pushed myself to get it completed.
Red Bull really wanted to go all out for the city and get behind the album, so I was really happy about that and appreciated it.
DELUX: What can the audience expect from your show at the Pageant tonight?
JAY-E: Well first we have Mvstermind performing which Red Bull brought in. They titled it “The Mind of Jay E” because they wanted to have an artist who grew up listening to Country Grammar and my sound. He was really inspired as an artist by that. Then there is E-40 who I was inspired by growing up because I listened to a lot of him and the Clique. There’s also Tef Poe, KyJuan and Murph, along with some other surprise artists all on one stage. There should be around 14 artists and 12 groups performing in total.
DELUX: Are there any surprises in the show, or people not listed that we can expect to see?
JAY-E: Umm well there will be people popping up, but I can’t say 100 percent who. It will definitely be a star-studded show with people flying in—I’ll just say that.
DELUX: [laughs] Okay so basically anyone of your favorites could possibly, maybe pop up and be there?
JAY-E: Yeah, there definitely be some celebs in the house tonight for sure.
Jay E’s album “In the City” is available on streaming platforms, and his show “The Mind of Jay E” is tonight at the Pageant starting at 8pm. Be sure to check them out!