J Molley is different. And by that I’m not referring to the fact that he’s a white kid in a game dominated by black rappers. The Internet Boy, as he is fondly known by his peers, is an extremely bright kid. Nerdy even. The home-schooled rapper waxes lyrical about everything from cartoons to business to religion. On the set of our cover shoot he constantly engaged Shane Eagle and our equally nerdy Creative Director Mzo on a variety of subjects with aplomb.
At his young age J Molley moves and thinks like an industry veteran. He is incredibly hands on when it comes to his burgeoning career. The sound, style, aesthetic and visuals are all his doing. And unlike most rappers that are part of the new wave, he actually touches on serious subjects in his music. Depression, and death are a common thread running through his latest project Dreams Money Can Buy.
True to his moniker, J Molley has a knack for constantly finding ways to blow up his music on the internet. He is already a local Soundcloud sensation but Jay hasn’t stopped there; he is carefully and deliberately building relationships with international rappers and producers with the goal of getting his music to the biggest market in the world, the U.S. He leverages his sound and aesthetic with ease.
In this expansive interview J Molley talks about how he got his start in the game, what inspires him, his battles with depression and the future of the New Wave.
Q: Please describe the moment when you realised that music was what you wanted to do for the rest of your life?
A: When I was 9, I got a guitar for my birthday and from then I knew that I was destined for something great. But growing up I always wanted to be the guy who could do everything so from playing guitar, to producing, to doing every sport, to hip hop dancing, to photography, but music has been my main passion my whole life. I decided I wanted to start singing last year, I mean I always wanted to do it but I never had the guts. So last year I gave it a shot, it started popping off and I realised that it could actually work.
Q: When we first heard of you, you were rolling with Tree House Family. What’s your relationship with the guys and what happened to Tree House?
A: We’re not too close anymore. After I left I think at the time they took it personally but that was never my intention. I had to make my decision to leave based on business solely. I felt that I wanted it more than everyone at the time and I needed it more than anyone at that time. My family was about to lose the house so needing to make money off this rap shit was a must, there was no other way. I had to get things moving for myself and I never wanted to feel like I had to wait on anyone else. When you’re solo, you get to make all the decisions for yourself, there’s no one to disagree with, no one else to wait on but yourself. My music was also starting to sound very different to theirs so that played a big part but regardless I just wanted to be seen as my own thing. Things got more serious in my career and I realised I didn’t wanna come up as a group.
Q: The type of music you make, the diverse group of friends you have and the fact that you were home schooled points to a unique upbringing. Can you please tell us little bit about where you’re from and how your unique upbringing informs the music you make?
A: I was born in JHB but I grew up in Pretoria until this year when I moved out my moms house back to JHB. I was homeschooled since grade 2 cause we were supposed to move to another country but that never happened. I think being homeschooled can really be tough on most kids cause they don’t really have friends and aren’t surrounded by many people. Every other homeschooled kid I met was very socially awkward. I was never like that though, I always had a lot of friends growing up, more than the kids that were at school. I was quite popular since I was like 12 , I don’t know why. People have just always recognized me. Growing up I always had black friends only. There were times where I would have like 2 or 3 white friends, but for the most part I was surrounded by black kids. Every weekend I’d be sleeping over at a black friends house so I would be going to their family weddings , going to the hood with them, going to the funerals sometimes, their 30 year old sisters big birthday parties and all that. So I can really relate to black people more because of that. Whoever you’re surrounded by that’s how you’re gonna act. I was surrounded by black people, so I acted like them, I spoke like them, I listened to the music they listened to. Same way they acted that way as well, we all grew up together so we all acted like each other and fed off each other. So that really affected the genre of music I listened to more than anything. Even now, I live in a house with 3 black people that all make music , so there’s a lot of different energies and unique styles to feed off of.
Q: How do you choose who to collaborate with? And what’s your favourite collaboration to date?
A: It has to make sense on a musical level first of all & then sometimes it’s based on a business decision. If I see that the feature would be good for my brand and the song and feature are both dope then I’ll do it . Ideally I’d prefer to have a relationship with the person I’m collaborating with but that’s not always possible. My favorite collab as of yet would probably be with Ricco on “Sinister”.
Q: You are one of the most successful “Soundcloud” artists we have in this country, how did you do it and how did you capitalise on that platform?
A: I don’t even know. When I had 100 000 plays before I was even playing on radio or tv I was shocked. A few people thought my plays were fake cause it just didn’t make sense. It happened so quick as well. I dropped my first song on SoundCloud and it got 10 000 plays in a month, then a few months later I dropped my second song and it hit 10 000 plays in 3 days so it grew rapidly. But there was no formula, it just happened. I was really inspired by rappers like Yachty and Uzi who made it off SoundCloud. Nothing like that was being done here in SA. There was no new sound that was being made and no one was trying to make it off the internet. So that’s what me and treehouse decided to do. That is what is referred to as the New Wave.
Q: You call yourself the Internet Boy does this mean you will never sign to a major label?
A: Not necessarily. I know that it is hard being independent, that’s just the way the system has been designed. But I also know that labels can do nothing for me besides provide me with money. Money talks , that’s it. There’s nothing special that labels do. They just have money and pay all the people that need to be paid whether it’s Distribution, PR, making sure your stuff is promoted right and being played on tv and radio. If they can offer me the right cheque and I agree to the terms then I would definitely sign. But if the bag isn’t right, then I’m staying independent.
Q: You dropped “Dreams Money Can Buy” not too long ago. What direction were you taking with the project and how has it been received on these internet streets?
A: I never had a direction. Everyone song I made on that tape was just me expressing everything I had gone through this year. Everything I talk about is 100% true cause music is therapy for me. If I have something on my chest I put it in a song. I hadn’t released any music in a whole year so after I was able to release music again legally I felt like I had to do it. There were a lot of things I said in the songs that I had to put out there to the world and move on from. You can’t hold on to music. In terms of the reception, I won’t lie I was a bit disappointed. I mean it got a lot of plays and all but I feel like a lot of people don’t understand it. The songs are catchy, yes, but if you haven’t been suicidal at a point in your life or tried to buy a gun and wanting to kill someone before or if you haven’t gone through a break up where you fucked up or if you haven’t been obsessed with money to a point where it starts changing you and ruining your relationships or being in new relationship where you’re compromising everything you believe in cause you wanna be with that person, then it won’t mean anything to you. So I think a lot of people don’t get it because they haven’t experienced those things and that’s okay . One day when they go through it and they go back and listen to the songs, it will be completely different to them and will finally make so much more sense. I think ‘cause people see that I’m 19 and ‘cause I dress and look like rappers from America that rap about meaningless shit, that I rap about the same things . But I really don’t , I’m talking about some extremely deep things and it’s all 100% true. It’s not fabricated or fake deep, it’s authentic one hundred percent true emotions.
Q: You released DMCB under Never Broke, Is that your own indie label? What happened to the Cutthroat partnership?
A: Nah it’s not a label, it’s a management team that my manager Nav started. It’s just a family and a movement more than anything. Just some young independent, talented people running it up. The Cutthroat partnership didn’t make sense on a business level, but regardless of that they weren’t the people I wanted to be surrounded with, I don’t wanna go into detail. I respect everyone though and everyone has their own perspective and side to the story. It just didn’t work out.
Q: What challenges have you faced as an indie artist and how do you overcome them?
A: Many but the greatest one is money. Financially it can be tricky. To break an artist into the game comfortably you need over a million easily. Independent artists don’t have more than a million. Most don’t even have R5000 starting off so we just gotta do what we gotta do. The system isn’t designed for independent artists to make it. If it was then the labels would suffer. It’s all about money and that’s it. It’s also hard cause you don’t have a huge team working for you. It’s just you and your friends. Sometimes only you. That plays a big part.
Q: SA Hip Hop is at this very exciting point where a new wave of artists are infiltrating the scene like never before and bringing in new sounds and aesthetics. What do you think is the catalyst for this and do you see this trend growing?
A: If you’re talking about the New Wave specifically I would say Treehouse is the catalyst 100%. The New Wave started when Treehouse formed in the south of joburg and we all had the same style of dressing, talking, music. It was just a movement. Kids could relate because they also liked dressing like that, they liked going to parties, moshpitting and just being on some rockstar shit. We uploaded our style of music on the internet and it started popping off because it hadn’t been seen before in SA. We were the first to do it and other kids realised that they could do it too. It’s just exciting, the kids are sick of most of the bullshit that the South African industry comes with. We’re all pushing our own individual new sounds that haven’t been heard here before and we have a chance of actually getting somewhere with it. It’s still growing but it’s definitely getting there. It’s only just begun.
Q: How do you feel about being part of the Steer’s Respek Nation series alongside Shane Eagle and TTGO?
It’s really dope, I respect both TTGO and Shane Eagle for being on their own shit. You can see they’re both confident in the music their making and just who they are. No one here is riding waves. We’re all making our own waves, independently. Shout out to them for real.
Photography by Anthony Bila
Creative Direction & Styling by Mzo Gcwabe