[INTERVIEW] Reflections with JAY B

On August 26, JAY B released SOMO:FUME, his long-awaited, debut EP as a signee under Jay Park’s and Cha Cha Malone’s record label, H1GHR MUSIC. The release followed the pre-release single, “Switch It Up” that captivated listeners and teased fans of what was to come. Featuring artists such as MAMAMOO’s WheeIn and singer JUNNY, the album is the anticipated reveal of his personally curated work and talents.  

SOMO:FUME stands for “Style of My Own” and plays on the Korean word “소모품” (consumables) and “perfume.” “This album consumed my energy and I hope that this will radiate to my listeners, like the smell of perfume. And through this album, I hope that my fans can each interpret it in their own way and gain energy from it.” He explained to us about his release. The entire album is about JAY B embracing his craft and releasing content that truly is in a style of his own.

Shortly after joining H1GHR MUSIC, JAY B began the process of carefully crafting his debut EP. The 27-year-old multifaceted artist wanted to release a record that was unapologetically a reflection of himself. This is mirrored in his chosen Ernest Hemingway quote in the album’s official description: “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man. True nobility is being superior to your former self.” 

Containing seven tracks, the record is stacked with star studded featured artists, such as Sokodomo, who add unique colors to their respective tracks. The production was done in-house by H1GHR MUSIC’s own GroovyRoom, GRAY, WOOGIE, and Cha Cha Malone. “I think this album started by just working freely,” JAY B shared of the process. “Jaebum hyung (Jay Park) said it would be good to work with fellow H1GHR MUSIC artists, so we all had fun working together. The only moments I remember were of our feelings of expectation and tension as we worked hard on the album.” 

While developing the album, JAY B found that both “B.T.W (Feat. Jay Park)” and “FAME (Feat. JUNNY)” perfectly fit the direction and concept of the album, so much so that he ultimately decided to release both as double title tracks in his album. Featuring Jay Park and produced by Cha Cha Malone, opening title track B.T.Wis an airy R&B number about the different ways JAY B could spoil his future lover. His feelings grow in the following B-side track, “AM PM (Feat. Wheein),” and then shift as JAY B sings of a blossoming relationship that makes him feel like the leading role in a romance film in the feel-good funky R&B title track, “FAME (ft. JUNNY).” The rest of the album continues to take the listener on a sonic journey through the different stages of love. “In To You (ft. g1nger)” is a delicate love letter while g1nger’s verse echoes the lover’s hesitation of the sudden confession. Listeners then ease into the beloved, pre-release hip-hop track, “Switch It Up” as the album takes a more confident approach to love that peaks in the following track, “Count on Me.” 

Among all the songs on the record, “Paranoia” was the one that JAY B spent the most time on. The CD-exclusive track touches on his fear of being trapped in a hopeless state, unable to move forward and escape. “I think I showed myself most while writing this song,” he shared. This isn’t the first time JAY B has openly conversed about mental health. In a past interview with ARENA, JAY B openly spoke about being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. “Like me, I think that many people have these worries, and I hope that they are all able to overcome them.” In doing so, his brave honesty has sparked conversation, empowered listeners, and makes strides towards dismantling the stigma surrounding mental health.

At the core of JAY B’s songwriting process is crafting genuine lyrics that resonate with his heart. While he does not have a particular moment or ritual to tap into his pool of creativity, he finds inspiration in his everyday life. “There isn’t a specific time when I feel the most creative. It comes from moment to moment. Sometimes I get ideas while I’m out on a walk, or while I’m taking a shower. My ideas tend to come to me during random moments.”

During the songwriting process, songs can undergo multiple revisions before they are ready for release. In some cases, the released tracks could be vastly different from its original demos. While JAY B has had his fair share of revised tracks in this process (“There are plenty!”), he cited “Count On Me (Prod. Groovyroom)” as one example. “I released the final version after my GroovyRoom friends asked me to trust them,” he shared. The multifaceted producer duo recently launched their own label, ARENA, in partnership with H1GHR MUSIC. “When I listened to the released track, I thought to myself that the final arrangement we chose to release was the appropriate choice. And, if you watch the process of improving and changing a song into its final version, I think it’s true that I feel better and more proud about the release.”

Pull quote graphic of JAY B designed by Kpopconcerts.com
Graphic designed by: Lucy Ho

Over the years, the 2020 “Best All-Rounder” accumulated nearly 100 KMCA credits under his aliases (JAY B, JB, DEFSOUL, etc.). Of all the songs he worked on, he chose GOT7’s “PAGE” as his fondest piece. Penned under his producer name DEFSOUL, the 2019 track from GOT7’s SPINNING TOP: BETWEEN SECURITY & INSECURITY EP was unanimously beloved by Aghases and the GOT7 members upon its release. Inspired by JAY B revisiting his past journal entries about his loved ones, the lyrics carry his desire to connect with more people to fill his journal pages with fond memories. “Even now, I can’t forget the feeling of pride and excitement while writing that song’s shape and lyrics. This doesn’t mean the lyrics of other songs are lacking, but the thrill of that time remains a strong memory.”

One of JAY B’s many outlets to record and capture his memories, emotions and feelings at a certain moment in time is journaling. When asked about revisiting his past letters to himself he said, “I think it will be fun! I used to write letters to my future self when I was in school, so I started by looking at the letters I wrote myself in the past. In the future, if I were to read letters that I wrote myself at this stage in my life, I think it would be fun and I would probably think it’s cute.” Knowing what he knows now, he wishes to tell his younger self, “I would want to tell my past self that I’m doing well, so don’t waver.”

Photography, another of JAY B’s creative outlets, is a life-long hobby of his that he has openly shared with his fans. “When I was young, I became interested in film photography after I saw a movie [about it] and was impressed, so I copied it and started to take pictures as I went about,” he shared with us. What inspired him to continue was encouragement from his mother. “The most memorable moment was when my mom saw my first pictures and told me that I had more talent than she thought.” Last year, JAY B transformed his life-long hobby into reality – he launched his own photo exhibition titled, “ALONE.” under his moniker, Def. The exhibit featured curated photographs that depicted candid moments of when JAY B felt loneliness, told through “happy lenses.” Whether he is capturing emotions on paper or on film, JAY B’s tenacity for poetic storytelling through various mediums speaks to his endless creativity.

Leading up to his album’s release, JAY B continued to express himself through the upload of a series of Instagram posts that display a different side of himself, a more personable side. Outside of the limelight, he reveals that he trades his stage outfits for hoodies, ballcaps, and beanies and immerses himself in his books, fishing, and enjoying the simple things in life. Some captions read, “rewriting my story” “re-visiting my roots” and “re-enjoying the simple times.” When asked about moments that he wishes he could relive again, there were just far too many to name. “But I know that I can’t, so instead I have been thinking about how I can continue to improve in the future. I want to experience all of my past experiences again because I think I could have done more or been better in those moments.”

Back in February, JAY B spontaneously launched his own Youtube channel where he began uploading a variety of content. From dropping Def.’s SoundCloud tracks to a laid-back travel vlog, JAY B plans to keep his channel open to anything and everything. “I am thinking of just running YouTube naturally. I don’t think it will be periodic. I’ll manage my Youtube content as I feel ready. There are no rules.”

These days, JAY B is keeping himself busy in order to take care of his mental well-being. “After the pandemic began, I think I moved more and exercised more than I thought I would. I think that’s how I was able to maintain a steady daily cycle,” he shared. “The things that comfort me when I’m having a hard time are different from situation to situation. Sometimes I may be listening to one thing and then switch to something else, but I think the best thing is always going to be good food.” At home, he finds comfort with his cats who provide him much needed healing and energy boost. “There are no special updates [about the cats] – just that they get cuter every day.”

As 2021 comes to a close, JAY B wants to focus on himself now more than ever. “The next step I think is to get to know myself a bit more. I plan to write down what sort of things I want to do, things that I am feeling in the moment, etc., and possibly reveal them at a later time. But before the year ends, I want to hold a show, but I’ll have to release more albums in order to make that possible, right?”

Until then, keep an eye out for JAY B’s future creative endeavors and our upcoming “Advice from JAY B” graphic content coming out on our Instagram soon!

Translated by: Lisa E. and Nahri L.

  1. Thank you for this interview. His mind is always amazing. It’s really great to support him, it’s never boring. Music, performance, lyrics, photography, everything is good. I think one reason for it, he portrays sincere emotions.
    Thank you JayB, Def., Lim Jaebeom.

  2. This is well-written and I love how you covered different aspects of him, both his professional career and his personal life. You even included his new Def. music release! Enjoyed reading this article and hope you can have him again in the future! Looking forward to that “Advice from Jay B” content <3

  3. Love the article! I’ve read many articles on Jay B and I gotta say that I could never get tired of reading how true he is to himself. I love that about him. Thank you for sharing and for writing this piece.

  4. This is so well written, all my thoughts about how the tracks are numbered in the album is intentional and it intend to tell a story. And it’s all here! Question asked also revealed a lil bit about him and it’s amazing to read about it. Thank you so much for this!

  5. Congratulations JAY B! You’ve done so many good things and I wish you could enjoy every bit of sweetness in it. No earthly word can ever describe how much I am amazed at your craft whether it’s the Lim Jaebeom that we know or Defsoul. You inspire a lot of people to be more open about themselves and to think of different perspectives. Thank you for existing because you give me much more consuming me with your craft and personality that it positively affects my daily life! 🤍

  6. I am so happy to see Jay B flourishing in different areas. I wish him all the happiness in the world. I am excited to see what he brings us in the future💚

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