In case 11 million youtube views weren’t enough…the interview begins after “Replay.”
As the newest addition to Beluga Heights Records, IYAZ is following in the footsteps of Sean Kingston to become one of the Caribbeans greatest musical exports. With the release of Replay, Keidran Jones has experienced chart-topping success in Australia, Britain and the United Statesconclusively cementing his status as an international superstar.
Straddling the lines of hip-hop, pop and R&B, IYAZ has found a welcome home in the hearts of a diverse swath of music lovers, who have embraced his curse-free music and care-free persona. On March 30, 2010, he will release his debut My Life via Warner Music Group.
In the midst of a promotional tour for My Life, IYAZ managed to squeeze some time out of his busy schedule and settle down for an interview with Clayton Perryreflecting on the industrys growing appreciation of Island music, his artistic responsibilities as a role model for youth, and his admiration of Bob Marley and Wyclef Jean.AllHipHop.com: With your music, you have made a concerted effort to make sure that your lyrics are curse-free? There are few male rappers that take that kind of stand. In fact, the only person that immediately comes to mind is Will Smith.
IYAZ: I just felt that that was the way I wanted to go. I hate to see young kids cursing. I dont want them to be singing the words of my song and using cursing words non-stop. So I just try to keep my music curse-free, so that everybody can sing it and theres nothing bad that anyone can say about it.
AllHipHop.com: Is it safe to assume that you feel that artists have a certain responsibility for the images and lyrics they present to the public?
IYAZ: I think every artist should feel that way. Not just myself. In everything I do, no matter what the song is, the rest of that message I want to get across, Im trying to make it as positive as possible.AllHipHop.com: Your mom always kept you on your Ps and Qs. Now that you are a grown man in your own right, what particular things do you think she still keeps you in check on?IYAZ: She still keeps me in check on everything! [laughing] My mom doesnt care how old I am. Im not too old to get a butt-whooping! [laughing] She still calls me to make sure I say my prayers before I go to sleep [laughing]. She doesnt play with that, you know? But she doesnt really have to keep me in check though. I was brought up the right way, so I just stick to what I know from growing up.”The best advice that Sean gave me is sleep when you die. I have a
one-in-a-lifetime opportunity. He told me you cant just sit around and
not work for it.” – IYAZ
AllHipHop.com: Your government name is Keidron Jones. Whats the story behind your stage name?
IYAZ: Iyaz means the boss, the one in charge. That was actually my godfathers name. And I used to be around him a lot. They called me mini Iyaz, but as you can see Im not mini anymore. So there you have it, the big IYAZ.AllHipHop.com: What special bond did you and your godfather share?
IYAZ: Everywhere he went, I went. I wanted to be just like him. So I just gradually took the name from him.
AllHipHop.com: Over the past decade, several Caribbean artists have exploded here in the States: Sean Paul, Rihanna and Sean Kingston, in particular. As a member of this Caribbean music invasion, why do you think a lot of American listeners have gravitated towards island music?
IYAZ: Island music is cultural music. Its feel good music. You cant help but listen to it. When people think of paradise and vacation, they think of the Islands, right? So, thats why I think people tend to gravitate to it. Its something different. Something special. And its not the typical stuff you hear every day, all day.
AllHipHop.com: When did you really gravitate towards music? At what point did you determine that music-making is what you were born to do?
IYAZ: As far as I can remember, I always wanted to be involved in music. When I was in college, I was studying to do something in video. And I knew production. But I just wanted to be involved in music, no matter what it was. It could be recording. It could have been engineering. It could have been video. I could have been the artist.
AllHipHop.com: So when you look back on your college experience, how did it enhance your artistic career? What skills did you develop during that time?
IYAZ: It helped me big time. I didnt have to sit around and wait until I get in the studio to come up with great ideas. I could work outside the studio. Im great at what I do, so I will sit down. If I have ideas, Ill just record them into my laptop, engineer them because I have a little program on my laptop so Ill just sit down, engineer them and then send them up to J. R. to see what he says. And then whatever he doesnt like, I change. That way by the time I do get back to L.A. to record, theres no sitting around trying to pick through ideas, or whatever. Its just record, record, record and then get back on the road.”Island music is cultural music. Its feel good music.
You cant help but listen to it. When people think of paradise and
vacation, they think of the Islands, right? So, thats why I think
people tend to gravitate to it.” – IYAZ
AllHipHop.com: Now that you have signed with Beluga Heights and frequently collaborating with Sean Kingston and J.R. Rotem, what professional lessons have you learned from them? Whats the best advice they have given you?
IYAZ: The best advice that Sean gave me is sleep when you die. I have a one-in-a-lifetime opportunity. He told me you cant just sit around and not work for it. Youve made it this far, youve got to work hard to make sure you stay relevant and stay on top of the game. And as far as J. R., hes just so creative and thinks outside of the box. What he does on the keyboard, I do with my voice. I tend to just take different elements of his creativity, his different vibes I cant even explain how he is, because hes kind of weird! [laughing] Its just how he is. I try mimic him when I want to be creative or when I have writers block.
AllHipHop.com: You spent the bulk of 2009 on the roadtouring in support of Replay. How do you keep your batteries charged when you are constantly traveling?IYAZ: Music keeps me healthy, man. No matter how tired I am, just put some music on and Im good. The second you stop playing music, Im definitely going to fall asleep. Definitely. Like, Ill be in meetings and whatever. The second they put music on, its, Wow! Because thats the one thing that I love. I love performing. I love hearing music. Thats what Im all about. Im about making music, doing music, performing. Thats what I like. I dont really get time to rest. And when I do get downtime, Im just blasting music. Blasting off. Thats all I need.
AllHipHop.com: So when you need to relax, what kind of music helps you stay in a chill mode?
IYAZ: I listen to a little bit of everything. Green Day, Rihanna, Lil Wayne. I listen to a little gospel. I listen to everything, man. Everything! [laughing]
AllHipHop.com: As you criss-crossed the globe, how have you improved as a performer?
IYAZ: I used to reach out to the crowd, a lot, like you know, hands out touching the crowd and stuff. I dont really do that too much. I started to notice that when I did that everybody would push forward and trample the people in the front. So, I try to be cautious when I do small, little stuff like that. At my show, I just wanted everyone to have a good time. I dont want anyone to get hurt or nothing like that.
AllHipHop.com: This past week, Replay became the number-one single in the U.K. How does it feel to have your work validated by an international audience?
IYAZ: It feels good, you know? I just visited for the first time, like a week ago. And in that first time being there, thats when my record went to the top of the charts. So I actually found out when I got there. They announced it at my first interview, then they announced it live on the radio. The U.K. fans, they all love me, support me just as much as my U.S. fans support me. And it feels great to know that. It definitely, definitely feels good.
AllHipHop.com: Although your album has not been released yet, I had the chance to hear Breathe, which is my favorite tracks out of your catalog. What details can you share about that particular song?
IYAZ: Breathe is actually one of the songs that I got signed off of. Thats what Kara DioGuardi who brought me to Warner thats one of the songs she loves. Pretty much, in that song, I was talking about me being in love with my best friend. In all my songs, I tend to write about stuff that Im going through, and that was happening to be one of the things that I was going through at that point in time. So were talking about me having a girl and Im trying to explain to her and tell her Im actually in love with my best friend because I knew my best friend before I actually knew my girl.
AllHipHop.com: Im not sure if you ever get the chance to travel back home [to the British Virgin Islands], but when you do get to travel back home, what has the response been like?
IYAZ: Back home, its crazy! Youd think that I was Michael Jackson or something! [laughing] Its 100 percent love. They definitely love what Im doing for the Islands and want to see me go far.
AllHipHop.com: Do you feel any pressure being a role model for your country?
IYAZ: There is pressure, but Im not really trying to be a role model. Im actually trying to do what I love to do, which is make music. So that comes first before anything. Like I said, I try to keep my music positive. I try to keep it curse free music. As you can see, everything I do is for music, because I love music. Music comes first. I love recording music for me, first.
AllHipHop.com: When you were growing up, which artists did you consider to be your biggest musical influences?
IYAZ: I used to look up to Bob Marley and Wyclef [Jean]. I listen to them a lot.
AllHipHop.com: What about those two men do you most admire?
IYAZ: Just the way that they can carry themselves. They were both doing something positive. They were both making good music. Had a great following. People looked up to them greatly and the music that they were making was world music. I love to make world music. That makes it feel good and change people, like people still know the power of music. But they may not know how powerful music is. Music is like good medicine.
For more information on IYAZ, visit his official website: http://www.iyazmusic.com/