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Interview: Rapper Jay Kasai from the Inland Empire

Updated: Oct 11, 2022

A few weeks ago, I traveled out to the West Coast for the first time ever. It was a trip that was two years in the making. In 2019, I almost moved to Los Angeles to work with a university out there and was rejected after three interviews. However, I had more reasons to go out to California. One of those reasons was to meet with members of the Over Everything collective. In the past, I published articles covering the likes of Cam Archer, who's been on Shade 45 radio and a well-known face in Damian Lillard's 4-Bar Friday series, on HennyNCoke back in 2018. In 2019, I published my first music-based article for FeelGoodRVA covering Joe Sweatpants (formerly known as Tru Speech) album Getting Out Of Bed Is Hard and his singles American Girl and Nodding on this platform. In 2021, I interviewed multi-platinum producer Nabeyin for FeelGoodRVA.

However, it was one person that reached out to me in 2017 that helped me get familiar with the West Coast scene and that man is Jay Kasai. Back in the EARLY podcasting days on Soundcloud, I got a message from the Midnight Run Podcast page that was run by Kasai to check the page out. I loved the episodes and as I tuned in more, I realized that the trio on the podcast, Cam, Joe, and Kasai, all did music. I remember the first time listening to Kasai's music through Kasai Tape 2 and fell in love with the introspectiveness and beat choice from OhGoshLeotus. The song that stood out to me STILL to this day, Feel Important (Epilogue) and the OE Remix of Feel Important featuring Cam, Joe, CJ Westley, and Nicklaus Gray. What stood out to me was how I felt the pain in their respective verses.

During my time in California, I learned plenty about the music scene in the IE (Inland Empire for short), the history of that specific area, as well as the man known as Jay Kasai. This interview truly has been two years in the making and I have to say thank you Kasai. I never would have expected a Soundcloud message to have me go out to the West Coast to meet some of my favorite artists along with even having the opportunity to converse with the producers, singers, and artists I've talked to from there. For those that are reading, I hope you enjoy the interview and that you do some research about Kasai and the OE Collective.

Guevara: In my interview with GQ, the head of Half Valve Entertainment, he met you when you were a part of the group Dying Breed back in the day with CJ Westley and Joe Sweatpants back in the late 2000s. Now, you are in the Over Everything collective with some of the same members and more individuals. From the Dying Breed days to Over Everything, what are some things have you learned about branding as well as collaborating with different individuals?

Kasai: Oh man the most important thing I've kind of always known was to work with people you're a fan of, but what I learned was making a supergroup of people who all have the same skillsets is double-edged. We needed more members who don't rap.

Guevara: When you were on The Rodriguez Show on Hits 101 Radio in 2019, you opened up about your 20-foot fall from a cliff. It eventually became the inspiration for your Kasai Tape 3 cover. You mentioned how you did not break anything and walked away from the incident safe and sound outside of a concussion. The whole tape is a metaphor for the situation where some of the track names are, I Might Fall, Moment of Clarity, Catch Me, and FreeFall. Since that incident and the release of Kasai Tape 3, how did your creative process change from KT3 to the collaborative album Midnight Run with fellow Midnight Run podcast and Over Everything member Cam Archer?

Kasai: Here's the funny part, the majority of the MNR album was written years before KT1 was released. We decided to finally add the final touches and put it out years later just to clear the vault. So KT3 is probably a more cohesive project.

Guevara: Have you still maintained the love for guitar riffs and strings from KT3 or have you returned to your love for piano keys in your music?

Kasai: You are about to see so much more guitar in my future work. It'll be beautiful.

Guevara: Back in the Dying Breed Days circa 2008-2009, you produced this track called Scooby-Doo. [Yes, the production is supposed to give off a Scooby-Doo monster chase sound with robust drum kicks]. Have you explored production more now that you are in OE or have you left that alone to focus more on the rapping?

Kasai: Working with Nabeyin and Ohgoshleotus has put me in a position where I can confidently put down my producer hat and focus elsewhere. I'm a washed-up mediocre producer.

Guevara: In our conversations prior to this interview, you mentioned that you used to learn how to rap over 9th Wonder beats. You even have an unofficial version of Moment of Clarity on your YouTube page where you rapped over one of his works. The official version of it is on your Kasai Tape 3 project which was released back in 2019. What were some of the other ways that you learned how to rap?

Kasai: I started in high school. I would freestyle legitimately every single day and have Nabeyin beatboxing for me. In retrospect, we've been working together since then. Next time y'all speak, mention “EMC beatbox” and see how he reacts.

Guevara: On KT3, you have a feature with URL battle Rapper Daylyt on Pray For Me and have been a recording artist for a decade-plus now, yet in a prior talk we had, you felt like you’re barely catching steam. Do you feel like since the releases of KT3 and Midnight Run, you may be gaining more of that traction that you want with your music?

Kasai: Oh definitely, quarantine really stunted my momentum but help from Daylyt and a few other special people really made my 2020 special still. I'm expecting to double my following soon.

Guevara: The Kasai Tapes series concluded with the third installment back in 2019. In your interview with Untapped Hip Hop and Tanjint Wiggy, you said that people were expecting KT3 to be some “sadboi music” and it was an entirely different sound compared to the previous iterations. It had some remnants of the sadboi music the series is known for but at the same time, it had more of a vocal and neo-soul sound to find the shining moments in dark times. In the same interview, you mentioned that the trilogy is leading up to God's Work. What can you say about God's Work and how the Kasai Tape Series help with the buildup to it?

Kasai: The original reason I created the trilogy was specifically to create more awareness of my sound and music and see how receptive people are. God’s Work is my greatest project in every way, funny thing is that it is a part of a trilogy also.

Guevara: Not only do you have experience in making music, but you also have a short film called God’s Complex named after an album you put out with the same name starring yourself and Anthony Conley. It is a ten-minute film that plays on the complexity of one’s character and the duality of one’s path. The main character finds this interesting necklace and it ends up creating clones of him and both of your characters end up chasing Anthony and his newfound powers from the necklace. The film won a few collegiate film awards itself such as best screenplay, best effects, and audio in 2013. You even won best film producer from God’s Complex. Can you elaborate on what you were looking to do with the film and how the dual package that makes God’s Complex, the album, and the short film, could have been a precursor to how you make projects today?

Kasai: All my projects outside of the tapes are conceptual. Most of them I write a movie first and an album second, that was the first time I actually completed the film and the album both. It didn’t age well, but shout out Marc Galang who made the movie with me. He did the heavy lifting.

Guevara: Who are some of your dream collaborations?

Kasai: Lupe Fiasco, 9th Wonder, HER, Conway... it is a long list but I love the art of collaboration.

You can follow Jay Kasai on Instagram and Twitter @JayKasai and listen to Kasai Tape 3 below on Spotify.

Written by Jay Guevara. @justinhisprime on all social media.

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