After breaking down the door to commercial success against all of the odds, Kerser – love him or hate him – proved that with old-fashioned hustle and a few street smarts, any artist could win the hearts of a loyal fanbase and make a living in music on their own terms.
He hasn’t done it alone, though. Recognisable names and faces to any fans, Jay UF and Rates have been Kerser’s right hand men throughout his journey to fame and infamy. As Kerser’s label ABK Records has risen to prominence off the back of his music, the pair have also shared in that success; Rates with one of the label’s very first releases, Untold, and now Jay UF with its latest, his debut album Final Notice.
After years of dropping promo songs here and there, collabing with Kerser and backing him up as his hype man, Jay has finally gathered an assortment of new tracks together and released his own statement to Aussie hip hop.
We’ve had a chat with Jay UF to find out what life’s like as part of the ABK crew, growing up and rapping with Kerser, and trying to put their stamp on Aussie hip hop on their own terms.
The latest cut from Final Notice, released through Kerser’s label ABK Records
Fade or stop
Hip hop is clearly a huge part of who he is and, on latest track ‘Fade Or Stop’, Jay describes music as a way to “repair the mind” after a rough start in life. He’s used rap as a way of working through problems that would otherwise cripple him.
“It was at high school, I was in year eight and started listening to Eminem. Loved it instantly and started writing down lyrics. Growing up I abused a lot of drugs and alcohol… I also grew up in a low income family, so I guess writing down my thoughts was my escape from reality.
“We all suffered depression and we all abused drugs, and we were all on Centrelink and felt sorry for ourselves. And I think that, with the music – it sort of got us out of that and made us figure out the problems for ourselves.”
Why ‘Final Notice’?
Despite being his debut record, the new album comes emblazoned with a warning letter: “Final Notice” – and there’s a good reason for it.
“The reason for the name is because I said I would do an album for about four years… For ages the fans were demanding it, so I went with the theme of ‘this is my final chance to get an album out there’.”
“I’m speaking to those who go through the same struggles we went through growing up, and giving them a voice they can relate to. I also have a bit of fun on there, and try to get a little rise out of the scene.”
With Final Notice out on Kerser’s own label ABK Records, did Jay ever expect to see the Sydney crew end up with a record label, and to be releasing music through it?
“Always knew from day dot,” Jay says. “I still remember Kerser telling me ‘One day, me, Rates and you will all be living off this shit.'”
“I’ve known him and his bro since school,” he adds. “Wasn’t until about 10 years ago that I started writing with him and Rates, though. When he started rapping he remembered how much I loved writing lyrics, so he wouldn’t let me give it up.”
‘Fade Or Stop’ details hip hop’s power to help people through tough times
Hype man for Kerser
Having been mates for years, it was only natural for Jay to step up and have Kerser’s back onstage as his hype man. “Rates and Kerse were my best mates and pretty much family, so of course when they started touring I’d get the call to have his back onstage.”
The job comes with some unique responsibilities, and Jay thinks for a moment before letting us in on the secret to being Kerser’s hype man – but that’s the only secret he’s giving away.
“Um… just have his lyrics down in case he’s too drunk to remember his lines… just joking!” he laughs. “Pretty much just have a lot of energy to bring to the set, ’cause the sets are crazy!”
“We have had some pretty full on adventures but probably best not to say… I will say there were many crazy times – the rest we forget ’cause we were too messed up.”
The Kerser blueprint
So, having seen Kerser climb to the peak of the Aussie hip hop scene through sheer hustle, and now making moves of his own, does Jay have any advice for aspiring Aussie rappers or musos?
“Yep – don’t worry about radio,” he says bluntly. “The internet is slowly killing the radio. Keep social media pages busy, and the fans happy – the rest will fall into place over time.”
“Follow the Kerser blueprint! Like I said before, I don’t even think or worry about being signed or on radio. Use social media to your advantage, and stay busy! It doesn’t worry me one bit that I might not ever be played, and actually feel proud ABK is making a mark without it!”
The mark they’re making right now is the album you can hear below, Jay UF’s Final Notice, out now through ABK Records.