MOBO Winner Jae5 and The Art of Production
Over the phone in his studio in London, Jae5 opens up about his success in the music industry, how it all started, life in Ghana and how he’s coping in a global pandemic.
Jonathan Mensah, recognised as producer Jae5, is best known for his unique and unpredictable ability to seamlessly blend elements from different genres of music together. This skill has made him the go-to producer in the UK.
Growing up in the London borough of Newham, Jae5 is one of many talents such as Ghetts, J Hus, and Dizzee Rascal to rise from that part of the city.
The pioneer beat-makers partnership with now global artist J Hus is what arguably put him on the map and was pivotal in the evolving of contemporary British urban music, collaborating on the artists 17-track-album ‘Common Sense’ including features from well-established artist such as MoStack, Mist, and ‘the African giant’ Burna Boy.
The album went certified Gold in the UK and peaked at number 6 in the UK chart. Jae5 and artist J Hus became close after being introduced by close friends. Being from the same area and coming from the same struggle on the streets, they were able to bond quite quickly and produce a sensational project.
Jae5 began producing at the tender age of 10-years-old. He used Fruity Loops software to create beats naturally influenced by his culture and environment. Having been sent back to Ghana, for a total of three years, in the hopes of ‘learning discipline’, whilst there his love for mixing and production evolved.
“I would sit on the PC and play with DJ software and Fruity Loops, there was not much to do other than that or play street football with the local kids … music-wise everybody was into different things in London, and then going to Ghana the kids would play in the streets and they’d make drums out of anything. Musically, it was amazing” he says.
Jae5 credits his writer-rapper uncle known as ‘Blem’ or ‘Blemish’ for his initial interest and development in production, he would mix beats and send them to him and from his uncle’s feedback started to take producing more seriously. “He probably played the biggest role in terms of getting me to a certain level. He brought me over every two weeks from the age of 14 until 20 years old; he would let me use his computer and surround me with producers I looked up to”, Jae5 says.
Although Jae5 does not identify to being part of only one genre of music, despite people identifying his work within the afrobeat realm, anything he likes the sound of his ‘all in’, having worked with English singer and songwriter Jess Glynne producing on her track ‘123’, a fun fact that not a lot of people know about the producer and his portfolio.
Jae5 came back to London when he was 13 years old and soon started going to raves. At these parties is when Jae5 started to unlock the sound of more underground artists, having only been exposed to more mainstream icons like 50 Cent, Celine Dion and Lucky Dube. From this new exposure came an interest in sound outside the scope of pop culture. “I get inspiration from weird things; I’ll listen to dubstep and make an Afrobeat’s tune or a hip-hop tune, so I don’t know if I have a ‘sound’, ” he says.
The craft of a producer often takes place behind the scenes, often getting praised or rewarded through the collaborations and artists they work with. However, in late 2020, despite the chaos of a global pandemic, Jae5 won the first best producer honour the MOBO (music of black origin) awards had to offer, also winning best producer in the Rated awards earlier that year.
Above all else, despite charting hits, award wins and the deserved acknowledgments of his diversity and contribution within black music and culture, JAE5 is here for a greater purpose.
Too often, artists succumb to the pressure of needing to keep relevant, releasing a bundle of shallow content to avoid the curse of possibly being ‘a one-hit wonder’. But JAE5 has no interest in this meaningless form of gratification, overall valuing quality over quantity, this he believes promotes the longevity needed to build a legacy.
“A lot of sick producers and artists tend to throw everything they have at a wall and see if it sticks, he says. “I’d rather put one song out in three years, as long as it’s a banger. If I keep on achieving for the next 10-15 years, I’ll know that I’m a legend.”
With a modest but focused and intuitive attitude and a constantly evolving realm of sound, Jae5 is well on his way to achieving his vision of success.
To keep up with Jae5 and all of his artistic endeavours he can be followed on Instagram and Twitter and his music can be found on Youtube and Spotify.