Being a British South Asian myself, my love for the UK is beyond words but moving to Canada as a teen was probably one of the biggest decisions of my life.
Canada showed me a different part of the world that maybe historically was meant to be seen. The similarities between the two places are undeniable when it comes to the mosaic of immigrant communities that form enclaves in overpopulated council neighborhoods. The commonwealth nations have nurtured a rare collaboration in the past, namely between Tre Mission, BBK & Wiley — a fine connection between the two places opening doors for many other big names from the city co-signing the UK.
On a mission to reduce that bridge even more, Meet JAYEMKAYEM, a DJ, Writer and a Producer bringing UK vibes to downtown Toronto. From DJing at all of Toronto’s hot spots & being the co-founder of ISO, JayemKayem has also built a company named ‘BareSelection’ with partner Freezachin. She’s had a life changing experience during these chaotic times. Between adjusting to her new routine to being aware of all of the injustices happening right now, JAYEMKAYEM shared a few moments with The Knock about music and all of the above.
The Knockturnal: How’s staying in going for you?
JAYEM: The whole staying home thing was very difficult for me at first. I’ve had a very active social life since I was a teenager and I’ve been part of nightlife and events for much longer than I’ve even been DJing, so I think just the change from having a busy career to having zero activity was very jarring. Only like a week before the COVID lockdown I had traveled to Alberta for DJ gigs, so I was used to being on the move and on the go. But after the initial shock wore off, I’ve actually very much enjoyed staying in and this rare moment to have some quiet/downtime. I can’t remember the last time that I had this much free time to myself, either to work on passion projects or even just to do leisurely activities like reading etc. I honestly feel like the pace of my life before was not normal or sustainable but I had just gotten so used to being exhausted all the time that it became normal for me. Very happy to have some time to reevaluate and become more spiritually balanced.
The Knockturnal: Take us back to when you realized you wanted to be a DJ.
JAYEM: It’s so funny looking back because I truly never thought I would become a DJ. Even after I started getting more interested in it and learning more, I think I was in denial or just in disbelief that it could ever happen for me. My ex was a DJ in Calgary and he was pretty well known locally for it, so I guess subconsciously I had just told myself that it wasn’t for me. But I was still very involved in nightlife and events, helping him with career, throwing parties, working the door, promoting and all of that. After we split up I started realizing I missed that element of my life so much. I missed the different energy you get when you’re actually part of throwing an event versus being an attendee. And that’s what pushed me more to go into DJing. And my ex, even though we were splitting up, was also very supportive and he gave me an old DJ mixer. I bought my own turntables and the rest is kind of history. I will have been DJing for 6 years coming this fall.
The Knockturnal: What is your biggest proud moment so far in 2020?
JAYEM: It’s not really a moment, but I’m actually really proud of how I adapted to the new reality of the COVID lockdown. It took a couple of really dark weeks but by the beginning of April I was beginning to accept that this wasn’t going away any time soon and that I better figure something out. I started becoming more open to learning about streaming, and I signed up for Twitch. I thought it was so inspiring how I could watch DJs from all over the world every night, including my friends in other cities or even countries, and some amazing international acts. So I committed to learning about how streaming works and I’ve put in a lot of hours to figure out the technical side of it and set up a good quality stream using gear that I already owned, since I don’t really have any income right now to be investing into new streaming gear. I’m starting to build a community and following on Twitch now, and am even making money through the platform, so it’s been a huge blessing and also something I’m really proud of myself for committing.
The Knockturnal: Why did you step back from writing? Is that a permanent thing or you feel you will be coming back to it at some point?
JAYEM: Honestly, I was just tired of the media industry. I’ve been putting in some serious work for the past 6 years building my resume and working for all kinds of different publications. I have some great bylines, but in order for me to get the kind of full-time editor role I would want, it definitely wouldn’t be in Toronto and I’d have to move. So I was always stuck with contributing or part-time editor roles, and it just seemed like kind of a dead-end for me. I am a really strong editor; I can say that with confidence and I hope it doesn’t come across as cocky. I wouldn’t be opposed to returning to work in media, but it would have to be for a publication that I was really excited about, and it would have to be an editor role that would allow me to manage writers and work on the editorial direction instead of just the actual writing part.
The Knockturnal: As a DJ, how do we party in a post COVID-19 world?
JAYEM: This is a hard question because I feel like it’s changing so rapidly and we still don’t really know what the DJ landscape is going to look like for us going forward! I think it’s really weird to imagine events with only 50% capacity for the foreseeable future. I got into DJing because I loved the energy and vibe of a party so it will be a while before we have that again.
The Knockturnal: What are some of the artists you have on repeat while you dig your crates?
JAYEM: There are so many amazing artists out there right now, across all genres. I love all styles of music so I never seem to have a problem finding something to vibe to. Right now two artists I can’t get enough of are Baby Keem and Tierra Whack. I still listen to Bryson Tiller’s Trapsoul album once every other day. I love some of the R&B albums that have dropped during quarantine including Kehlani’s and Jojo’s new jam. And of course Frank Ocean never gets old—I feel like it’s almost a cliche to say him.
The Knockturnal: What do you miss the most about being out and about?
JAYEM: I miss my friends! I miss people’s energy. I miss all the random and hilarious people I would meet every night. As a DJ you really get to see a lot of shit haha. From drunk people, to people breaking up, making up. Random strangers who are so appreciative of the music and want to buy you drinks and hang out with you. I miss working, making people dance, controlling a dance floor. I miss cutting out the music for people to sing the lyrics. I miss earning money to be honest! Even though it’s obviously not the main motivation; it’s a fact of life.
The Knockturnal: How many quarantine playlists can we look forward to?
JAYEM: I’ve been focusing most of my energy on my Twitch channel for now, but I do have some stuff on Spotify. I recently did a playlist for a brand called Taikan that I’ve been vibing heavy too.The Knockturnal: Tell us about BareSelection.
JAYEM: BareSelection is a label and events company that I run with my partner Freezachin. We develop and release music with artists from both Toronto and the UK. We obviously may expand that in the future but the company was started with the aim of bridging the gap between those two places so that’s what we are focusing on for now. The music we release is pretty niche still in North America: it’s mostly grime, UK garage and more leftfield or experimental bass music. We also throw events under that umbrella (which we obviously haven’t done in a minute). I love BareSelection because it’s a true passion project. It was formed because Freeza and I wanted to use our collective skill-sets to amplify artists that we rocked with. It’s got a beautiful spirit and intention behind it and that’s why I’m so proud of it!
The Knockturnal: You’ve been DJing for a while, what would you say was your best and/or worse moments have been?
JAYEM: I try not to see anything as a bad moment; only a learning moment. Probably one of the worst moments was when I showed up to a really important gig during NBA All-Star Weekend 2016 and my laptop did not work with the equipment that was on hand. It ended up okay because I used another DJ’s laptop, but it was super stressful and it was really my fault for not making sure that everything was proper beforehand. After that I have always been hyper prepared from a tech standpoint lol. Best moments definitely include DJing in China and opening for some of my favorite artists like Skepta and Playboi Carti. Also, some of the best moments have been on just “regular” nights. It’s not always about some big hype event.
The Knockturnal: What do you love about DJing so much?
JAYEM: I think I’ve alluded to it but I love the energy and being the person directing the vibe of the room. I love being able to take a crowd on a journey throughout a night. And I also just love finding those songs that sound really good together, and trying to blend them together perfectly to create a moment. That’s so cool to me and I’ll never get sick of it. I also love the way that it allows me to meet and connect with so many different people from all walks of life. I’ve played every kind of event you can imagine from corporate parties to raves and I love each and every one of them for a different reason. Different settings allow me to express different sides of my personality.
The Knockturnal: You produce as well, tell us about that!
JAYEM: Producing is something that I’ve been trying to get into more over the past year. It’s hard for me because it requires a lot of concentration, and requires being very tedious and sometimes listening to the same thing over and over for hours. That part is really difficult for me so it takes a lot of discipline for me to work on music. But I’m working on it; it’s a work in progress. I think making music is really incredible; like creating something new that goes out into the world for people to enjoy. I really respect everything that goes into making a song. I think that producers and songwriters are such gifts to humanity, seriously. Right now I’m working on making stuff that I want to play in my DJ sets so it’s a lot of hip-hop edits and remixes and some dancier music.
The Knockturnal: Which zone do you enjoy more? DJing or Producing?
JAYEM: DJing for SURE.
The Knockturnal: Are you a sneaker girl or heels 99% of the day? or however, you break down your ratio of heat on your feet.
JAYEM: Honestly I’m all sneakers. I think I own one pair of heels and I only wear them to weddings. I used to dress up a lot more and be way more into wearing heels, dresses and the like. But as I’ve gotten older my style has gotten more and more casual. I even have some “dressy” sneakers if I have to go somewhere more fancy but I still want to wear sneakers lol.
The Knockturnal: 5 goals in 2020
JAYEM: It’s so hard to imagine what life will be like in one month let alone another six months but I would say my biggest goals are to release an EP of original music, travel to Asia again to DJ, get a visa to work in the US, pay off my student loans, and continue to figure out how to use my voice and platform for the betterment of humanity and society. That last one is obviously kind of vague, and it’s a huge, lofty, and overarching goal. Because of my love of community, it’s something I’ve always been passionate about but obviously has taken on new meaning over the last month with the police brutality, the unjust killing of Black and Indigenous people both in Canada and the US, and the rise of anti-racism protests happening all over the world. I have been donating to anti-racism causes behind the scenes for years, as well as always trying to be inclusive and diverse with my own projects and events. But over the last month, I realized that was the wrong way to go about it and I should have been more outspoken about it if I’m really working on being the best ally I can. I don’t have a huge following or anything, but I do have people that support me and look up to me and see me as an authoritative voice. So I need to be super mindful of that, and use it the best way I can.
Follow JayemKayem on Instagram to keep up with her latest updates.