It’s not everyday you find a little Cali sunshine on the East Coast. But even rarer is it to find someone with that sunshine in your own city. Writer, producer, engineer, artist, and designer Jerrell Taylor, A.K.A Jai Winter, is the whole package. A young man with a chip on his shoulder and a message that rings true no matter who you are or where you come from- and his music’s amazing too!
Born in Philly, PA, Winter grew up in the golden age of mixtapes and burnt CD's. His mom’s car was full of different mixes, something new playing every trip. “Half the CDs were always blank so you just never knew what the vibe was for the day until you hit play.” said Winter. But he’d always gravitated towards the hip-hop and R&B he grew up listening to. Fast forward a few years, and Winter’s already released two full-length albums, two EP’s, and a plethora of singles, each more introspective than the last.
Most if not all of Winter’s influences fly in and out of the West Coast. He found his inspiration to write and create through groundbreaking artists like Kendrick Lamar and Nipsey Hussle, two massive footprints on the West Coast sound and the state of music today. “My go-to album would be To Pimp A Butterfly.” said Winter. “Every time I go back and listen to it there’s always something new I can learn from that album, it’s so powerful. ”On top of these hip-hop powerhouses, he keeps a healthy, heavy playlist full of new sounds and fresh inspo; Dave East and Cochise being high on the queue as of late.
In terms of musical ability and style, Winter is up with the best in the game. He takes a simple approach to subject matter, with a complex and thoughtful heat in his flow and instrumentals. He takes his West Coast influences and mixes them with his Northern background and Southern experience. “From moving all over the place and being able to listen to so many artists I knew nothing of, it taught me to have open ears,” Winter has lived up and down the East Coast before he set up his base of operations in Charlotte, NC. “To not box myself in with one sound or one flow, but to be more open in trying new sounds and styles unfamiliar to me.”
Winter’s open-minded approach to listening inevitably bled into his discography as well. While his genre of choice will always be hip-hop and R&B, he’s more than proficient in any other genre he’s dipped his toes in. He dove head first into pop music on his single “Paradise,” sprinkled in a little jazz, a little funk on “Mind & Spirit,” and even a little electronic, Daft-Punk-dance on “Flow With the Wind.” “I would love to dive deeper into pop music. With pop music it just makes you feel like the main character.” Winter is multifaceted and multitalented, and a force to be reckoned with in the industry.
But let’s talk albums- WInter’s 2020 debut album “I Am Jai, Jai Is Me” introduced the streaming world to the unique and undeniable energy he brings to every track and every bar. The album included the previously released singles “Money Bag,” “Connect!” and “Beast Mode”- heat on their own, and even stronger in the context of the album. The undeniable hit off of the debut however, was the standout track “K.I.R.” Relentless, high-octane expertise on full display to lead you into the end of the album. Jump ahead to July, 2021, Winter dropped his second album, “A Life Without Color,” a mellow, deeply personal, classic R&B follow-up to the breaking-tables intensity on his first album. On ALWC, Winter explores love, longing, perseverance, and pride in oneself. ALWC is an insane celebration of personal experience, over some of the best instrumentals you’ll hear for the next five years. “MARATHON,” “LET ME TELL YOU,” and “PR i DE” give the listener a deeper look at the man behind the mask, and some of the most impressive vocal performances from Winter so far.
Since the release of ALWC, Winter released a handful of singles and a shorter project titled “EST.1999,” putting the best feet from “I Am Jai'' and ALWC forward, once again over the craziest beat switches this side of the Mississippi. Now back to the present, Winter has already released his first single of 2022, “TENNESSEE.” Produced by Turk Money, who produced “F U” off ALWC, Winter made his way out to Nashville and wrote the titular track in a cafe before heading back to Charlotte. “Right now I’m just letting life take its course and seeing what it has to offer before I take any big leaps this year,” said Winter. “I want this song to be the beginning of me finally stepping out of my comfort zone and into new environments.”
“TENNESSEE” is out everywhere, but it’s not the last we can expect from Jai Winter in the coming months. You can find Jai Winter on social media @jaiawinter on everything, and make sure to check out his page’s on all major streaming platforms, YouTube, and his merch site- the man is a helluva designer, and perfect for your new obsession.
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RL: You’ve said that your biggest influences are artists like Kendrick and Nipsey and the West Coast sound, but what did you grow up listening to? Where did the love begin, and what's your go-to favorite album?
JW: I grew up listening to Hip Hop & RnB so I’ve always leaned towards that genre. Back at that time CDs were a thing so my mom would always burn multiple CDs and we’d just play em in the car. Half the CDs were always blank so you just never knew what the vibe was for the day until you hit play. My go-to album would be To Pimp A Butterfly. Every time I go back and listen to it there’s always something new I can learn from that album, it’s so powerful.
What’s on the daily rotation these days? Your most listened-album of last year?
Right now, Cochise, Nipsey, and Dave East have been on the daily rotation. Most listened to album of last year would be Victory Lap. I always find myself going back to that album just to hear something real.
The best writers are also prolific readers- what’s your writing process look like, and where do you go/what do you do for inspiration?
My writing process is pretty simple, I listen through a couple beats and write something to each beat. When a beat really catches my attention I’ll go through everything I previously wrote and form lyrics from there. Most of my inspiration comes from whatever is going on in my life. It sounds boring as hell but I’ve never been the type to move with the crowd. I tend to go places alone so I can think freely and be at peace.
You grew up in Philly, how has your experience living up and down the East Coast shaped your sound and style?
There’s definitely a difference in sound and style between the North and the South. Different slang, different flows, etc. From moving all over the place and being able to listen to so many artists I knew nothing of, it taught me to have open ears. To not box myself in with one sound or one flow, but to be more open in trying new sounds and styles unfamiliar to me. There’s always room to learn and grow.
Buzz Music compared your style to 6LACK, which is becoming a pretty common comparison these days. What are your thoughts on the trend of categorizing artists, especially those whose music chronicles the Black experience in America?
I feel like most artists find it annoying but it makes me happy knowing my music reminds people of other artists, especially when it’s an artist I never would’ve thought I could be compared to. When Buzz Music compared me to 6LACK I was shocked because I’ve never had that comparison. It made me look at my music a lot differently.
While your discography is primarily hip-hop and R&B, you’ve proven again and again that you’re just as strong in other genres, if not stronger than what’s on the charts today. If you could pick one genre to break into, or to just try out, what would it be and why? Can we also expect more records in the future like “Paradise” and “Mind & Spirit”?
I would love to dive deeper into pop music. With pop music it just makes you feel like the main character. I definitely want to push more records like “Paradise” and “Mind & Spirit”. "Paradise" just really brings that feeling of summer while "M&S" gets down and dirty into some real jazz. So definitely expect more similar to those 2.
Since "A Life Without Color" deals with pride in oneself and reckoning with one’s own experience, where does Tennessee fit into the greater Jai Winter narrative? What can we expect from the new single, and how will it set up the next Jai Winter era?
It’s a starting point in traveling 1. You’ve said that your biggest influences are artists like Kendrick and Nipsey and West Coast sound, but what did you grow up listening to? Where did the love begin, and what's your go-to favorite album?
How did Tennessee come about? How was it working with Turk Money on this record?
I drove 7 hours from CLT to Nashville for fun, just so I could see what Tennessee was like in person. I spent the day walking around and sightseeing till I ended up in a cafe called Barista Parlor Golden Sound. I remember getting Jasmine tea and listening to this beat Turk had produced and put up on Youtube. So I sat there for about an hour writing the lyrics until they closed and went ahead and prepared to drive back home. Working with producers that I’ve never met is always an experience. This is actually the second song I’ve done with Turk Money as the producer. He’s the genius behind the beat of “F U”.
I've got to ask about your merch and clothing, your designs are one of a kind. What’s your creative/design process for your brand? Is there anything new in the works? When does the college bound set drop that you teased on your instagram?
I try to grab inspiration from other brands so I can get an idea of what people are shopping for or to see what style is trending. I had an ice cream cone design from when I first started making clothing shortly after graduation and I thought why not bring it back and put it to use. At the moment I am working on a couple new sweatshirts and hoodies. Nothing too major. The college bound set is actually out right now in both hoodie & sweatshirt styles. Definitely grab that!
When can we expect to see you on stage? What’s coming up next from Jai Winter?
Shoot, I don’t even know when I’ll be on stage to be honest. For now it’s not at the top of my list of importance but I do plan on it one day. Right now I’m just letting life take its course and seeing what it has to offer before I take any big leaps this year. Going out and visiting new places for new experiences. Honestly the single itself will make you feel like you need to go on a road trip ASAP. I want this song to be the beginning of me finally stepping out of my comfort zone and into new environments.