[Welcome to the 2015 edition of the Best of the Booth Awards, DJBooth's annual selection of the best music of the year. For a more detailed explanation and a full list of all the categories and winners, click here.]
This is the true story of how Jay IDK became the DJBooth Best New Artist of 2015.
This past April I walked into the condo we were renting for SXSW smelling like 6th Street, fueled entirely by barbecue, beer and adrenaline. It was the usual madness, a condo filled with smoke, rappers and their respective entourages, twenty people I knew from experience I'd never see again. Jay IDK was one of those twenty people. I'm sure we were introduced, hopefully I managed to not be a dick, but truth be told my mind was on this RapBox video we were scheduled to shoot that afternoon. I was no stranger to pleasure, but SXSW was also business, and coming back from SXSW without a boatload of dope video content would be bad business. Respective entourages could waste away the afternoon, not me, not when there was only a few more minutes of daylight left to film. So I started poking and prodding, marshalling the troops, pushing people out the door. "Yo, we shooting this video or what? Let's go, let's go, let's go, who's rapping?" Taylor vouched for Jay, promised he'd kill, I trust Taylor, and so we hit the street.
One minute and 55 seconds later I was standing in the middle of a mob that had generated in the middle of a rainy Austin street and I was a Jay IDK fan.
Four months later Jay's Subtrap album dropped and that SXSW experience was enough to make me listen, but frankly I didn't have particularly high expectations. I was hoping for good, instead I got great. One track in and I was already hitting repeat, four tracks in and I was doing that strangely instinctual thing where you lean closer to the computer even though you have headphones on, as if that will help you hear any better. I was hooked. I listened to Subtrap on the train to work, driving late at night, I'd finally turn it off when I pulled up to my daughter's elementary school. On God, oh God, it was a lituation. The quality level was almost shockingly high for such a relatively new artist, the storytelling was absolutely excellent, the bangers banged, the lyrics lyriced, and even better, when I asked if anyone else on the staff was listening to Subtrap, it turned out that nearly everyone else was having the same experience. And when I interviewed Jay, it turned out all this fascinating music was the product of a fascinating life.
I'm used to loving music not many others do, but apparently the power of Subtrap was strong enough to knock down other doors. In short order I began seeing him freestyling on Sway, sitting down with Rosenberg, being profiled by the proverbial blogosphere, opening for Future live, saw Subtrap rack up thousands of streams, everyone seemingly gravitating towards the same combination of artistry and personality I had. I've been doing this long enough to know the difference between deserved excitement and empty buzz.
Still, while it's nice to know we're not alone, there's no amount of co-signs that will convince us to believe in an artist we don't otherwise, and no lack of co-signs that will cause us to abandon an artist we truly believe in. Artists you can truly believe in are too rare to give up on that easily, and we truly believe in Jay IDK. We featured some great new artists this year (for the record, they're only "New" to us if we featured them for the first time in 2015), in particular Bryson Tiller made a big impact on us, but ultimately we had to give the nod to Jay IDK. 2015 was the year he arrived, now it's time to turn the calendar to 2016 and see how high he can fly.
It's official, Jay IDK is the Best New Artist of 2015. We've also added some of our other top picks of the year, feel free to add your own selections and vote up or down. Let's see what you got.
[By Nathan S, the managing editor of DJBooth and a hip-hop writer. His beard is awesome. This is his Twitter.