Welcome to Starter's Guide, the series where DJBooth gives you the need-to-know details behind the genre's most promising new acts. We tell you why he or she is buzzing, why they might blow up or fizzle out, and what records you need to hear. It’s quick, it’s easy, it's (mostly) painless, and regardless of your familiarity level, it’s everything you need to know to determine whether you are a fan or you need to steer clear.
Who Is Jay Critch?
Jay Critch is a 21-year-old Brooklyn rapper signed to Rich The Kid’s label, Rich Forever Music. In 2017, his definitive breakout year, Critch appeared on every track of the label's Rich Forever 3 mixtape, but his success is the result of a stream of viral singles and music videos for tracks like “Speak Up,” “Adlibs” and “Bottom Line.” Even his earliest hit from 2016, “Did It Again,” is creeping towards the four milly mark on YouTube, and showcases a mealier version of the snappy flow Critch employs to make his present singles pop.
Critch first began spitting in sixth grade, but it wasn't until he linked up with Rich The Kid via their mutual friend, Gramz, that the New York native was able to fully carve out his own lane. From their first meeting in Los Angeles, it was a match made in Rich Forever heaven. Since his standout verse on “Rich Forever Intro,” Jay Critch has been positioned to take over mainstream hip-hop, the only question is: WHERE'S THE PROJECT?
Why Should You Care?
Jay Critch is so fucking New York. He satisfies a demand for the classic grit and swagger of the city with his lyricism and delivery while situating himself in the throes of the trap scene. Any and all written features on Jay Critch include a blurb about his being the bridge New York needs between the old and new schools of hip-hop, and that bridge-status is no accident—it’s the mission.
“Most New York rappers be on some straight lyrical shit, but they don't add no swag to it,” Critch told XXL in 2017. “It just be very lyrical and with me I'm throwing the lyrical with flow and swag.”
That’s the sum of it. Jay Critch’s music is mesmerizing because it is rooted in nuance. During a recent interview with The FADER, Critch cited Fabolous and Future as major influences, explaining that bars are nothing without a tight flow to deliver them to listeners. With that, Jay takes triplet flows and bends them to his will, packing tracks with weighty lyrics about poverty and aspiration on “Adlibs” just as easily as he can boss up on any girl’s boyfriend for the hell of it on the Harry Fraud-produced “Thousand Ways.”
“Thousand Ways” (2017)
This is Jay Critch’s infectious New York anthem. Produced by Harry Fraud, this brisk and biting track thrives off big city-brand boasts and nightmarish, hollow keys. Critch skates over the beat while delivering his rags-to-riches hip-hop story.
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Critch’s biggest song to date, “Fashion” has him leaning more into his Future influences. With a voice iced out in Auto-Tune, this single reminds us that Critch is as proficient and addictive a crooner as he is rapper.
“Adlibs” gives us a potent taste of Critch’s lyrical skill and storytelling. The young man can paint an aching picture with one hand while adding the right amount of charisma with the other to keep things momentous.
“Rich Forever Intro” (The Rich Forever Way, 2017)
One of Jay Critch’s most definitive moments, his verse on the “Rich Forever Intro” also serves as his proper introduction into the hip-hop mainstream under the wings of Rich The Kid and Famous Dex. Between the tight triplet flow and the magnetic personality, this verse was merely a taste of the star Critch would begin to blossom into.
“Did It Again” (2016)
One of Jay Critch’s early hits, this track is a solid look at the development of his taut and bouncy cadence. “Did It Again” struggles to avoid sounding muddy, but the spry moments and pops of color clue us in to his racketing flows to come.
Why He’ll Blow Up
Critch has an amazing presence on camera. The swagger he brings to his sonics is tripled when you see the young man commanding the visual stage. All it takes is one viral video to launch a career, and Jay Critch has already cashed in on that rule. He’s filling a void on the East Coast for people that stand in the center of the raw and lyrical and turn-up Venn diagram. In a way, he’s humanizing rap fans, taking away the daunting task of choosing if you want “real rap” or, I guess, “fake rap.”
Most promising, Critch told The FADER that while he’s been thinking about a debut project, he feels no pressure to represent a monolithic image of New York. Living apart from that neurosis will be a real boon for Critch, allowing him to break down those barriers between old and new, and play into the grander tradition of keeping hip-hop raw, expressive, and true to self. People and tastes are multiple, and so is the whole of Jay Critch.
Why He Might Fizzle Out
Though his single releases continue to do exceptionally well, each amassing over a million views on YouTube and just as many—if not more streams—between all of the major on-demand music services (Spotify, Apple Music, TIDAL), the pressure is on for his debut tape to be a smash. Not only does this body of work have to make good on the potential Critch has evidenced over the past two years, but it must contain almost exclusively fresh material. If Critch repackages his greatest hits, slaps on some cover art, and calls it his debut, it's likely his train won't ever pull away from the station.
Jay Critch is a young rapper from Brooklyn, New York, signed to Rich Forever Music, who takes new school charisma and energy and pairs it with old-school New York grime and braggadocio to create a lane all his own. His music is as catchy as it is cutting, and he has a magnetic presence on wax and on camera. Every year we want an artist to “bring New York back,” and this year, that artist could very well be Jay Critch.