Attending college to spark a music career seems like the unconventional route, yet it is one many young musicians are taking. A college education can offer a multitude of opportunities for a young artist, as well as an unlimited pool of potential business partners. This is something I’ve seen first hand as I attend the same university as the great J. Cole did, St. John’s University in New York City.
Following in the rappers footsteps, many musical artists are attracted to this school and I got the chance to sit down with two up an coming artists working towards stardom. Meet DC rapper Cruzer Santana and Maryland rapper Jay Hollywood. Both artists have singles out currently, and are working on projects worth looking out for.
Where are you from and what brought you to want go to college in NY?
Cruzer Santana: I’m originally from Washington D.C., what made me want to come to school in New York is to be closer to what you can call the mecca of hip hop. It was one of the closest cities to me, and that’s what made me want to come up here.
Jay Hollywood: I’m originally from Fort Washington, Maryland. What brought me to college in New York was the scholarship money *laughs * and that’s why I’m here today.
What motivated you to start/still continue music?
C.S.: I’ve been through a lot in my life, ups and downs, just my experiences that helped me get started. Rap was originally a let out of my emotions, it was a stress reliever in the beginning. What made me kept going was the effect of having so many appreciate my music and how many people really relate to what I was going through and that really gave me a drive to keep going.
J.H.: I started music when I was young. I liked to write, but never really wrote to a beat, but I always had a journal that I always wrote with and I kept from there. Now, what motivates me is that I rather do something that I love rather than having to sit behind a desk for the rest of my life.
What topics do you really touch in your music?
C.S.: I’m an artist based off of experience, so mostly every single song I talk about an experience I’ve been through, an emotion that I’ve dealt with. How much I’ve matured and learned from situations, you always want to see it as a lesson learned and to move forward from the lesson. I talk about the future, where I want to go and everyday situations that teenagers go through.
J.H. I feel like I can’t subcategorize that, I rap about life and the things I’ve been through and maybe other people are going through before. I never try to write for any body else, everything is my experiences in life and something that’s impacted me.
Who are your hip hop idols? Top five.
J.H.: J. Cole, Wale, he put on for a lot of people from the DMV so he has to put up there… 50 Cent, he’s the goat, Lil Wayne, and I can’t think of a fifth one.
C.S.: Jay- Z, Pac, BIG, Nas, Eminem.
So Cruzer you said Pac and Biggie, I have to ask which one do you think is better and why?
C.S.: laughs I would have to go with Biggie, just because Biggie had this flow, every time I heard a song I wanted to hear another one. Pac is an inspiration to me, his emotion in his songs is where mine kind of feeds from, like Hail Mary… but at the end of the day I’m here in New York so I have to go with Biggie.
Jay Hollywood, you said J. Cole with no hesitation, is that like your biggest influence?
J.H.: I think we relate a lot because we both started in the same aspect. Like he started writing young, as did I. A lot of his subjects, I can relate to a lot. I guess I was a J. Cole fan before it was cool to be one, before the double platinum with no features type stuff. Just someone I grew with.
Where do you see yourself musically in 5 years?
C.S.: I see myself at the top, no doubt about it. I’m just trynna make it out of college and focus on what I really want to do. I see myself successful musically and on the business side.
J.H.: I don’t want to be famous, I want to have success. I feel like if I chase fame that would lead me down a bad road, but I see myself successful with maybe one or two albums out. Maybe an established fan base by then but definitely successful by five years.
So if you had to choose school or music?
C.S.: No doubt about it I would choose music and pursue that fulltime but school is something that’s instilled in me by my parents. They’re 100% Albanian so their pretty strict when it comes to stuff like that. College doesn’t mean you can’t focus on what you wanna do, it gives you a wider opportunity to network and help you get to your goal. I’m doing this for my mother; I promised her that I would try to finish school.
Any projects on the way?
C.S.: Yes I am currently working on my second mixtape, Facts Only 2. You can expect it to drop in February.
J.H.: I kind of have an EP in the works, I’m not gonna speak on everything but I definitely have something coming.
Were you always confident in your talents?
J.H.: No * laughs* Because I mean, I was always confident in myself, just not other people being so confident in me. The reason it took me so long to finally record is because I finally started rapping for other people and they were like ‘yo you’re really good’ but the thing is I was never really confident in releasing my own stuff. I just wrote for myself, sort of like a self-therapy, when other people started rocking with me it gave me more confidence to keep going.
C.S. In the beginning it wasn’t that I was never confident it was I didn’t know if people would relate to what I was saying, if they’d get my logic or what I was trying to portray in my music.
Any tips for aspiring artists?
C.S.: My biggest tip is, be hungry. If you’re not hungry then why are you doing it? And pray.
J.H.: Just do it because you love it, don’t do it just to get rich. If you do you’re probably gonna die alone. * laughs* Have fun, do it for yourself not anyone else.
So you know that SheUnplugged is targeted towards women, so I have to ask…. are you single and what do you look for in a girl?
C.S.: I’m single, and in a girl … she just has to be there for me. I just need someone who’s really there for me.
J.H.: I’m not single. My girlfriend and I have been together for over a year now. Recently I brought her to the studio with me and I think that was def a big step in the right direction. It’s really amazing to have someone in my corner and a big help for me.
And listen to their music on Soundcloud!