By Stephanie Amy Collazo
Jae Ellis is no newcomer to the hip-hop music scene. Having moved to Atlanta to work with So So Def at the age of 15, he has been destined for stardom from the start. Ellis is mostly known for writing the Colts anthem, which was heard on a number of radio stations after the team won the Super Bowl in 2007. Now signed to Raheem Brock’s imprint label Beastmodez Entertainment, Ellis is making strides, recently releasing the single “Speedin” featuring Jim Jones. While visiting the East Coast, Jae Ellis stopped by the YRB office to tell us about the man behind the anthem.
YRB: What does hip-hop mean to you?
Ellis: Hip-hop is everything, it’s what I live, it’s what I am. I’ve been rapping since [I was] 7 years old, it’s all I ever did [and] it’s all I ever wanted to do. I never wanted to be a doctor, lawyer, policeman, nothing – I just wanted to be in the music. So hip-hop to me is just how I fill my day, without that it would just be empty. I don’t do anything else but this, so to me it’s everything.
YRB: You have been interested in music since you were a child, what sparked this interest?
Ellis: I think just listening to the radio as a young kid. I mean, my mom had me very young, she had me at 14/15, so she listened to music just like rap. I was just hooked on rap from a very early age. By the time I was about 7/8, when I was able to really articulate, I started rapping and that was it.
YRB: What artists did you look up to as a kid?
Ellis: Of course, Big Daddy Kane, LL Cool J, Run DMC, all the greats, Too Short. That’s the good thing about being from the Midwest, we soaked up from everybody back then. There really wasn’t any South music growing up, but East Coast/West Coast, it was always like Too Short, NWA [and] before that it was Big Daddy Kane.
YRB: Have you gotten to meet any of them?
Ellis: Yeah, funny story. I was in Lenox mall in Atlanta, Georgia and I saw LL Cool J. You know, I’ll be on my rapper swag, I don’t want to bother anybody because I know how it is when you are just trying to shop. So I just passed by him and I thought about it and was like, I gotta go back and shake his hand. You know, I wouldn’t do what I do if it weren’t for cats like him, so I went back and was like, ‘Thank you. I appreciate it.’ And he was really cool.
YRB: If you could collaborate with anyone who would it be and why?
Ellis: Probably Kanye West, or Eminem, because being from the Midwest right now in music, Kanye is just the stat for Midwest artists. He’s a super hot producer. Of course, everybody would say Jay-Z, and I definitely would love a Jay-Z look or something like that, but Kanye is for the Midwest. He’s just the stat.
YRB: At 15 you moved to Atlanta where you worked with So So Def, what was that like?
Ellis: It was cool. I worked with a lot of people, moved down there and they embraced me. I started working with my guy SunN.Y; he’s actually from New York. We did a lot of songs together, recorded a lot, it was a good experience.
YRB: Did you get to work on anything with Jermaine Dupri?
Ellis: No, Jermaine Dupri just actually dropped off equipment at our house for us to use and then never came back and got it. So I guess when you’ve got money like that you can do stuff like that.
YRB: In 2005, you were working with a record company in France and touring in Europe, how does that compare to touring in the U.S.?
Ellis: The energy of the venues. You can do a show at a venue in Europe, and even though it only holds 400 people/300 people, the energy is crazy. In America, the people are a little more skeptical if they don’t know who you are, or if you are an up-and-coming artist they kind of just fall back and nod their head. They don’t really get into it until later in the show. In Europe, they are hungry to hear new music, so they don’t even have to know your songs. If they like the beat and they like how you’re flowing, the energy is crazy.
YRB: How did you get your deal with Beastmodez?
Ellis: I did a Colts anthem when the Colts won the Super Bowl. I met Raheem Brock through a mutual friend, Jay Lansky, from Phenomenal Records in Philadelphia. The Super Bowl anthem was all over the radio; they played it like 20 times a day in Indiana. They played it after the Super Bowl in the locker room, so Raheem was impressed. He waited a few years to get at me. He told me he was going to start a label, then he called me a couple years later like, ‘I think I’m ready.’
YRB: Are you working on any projects right now?
Ellis: Well, I have a mixtape out right now called Unleashed, and that’s hosted by DJ Don Cannon. That’s doing really well. We flooded the streets all over the Midwest, Philly, Atlanta. We flooded it, so that’s doing really well right now. I also have a single out with Jim Jones called “Speedin” that’s on 30 stations right now, regular rotation, and it’s only been on the air a few weeks and it’s growing crazy. Jim said he would do the video, so I think we are going to shoot the video to that real soon, and I’m working on my next mixtape right now.
YRB: When can we expect a full-length album?
Ellis: I’m working on that now with a lot of producers in the industry. [I] just want it to be right. I want the buzz to be right; I want everything to be in line. You know, you don’t want to drop it premature; you want to make sure the streets are behind you and you have that big movement. We are going to drop the album maybe sometime early next year.
YRB: Have you done any ghost writing? How do you feel about big name artists going to up-and-comers to write their songs?
Ellis: Yeah, I did a couple things for people in the industry. I was asked to write a couple verses. How I feel about it is, like, you have nothing to prove when you’ve been in the game doing your thing. Honestly, I wrote for people who weren’t even rappers, they are successful in their own right doing what they do, but they were trying their hand at rapping, so you can’t expect them to be, like, high-caliber rappers. So when they step to me like, ‘Yo,can I get a verse?’ that’s just good business, that’s just them trying to be on their A-game instead of writing for themselves and it comes off wack. I feel like it’s just good business when you reach out to somebody and that’s their craft, that’s what they do.
YRB: Where do you see yourself in five years?
Ellis: In five years I just see myself rolling, doing tours, you know platinum, diamond if possible, awards – the whole nine. I mean, I want to be on top of the game. I’m not in it to lose; I’m not in it to be second or third place – I’m in it to win.