Week in Pop: Friendless Summer, Jay Stone, Lady Lazarus

Sjimon Gompers

The perpetual rise of Lady Lazarus's own Melissa Ann Sweat; photographed by Marina Cohen.

Jay Stone

Oakland/Richmond legend on the rise—Jay Stone; photographed by Avery Clifton.


Oakland emcee emerged on the scene half a decade back with the Melodious Miscreant EP that would set the tone for an inventive career that expands the inherent possibilities of verse, rhymes, beats, perceptions & creative approaches to production. Gaining widespread attention from the beloved & brilliant Foreign Pedestrians Monster Rally collaboration album, previous work with producer Trippy Swaggert on 16th & Adeline & the single “Wildside“—it is our honor & privilege to announce Jay Stone’s forthcoming debut solo album Calibration of an Altered Mind available soon from the artist’s own imprint West Grand Records. Presenting with the world premiere for “Flying Monkeys”, produced by Micah Aza; Jay Stone introduces his brand new single with the following visual preface shot & edited by Avery Clifton:

The promotional video features our East Bay champion having a ball in the toy section describing exclusive insights behind the processes with emphases on enjoying life, self-care & the importance of helping others. From Oakland & LA locales that span from pizzerias, playgrounds to posting up on block; Jay delves deeper into the cathartic elements of what his music means to him as a means to seize the day whenever he’s feeling some type of way. As exhibited on the recent Monster Rally album collab; Stone’s style is one deserving to be in a class all of his own. While comparisons to legendary lineages such as MF Doom, Blu, Nas & more are liberally thrown around—Jay embraces the limitless outlets of clever poetic conceptions where scholastic notions of collegiate prosody are expounded upon in art forms that move beyond the vintage modernist constructs of boom bap from the older schools.

Which brings us to the debut of Jay Stone’s “Flying Monkeys” that zig-zags rhythm & blues tropes through a 16-bit style carnival of warm bass lines & ice-cold-cool keys. Micah Aza’s production further illuminates Jay’s lyrical parasol floating cruise through clouds & stratospheres where the artist eschews pasteurized arts for an aesthetic that is fresh squeezed and unlike anything you have heard lately. With mashed-up sound effects from Sonic the Hedgehog & Street Fighter II respectively; Stone spells out a hedonistic sort of exhibition that paints real life anecdotal portraits of narratives that swim smoothly like a litany of topics that stream in a rollicking river stream roll of consciousness. “Flying Monkeys” also operates on its own axis that updates Jay’s catalog that depicts an artist on the rise who is just starting out to stake a claim as one of the most important west coast emcees out there. Having already pushed the stylistic/genre envelope before with Monster Rally’s Ted Feighan & previously with Trippy Swaggert; Jay Stone proves on “Flying Monkeys” that he has only just begun to change up the game with an inclusive & instantly addictive command of the mic with life earned wisdom of encouragement. Playing Milk Bar in San Francisco July 5 for “Milk Was a Bad Choice“; we now invite you to experience the premiere of Jay Stone’s “Flying Monkeys”:

Photo by Charmaine Davis

We also had a chance to catch up with Jay Stone about the new single, new album & more; featured in the following interview transcription:

Tell us all about the processes & winding roads that informed your new album Calibration of an Altered Mind. From your work with the influential Monster Rally, like your work with Trippy Swaggert on the EP 16th & Adeline from 2013 to 2012’s Melodious Miscreant & more—how have your collaborative experiences & work inspired your own solo creative output?

The main process of making this album was just living life and growing as a person and an artist…expanding my perception. I’ve grown a lot and, discovered a lot about myself since my past projects. I approach making music differently now as opposed to when I was making Foreign Pedestrians and 16th & Adeline. I’m more involved in the production, arrangement, and overall emotion my music encompasses…from the genesis to the revelation. My collaborative projects helped me get my feet wet and learn how to navigate and create sounds. I’ve fully submerged myself into the music with this solo album. Where songs are now entire experiences or journeys into my subconscious. A big part of the inspiration behind this album was when I realized that the most challenging battle any of us will ever endure is between our conscious and subconscious minds. The reality that we’re all contradictions. We can love something and be disgusted by it simultaneously…and seeing this play out over and over again in my daily life and throughout my interactions with different people. Once I accepted that contradiction life started to make more sense…or at least human behavior started to make more sense. The why? was finally getting an answer. This album reflects and illustrates all that discovery. We all get programmed to think and perceive the world a certain way early on in life, and few of us ever challenge that involuntary inception on our malleable minds. This album, Calibration Of An Altered Mind, challenges that inception.

In conversation with Jay Stone; photographed by Joonbug Lenworth McIntosh.

Describe the inspirations behind the Sonic ring-tinged single “Flying Monkeys” that feels like a trip running through loop-de-loops.

“Flying Monkeys” was largely inspired by its instrumentation. My homie Micah Aza produced this trip. His production style parallels my lyrical characteristics and it allows the song to form itself. The production brought a lot of bright and fluorescent emotion out of me. I was really excited when I first heard it because it felt—and feels—like summertime! It made me think of LIVE music on a hot ass day with hella people just dancin’ and enjoyin’ the moment when the music fills you up. It made me feel like, I got this music, and this is all I need. It was also at a moment in my life where I was approaching new transitions, and reevaluating my relationships with people. I was beginning to see the contradiction of man more clearly, and this song represents that epiphany. One of those, okay, now I get it moments for sure.

What’s wonderful in Oakland right now?

What’s wonderful in Oakland right now is the music, the art, and the food! There’s a plethora of talent musicians and artists. I hear it and see it everyday just as I walk through the streets. I say it’s at an all time high right now in my lifetime in this city. Oakland is like a hotbed of artistic energy right now, maybe that’s why it’s so easy for me to create out here. All the amazing food is like the icing on the cake! I recently found this Filipino soul food spot in my neighborhood that is ridiculous! I like to cook as much as I can, but on “Wing Wednesday” I need a 10 piece garlic Parmesan with some cheesy fries with no hesitation!

The world of Jay Stone; photographed by Joonbug Lenworth McIntosh.

Some of the most important local Bay Area causes that you would like to call attention toward?

Definitely, the homelessness we’re experiencing needs some attention. It’s at an alarmingly high level now and it’s a direct product of gentrification and the ever-rising rental costs. It’s affecting a lot of people and families in Oakland specifically. I haven’t seen this many homeless people in my city, in my entire life…its crazy! I try to help when I can, but this is an issue that needs more national attention. It doesn’t make sense for little kids and elderly people to have to live in cars and tents on the sidewalk when the city and state are generating 100s of millions of dollars every year on taxes. This shit is fuckin’ ridiculous and it needs to be corrected.

Who do you feel are some of the most underrated artists in the game right now?

I think the most underrated artist is Sampha. He’s on a whole other level and I don’t think people have really realized that yet. He’s like a modern day Richie Havens or Labi Siffre even…super slept on. I saw him LIVE last year at the Swedish American Hall in SF and the room wasn’t even filled…I was surprised. I guess people just aren’t listening with their ears anymore. On a production level, I think Tyler The Creator is underrated. I don’t think his production is given the credit it’s due.

Shining bright with Jay Stone; photographed by Joonbug Lenworth McIntosh.

Other projects in the works?

I’m working on new music all the time. I’ve been giving more momentum to increasing my overall musicianship as of late. Just collaborating with more instrumentalists and increasing my knowledge…widening my pallet. My homie J Maos and I are starting a record label, West Grand Records. This solo album is going to be the first release on the new label and I’m really excited about that.

Favorite Monster Rally recording/adventures/mischief anecdotes?

I remember one show we did together. I can’t remember where we were. The show was great and the energy level was high…I remember the crowd being really excited too. Then at the end of the show, I turn around… and Monster Rally is closing out the song and he’s raining sweat down onto his 404 [laughs]. It’s just dripping all over the buttons on his machine, and he just keeps goin’…keeps killin’ it! I remember saying, Damn bruh, you were sweatin’ more than I was! He was like, I know! The sweat was burning my eyes, but I just kept playing! I started crackin’ up! We were both laughing hella hard about it all night! It burns! Awww, it burns! [laughs]

Parting words/benediction?

Keep your eyes, ears, and minds open for my debut solo album, Calibration Of An Altered Mind. Keep expanding yourself and your perception…and please always remember, flyin’ monkeys don’t negotiate, they just paper-chase and playa’-hate.

Jay Stone’s new album Calibration Of An Altered Mind will be available soon from Stone’s own imprint West Grand Records.

Catch Jay playing & headlining San Francisco’s Milk Bar July 5 for the event “Milk Was a Bad Choice“. Tickets available here.

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