Jake Rosh is taking listeners on a multi-headed journey through the serpentine and introspective weaving of his album Hydra. His second album is a wonderful gateway into rap for those less familiar with the genre while offering introspective and enthralling lyrics for a captivating listening experience. Removing some of the stigma attached to the genre, he will have you grooving to his sound and wrapped in the versatility of his musicality. We sat down with Jake Rosh to talk about the album, being a self-taught musician, genres, emotional journies and much more!
OSR: As a self-taught musician, what first drew you to making your own music?
Rosh: I grew up constantly surrounded by music from the people around me. My dad listened to Reggae non-stop when he was home or we were in the car, but whilst he was at work my mum would have Century FM on the radio next to the computer as I played PC games. My friends were introducing me to all different types of music from Korn to Eminem and really broadening my horizon to different genres.
Eventually, I came across Dizzee Rascal’s music through sitting and watching MTV Base and Kiss music channels all the time as a teenager. This was the first time I’d really heard music I could replicate myself, with the London accent and punchy rhymes, so I started writing my own raps to his beats in his accent and performing them to myself in my bedroom at about the age of 15. That was where it started, but it took me a bit longer to unlock the producer in me. I joined an African drumming after school club when I was around 12 and I learned a lot about rhythm and instrumental music there. I was big on Kanye West, Timbaland and Wiley at the time too, all producers and rappers with their own authentic sounds which I am always trying to replicate in that sense. I was quite good on the computer too so I managed to download Fruity Loops and just messed around with it every day after school which is how I learned to produce.
OSR: When learning, what drew you to your preferred genre?
Rosh: When I first heard hip-hop music, I think it was Eminem ‘The Way I Am’ through one of my friends, I fell in love with it instantly. I’d never heard someone convey such powerful emotion and anger through music, it just sparked something inside me. From then on all I listened to was hip-hop and grime. To be honest, unless you were blessed with a singing voice or able to play an instrument well, there wasn’t much hope in becoming a musician, but rap was something I loved and something I found that I was quite good at writing and performing. It was quite straightforward to learn to produce it too and I couldn’t get enough of the sound. It was really natural for me to fall into this genre.
OSR: You have a new album Hydra, what is the album all about?
Rosh: Hydra is a reflective record that comes at a time where I feel at my peak musically. It centres around my personal journeys, what I’ve done, what I’ve learned, what challenges I’ve faced and using that experience to pass on my lessons to others. Very much in the way mythological stories are passed down to younger generations to learn from.
The concept of the Hydra itself is a metaphor for my own life too, in the sense that I have multiple skills (the Hydra’s multiple heads) like rapping, producing, engineering and more. Also, deeper than that on a personal level I am a musician, a mental health worker, a son, a brother, a friend, a partner and so much more. According to the story of the Hydra, when one head was cut off, two more grew back in its place. I could associate with that, as I lost some things along the way, but losing them made me stronger and more things replaced them to make me more powerful, wise and confident.
OSR: The album is full of introspective and mature lyrics, what was your creative process for crafting them?
Rosh: Believe it or not, right now I am the oldest I have ever been! That means I know more than I’ve ever known and have more experiences than ever to reflect on and learn from. At 26 years old I’m fresh from growing up and my work and life have carved a much more mature head on my shoulders. So the lyrics reflect who I am right now and touch on themes like loss, mental health and even my struggles with the creative process itself, but also positivity, growth and love.
In terms of production, I love sampling. So I’m always crate-digging (online, I’m not that cool) and trying to produce as much music as I can. There’s a mixture of styles on the album from grime-tempo, inspirational sounds to slower, emotional beats edging more towards classic hip-hop. My use of deep bass and UK influence somehow manages to pin the variety all together. Once I have the beat, that’s when I start writing the lyrics so that they are built around the music and mood.
OSR: Listeners who are less familiar with rap and hip-hop can use Hydra as a gateway to the genres, was this created as a conscious choice?
Rosh: I think if you dig deep enough into hip-hop and rap, you will find an incredibly diverse range of artists who everyone can associate with. Of course, you have the types portrayed in popular culture who rap about money, drugs and sex, which sometimes is what you want to listen to and sounds boss, but there’s a lot of overinflated egos and fraudulent activity with a lot of rappers who venture into that side of things. I think this is what non-rap people immediately think of when you mention rap, so we’re already in an uphill battle. However, you’ve got intellectual rappers, political rappers, conscious rappers, emo rap, gangsta rap, stoner rap and so much more. I like to have clear and powerful messages that represent the young, hard-working underdog and I’ve found that I’ve naturally won over a lot of people who don’t normally listen to hip-hop through hearing my music. I wouldn’t say it was a conscious choice, it’s just me being me.
OSR: The album takes listeners on an emotional journey, how easy did you find it to release your emotions through your music?
Rosh: In everyday life, I’m not someone who shares emotions that well and can come across as reserved when someone doesn’t know me. But there’s something about rap that allows me to express emotions in a more meaningful way than just talking. My lyrics are my personal therapy, and I guess certain beats can open up certain pathways for subconscious or unexpected expressions to just come out. At first, my lyrics were very fun, boastful and probably a little bit simple, but over time I’ve learned how to express deeper emotion and sensitive truths, which have definitely given me a more authentic sound and given more meaning to me as an artist.
OSR: The track ‘Nowhere is Safe’ features singer-songwriter Dominic Dunn, how did you connect with him?
Rosh: I met Dominic in my earlier years in music. We both performed live a lot in and around Liverpool and sometimes found ourselves on the same shows. There was an instant mutual respect for each other’s music and we then found ourselves chosen to perform at a show in Bristol where we spent some time chilling and making music in the hotel we were performing. Another rapper called Kerr and I had a track together that we were playing which Dominic liked where we initially rapped the chorus, but we asked him to sing it for us and we made an instant hit called ‘Keep Me Down’. We kept in touch a little bit over the years between then and now and when I made the beat for ‘Nowhere Is Safe’ I knew it needed some powerful male vocals on and Dominic was more than happy to provide them all these years later.
OSR: What was the biggest challenge you faced when producing the album?
Rosh: The album was put together over the last 3 years, in which I graduated university, moved house a few times, lost family members, started new jobs and whatever else life threw at me. So, I would say life was the biggest challenge, but at the same time, it was the biggest inspiration. I would much rather take my time to get a meaningful sounding album than a rushed, uninspired load of nothing for the sake of it. Once your music is out, it’s out forever, so it’s important to get it right.
OSR: If people could listen to only one track on the album, which would you recommend and why?
Rosh: I think this depends on who is listening and what they’re looking for. If you want to be inspired to overcome your demons or are struggling with mental health, then ‘Therapy’ probably has the most powerful lessons for that. If you want to change the world, then it’s ‘Nowhere Is Safe’. If you want to hear an underdogs journey then it’s ‘Loser’. If you want positivity and inspiration then it’s ‘Rare Breed’. If you want a take on the state of rap, then it’s ‘Wrong Business’. If you want a Grimey, hyped song then it’s ‘Tusken Raider’. I could go on, but there’s something for everyone on there, it’s too hard to pick one.
OSR: What else can we expect from you this year?
Rosh: I’m in a nice creative space right now and I want to keep the momentum from the album going, so I’m going to try and get some collaborative projects out there. Something is way overdue with my brother Left-Blank. I’m working on a really exciting EP with local rapper Zac Jones. I’ve got tracks in the pipeline with a few other artists and I also want to keep spreading my production too, so hopefully, there’ll be a lot more before the years out from me. Let’s see what else life brings this year too!