an act of speaking one’s thoughts aloud when by oneself or regardless of any hearers, especially by a character in a play
The first time I interviewed Jay Douglas, he was battling the gatekeepers of music. The DIY promoter had recently announced the launch of a new local music fest called The Big Thing and while we spent some time discussing the details of the event, our conversation centered mostly on systemic prejudice within the DIY community and the need for greater diversity and inclusivity in the local music scene. Although I was aware that Douglas sometimes recorded and released music under the moniker NEWMONEY, to the best of my memory the subject of his own art never surfaced.
So it was with some interest that I started to follow the young rapper online and began to listen to his music. At first, I didn’t glean too much from what I heard. A lot of the material didn’t feel fully conceived; they seemed like sketches of songs awaiting further inspiration. Still, there was something in them that forced me to continue paying attention, and over time I began to develop an appreciation for his minimalist production and hazy, offbeat flow.
His latest effort, the 8-song Greatest Hits, vacillates between grimy and playful, successfully blending inventive trap-pop beats with an endless string of nimble hooks and the kind of weirdo absurdism that Awful Records have been able to convert into internet stardom. In a lot of ways it’s a record that bridges the gap between the underground hip-hop NEWMONEY draws inspiration from and the DIY scene he’s learned to so skillfully navigate. Along the way, Douglas both confronts and celebrates his identity as a young, queer, black rapper in the hopes of broadening minds and bringing further diversity into what he calls the “heteronormative, hypermasculine face of rap music.” For our latest SOLILOQUIES IN THE SOUTH, Douglas was kind enough to share his personal background and talk about some of the motivations that drive him as an artist. Read his story below.
“Hi, I’m NEWMONEY. I’m a 20-year-old rapper based in Atlanta. Like most artists, I was a listener before a creator. I grew up on an eclectic mix of the soul my parents listened to, Outkast music videos, and early 2000’s rap music like Pharrell and Kanye West. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly who or what made me make the music I do, but I would say my style is more directly influenced by the music I started listening to in my teenage years: Kitty, Antwon, Kreayshawn, Lil Ugly Mane, Action Bronson, the list goes on.
Obviously, I spent a lot of time on the Internet. Tumblr and YouTube gave me an outlet to discover music, find more comfort in self-expression, and embrace my own identity. Being queer, black, and growing up in South Georgia, I had very few kindred spirits. It was me seeing weird people like myself creating art that sparked my interest in making my own music. I have had musical dreams since I was young, but I was discouraged by the idea of how people would react to my presence within music.
Given the typically heteronormative, hypermasculine face of rap music, I never saw a place for myself in it. For a long time, I either avoided telling people that I made music or purposefully made music that was sexually ambiguous as a defense mechanism. The emergence of artists like Frank Ocean, Kevin Abstract, and Cakes Da Killa motivated me to be more honest in my lyrics about my sexuality and even play off of its controversy. People, particularly straight men, are shocked by some of the subject matter, but I feed off of those reactions, in a way.
My move to Atlanta and subsequent thrust into local music gave me a new platform to present my music along with new audiences to present it to. All of the tracks on ‘Greatest Hits’ are inspired by, or even feature, people I have met since relocating. There are tracks that exist solely for the purpose of fun and absurdity like ‘Doubt’ and ‘John Cena,’ and those songs are willfully built around being fanciful and exaggerating. I think it’s important that I don’t take myself too seriously too often. ‘Go Out Like That’ references my struggles with depression but masks it behind braggadocio and making it out to be a joke. As much as I like talking about my problems, humor has always been the best agent for me to make my point without feeling like a headass.
While there are tracks that aren’t personal in the traditional sense, I feel the project defines who I am accurately. When people listen to ‘Greatest Hits,’ I want them to walk away feeling like I’m a new friend that they can approach as soon as they see me on the street.
NEWMONEY will celebrate the release of Greatest Hits on Saturday, December 3 at the Arcade. Supporting him will be Peach State, Pinkest, Michael Cera Palin, Strobe (FL), Arcadia, and Jake Cook. Doors open at 8 p.m. Donations encouraged. All Ages + BYOB.