My Town My Music’s Local Artist Spotlight
We’re excited to throw a little hip-hop in the mix this week: let’s get to know Jae Havoc.
Born Joe McShan, Jae Havoc is an emcee, producer, and vocalist. Jae has mixed and mastered work for other artists, including Seattle-based act Brakebill, formerly of Eyota. Aside from making and producing music, Jae has created artwork for his own projects. For several years, he also fronted the punk band “Corporate Failure”.
As a kid, Jae was drawn to the rap and hip-hop artists of the day, such as 2Pac and Dr. Dre, and later, acts like Common and Kanye West. He found himself intrigued by the power of voices like Pac, Dre, and Ice Cube, and was inspired by the way they could move people with the poetry behind their words. His exposure to hip-hop is what pushed him to begin writing poetry, and later turning those words into lyrics.
He first started writing raps during George W.’s second term. At that time, “backpack rap” was gaining popularity. It was a socially conscious brand of rap that stood out in a sea of thug and club rap. Artists like Kanye, Talib Kweli, and Common were on the rise. Teenage Jae, ever-fascinated with the world, was taking in the environment and the social climate of our country during that time, and this helped mold him into the musician he is today. He’s not one to stick to writing about superficial topics—though he laughingly admits he indulges from time to time. He credits this time as a major contributor to his musicianship. However, his greatest experience in shaping him was becoming a parent. “As someone who grew up without a biological father around, I wanted to leave my kids with some words of wisdom,” he says.
When did you realize your passion for performing live?
I was never overly afraid of being in front of a crowd, and I realized that to do this music thing effectively, you have to get out there. After a few performances, I found my voice, and I started to get really excited about performing and speaking to an audience. Being in a punk band also helped me put my energy into performing.
What has been your favorite performing experience?
The best time I’ve had performing was probably playing at a festival that my friend Zac and his crew put on called BYOB in Wisconsin. It’s nice to be in the festival vibe.
What’s the funniest/strangest thing that’s happened to you while performing?
I once played a show in Mankato where the price of admission got you a beer and a waffle.
Imagine you could battle any rapper. Who would you choose?
My favorite people to battle are always gonna be my friends, because I have dirt on them, but I’d love to go at it with Sage Francis. He just seems like a fun guy to battle.
What music would people be surprised to know you like?
I like a bit of everything, but maybe The Postal Service would seem out of character even to the people who know me.
What does live performance mean to you? Why is it important to our community?
You can always find a way to download music for free, but you can’t download the experience that live music gives you. It gives you a chance to remove yourself from reality for a bit. Or, on the flip side, the real-world elements that musicians bring to a performance can bring us together. It’s important for our community, because it brings people of all walks of life together. I’ve performed to a crowd of punk kids, artsy kids, lawyers, doctors, and more, and in that time we all were on the same level.
Do you have any projects in the works?
I’m currently working on a project tentatively titled “Songs For the Sunken”. It’s kinda my way of speaking to working class people that are having a hard time right now. Not just the middle class, but anyone struggling. Not enough hip-hop does that in a fun way.
What do you see as strengths of the Rochester music scene?
There are a lot of great musicians in Rochester. Some left and are making their ways in other parts of the country—Brakebill is getting played on the radio in Seattle, for example—but we always come back together. There’s a strong sense of community here. We all want to make something of our home.
What are your thoughts on hip-hop’s representation in Rochester?
There really isn’t much representation. We’ve had a few artists that have been successful (Lil Crazed has been pretty successful, and YG on the Beat has done well enough to produce for Chief Keef), but there just isn’t a good venue to display local talent like that. It’s sad, because I’ve seen talented emcees and producers here. I even helped mentor some talented fourth grade emcees.
What aspects of the local scene do you feel could use improvement/more attention?
Besides a good medium-sized venue with a regular staff and a solid sound system, we need bodies to fill such a venue. There is plenty of interest in the shows that we’ve been bringing to town, i.e. Astronautalis, Har Mar [Superstar], Caroline Smith. But I think the locals are so jaded with the shoddy track record that Rochester has had with shows that it’s harder to get people out there, especially on a regular basis. We need a good effort from our local radio stations in drumming up interest in locally-owned events (Z-Rock has actually been doing a good job to showcase local talent, but that’s restricted to rock), and we need to build confidence in our local scene from a fan standpoint.
What is your idea of a perfect venue, as a performer and/or fan?
We need a solid venue that can hold 1,000 – 2,000 people. It would house reasonably popular acts that wouldn’t fill up the Civic center and also showcase local talent. I love intimate shows with my favorite artists. It creates a connection. A good sound system (with good room acoustics) and staff is also paramount.
What is the best concert you’ve seen in Rochester?
My favorite shows in Rochester have been with Har Mar/P.O.S. and Astronautalis/Sarah White (whom I was lucky enough to perform with).
What artist(s) would you love to see come to Rochester?
I’d love to see the whole Doomtree crew. If it were possible, it’d be amazing to see Chance the Rapper come to town, also.
Give Jae Havoc’s latest track a listen:
Calling all musicians!
My Town My Music is hosting a friendly competition for local music performers. We’re looking for artists of all kinds. This competition is intended to showcase all the talent Rochester’s music scene has to offer. The community narrows the performers to five acts with an online vote, and the top five will perform live on September 9th!
Think you have what it takes to win the Local Music Showdown?