The Sound of The City: Jay Esco

By Sam Hadelman



Jay Esco is the sound of the city. Through his fluid flows and remarkable range, he’s not only excited the ears and hearts of his hometown, Bridgeport, Connecticut--but the country alike. Now that he has seemingly taken over the state after a successful run of singles and his most recent EP, All Is Love and War, the big question on everyone’s mind is: What’s next?

Esco didn't know what a superstar looked like until one man appeared in his cultural viewpoint: Michael Jackson. Though the 16 year-old artist was born decades past the reign of Michael Jackson, he would spend his long-winded nights as a kid studying and scoping “This Is It”, the documentary about Jackson centered around what was planned to be his final tour---regardless of his mother’s direction to go to sleep. As a child, Esco buried his head in books about The King of Pop; he would even circle around the room dancing to his music, mimicking the man who introduced him to the path that’d eventually evolve into a career.


Jackson’s influence on Esco was no mere fluke or shallow exploration, in fact he is quite insistent that Thriller is nowhere near his album of choice in Jackson’s discography. This overarching affection for artistry bleeds through Esco’s music. His musical toolbox is not limited to hip-hop or R&B; he is a walking incarnation of the complexities of modern day music. When asked if he considers himself a “rapper”, Esco’s reply was simply stated: “I consider myself everything. Rapper, singer, melodic. Everything. I do it all, I like to do it all.”


Esco’s career started in the methodology of most of the young people of today: social media. He would post videos of himself rapping for fun on different platforms, until his friends realized the talent that had emerged. It wouldn’t be until his brother, Jonathan, told him that he should get in a studio that he would start professionally recording. In fact, Jonathan even paid for his first session in a studio. After Esco’s first attempt in the booth, in his own words, the song he recorded–which was called “ANoyd”–was “terrible”. But, Esco and his brother weren’t discouraged in the slightest. After a few more attempts and some more experience, Esco re-recorded the song and put it out on the popular streaming application Soundcloud and “everybody started fucking with it.” After this exhilarating experience, Esco knew that making music is what he had to do with his life. Also, through this experience he was able to figure out the pockets of his sound. The intricacy of today’s raps are lost on those who are not youthful, dedicated fans or directly involved in the music industry: in short, there is a lot more to the creation of one's sound than a casual fan would understand. Though someone may put the catch-all title of “rapper” on Esco, his music is much closer to melodic singing than the rapping of the past. With this on his mind, Jay Esco had to figure out exactly how to curate his voice and sonic textures to not only engage with fans, but be satisfied with the product. He wanted to sound holistically like himself, and not be compared to anyone else in the meantime. This venture is not difficult in a state like Connecticut that has a wide variety of sounds that makeup the landscape of the state, “I feel like Connecticut got their own little way of making music, but I try to like be myself when I’m making music so nobody can say I sound like him or her or whoever.”


The music scene of Connecticut is a conundrum. It’s a state that lives in between two major media markets, New York and Boston, that has to create its own buzz at every corner. There isn’t exactly a sound or niche in the state, and the creative choices for artists are usually split between what area code you come from. It’s a place where talent lives and regions are loyal to the people who excel from them––this is specifically the case in terms of the relationship between Bridgeport and Jay Esco, “Where I’m from, Bridgeport, really took me off. Like I started getting love from different people I never heard of. My favorite one is ‘What's good cousin?’ Now everybody is my cousin! Like I don’t know you [Laughs].” It wasn’t just Bridgeport that showed Esco love at the beginning of his career “Basically it was Bridgeport, then some of New Haven and then everybody started. Then I started hearing from New York, different places all over. So yeah they [Bridgeport] really did help.” This push from his city transformed Esco’s passion for making music into the vibrant career he is currently experiencing. His managers, Javier and Marcus, gave him a blueprint for how to thrive in this industry and also delivered that extra support to ensure his future fortune. Jav, the owner of the Perfections Lounge & Hollywood Hookah, has a particular ear for what excites the very clubs that he operates. This duality between what moves the fans and moves the clubs is a concoction that separates the good from the great in terms of artistry. For Jay Esco, he knew he had solved that puzzle when he finally was able to go to Atlanta and physically see how his music moves people, “They would play my music in there and I be like ‘Woah, I like this.’ Then they started playing my song in the club and everybody started dancing to it, I was like ‘Yeah, I could do this for real.’


One of the keys to the universal nature of Esco’s sound is his recording process, “I try to stay mutual like, kinda New York vibe and kinda like down South vibe too. So that way everybody all over the world can just fuck with my music. You can’t say I’m from one place or from another.” He not only records in Connecticut studios, but additionally he lays down tracks at Doppler Studios in Atlanta and Premier Studios in New York City, “I like the vibes of different places––it’s good to get out of where you are from.” The essence of these eclectic studios is what speaks the most to Esco. Specifically, there is one place for Jay Esco that lights his spirit up: Time Square. Driving down 7th Avenue and West 54th Street in New York City with the windows deliberately down, Esco is marveled by the bright lights of Time Square. Even though New York locals describe the tourist mousetrap as hell on earth, to a young man from the East End of Bridgeport, these are the pearly gates of fame and fortune that one lines their dreams with. The billboards, the fans, and the notoriety is a culmination of all that Esco has been working for his whole life. With an extraordinary sound, engaging fanbase, and limitless future––Time Square is starting to look much more like a mirror than a mirage for Esco.


In today’s world, it is quite regular for artists born after 2000 to freestyle, but Esco is versatile. He prefers the combination of writing and freestyling his music rather than solely sticking to one methodology. He likes to act off the cuff––if he gets a quick idea or thought, he will walk mere footsteps to the studio set up in his brother's room which is littered with vinyl records on the wall and a light-teal wallpaper, and jot it down. As said earlier, Jay Esco is a jack of all trades and not solely a rapper, whatever that title means in our contoured world, and that leads to him focusing on other parts of his artistry rather than just the art of freestyling. His voice, which is one of his greatest tools, is the object he’s been sharpening since his earliest days of memory, “My mom would tell me I used to always sing in the car and stuff...I used to love Rock Band and all that stuff.” Though it was something he utilized based on pure ability at first, recently he’s been attempting to truly hone his skill, “But now, I’ve been trying to project my voice to do more things so I can do different stuff on different songs. So I have been practicing with my voice...it will just be random. I'll be in the shower and I’ll just practice or when I’m laying down on my phone, I’ll just try different stuff.” The work that Esco has been putting in has been showing up in his music with concrete evidence. On records like “My Side” with the rising Philadelphia star Lil Muk, Esco shows off the span of his vocal ability to fantastic results. His voice, much like his lyrics, are visibly heartfelt and honest. You can hear all the mountains and molehills he’s had to overcome to get to where he is and as the listener, all we can do is cheer for him.


The music that Jay Esco makes isn’t just for the club or your neighborhood party. In reality, if it was not for the beat, his lyrics are much more akin to poetry than anything else. They are sincere and genuine, and the direct result of all the triumphs and tribulations of his life, “It’s just stuff that’s been bottled up in me since...my whole life. Stuff that I go through, stuff that I've been through or stuff that just is happening in my life. So I just take music as something like therapy to take that all out my life. Whatever I go through, I just take it out and put it on a song.” The maturity that Esco exudes in these records is well beyond his age, speaking with the diction and definition that even some adults cannot produce. This developed perspective is attributed to his upbringing, “Growing up in Bridgeport honestly...it’s hard out here sometimes...the struggles and stuff. So we learn at a young age how to keep our heads up and give our own and stuff like that.” Having to dig through a lifetime of experiences, both positive and negative, and present them to the world would be a taxing experience for anyone going through life, but especially for a 16 year-old. The influences of these moments in time for Esco are the fuel that has kept him going, when talking about the things in his life that have directly impacted him the most he said, “My brother being locked up, me coming where I’m from right now, not really having that much honestly influenced me. It made me want to get more for myself. Once I seen that I had a gift, I was like ‘This is my gift to make it out, do better. Ever since then I’ve been crafting my gift.’”


Exposing your inner demons and darkest times to the world for their perpetual judgement and expecting understanding is an extremely daunting task, but Esco has always wanted to wear his emotions on his sleeve. The hardest song he’s ever had to pen was “Promise” a song that was met with high-praise. “Everything I had said in “Promise” was like stuff that really happened to me. Like when I say my brother got shot, that’s stuff that really happened to me. My brother got locked...it’s just all stuff that really happened. So it was like in the studio while I was recording it, I was just getting those feelings out and it was hard for me to get them out because I didn’t want to have to hear that.” Though for any non-musician, having those personal topics be brought about in such a public manner may be nerve wracking, this was never the case for Esco, “No, I wanted to put it out. I wanted people to know what I was feeling at that time.” It’s almost unfathomable that while all this soul searching was going on, Jay Esco was only the ripe young age of 15. He wasn’t even able to go into an R-rated movie by himself when he was penning the depths of his unbelievably complex life.


If you ask Esco if he’s blown up, he will tell you that he’s not there yet––but to the rest of the state, he has fully exploded. But, as we have learned with the slew of younger artists that have gotten popular recently, fame comes with costs, “The most challenging part of clout, or you could say the fame, as of now...It would have to be different people coming up to me acting like they know me––like I don’t know you. I don’t know who you are and stuff like that. Like I said earlier with the cousins, I had like 3 new cousins, like I had to go to my parents and ask if this is really my cousin or not.” Even with his expansive following and sound, Jay Esco intends on repping Connecticut to the fullest. He wants to solidify the state and define the sound of the region, “When you hear CT––Jay Esco. I’m almost there.” He not only wants to put on for himself, but Connecticut as a whole, “Honestly, I want to stay in CT [Connecticut], but I want to do it so that way I can put CT on someday. That’s what I want to do. I want to be one of the youngest to put ‘em on. I want to have different artists coming from out of here, like I said, when you hear CT––you think Jay Esco. That’s what I want to do.”


The uniqueness of Esco’s career also arrives at his ascension, he hasn’t followed the blueprint of any other artists from the state, “I think I really paved a way for myself to get more up there. By that, I mean traveling to different places, getting to know different people...I feel like a lot of people don’t do that like I do it. I just came back from L.A, I’m always meeting new people everywhere I go, I like to spread my music around different places.” At this point in the interview, Esco’s brother played his music in the room next door so loudly that we actually had to pause the conversation, just another ode to how much support Jay Esco has not only in his city, but even his own household. That is the crux of Esco’s whole career, even if you’ve heard his song a million times, like members of his family have, it’s so structured and transparent that you can’t help yourself from listening to it.


Jay Esco is a musical phenom. His music is cinematic and translucent, he gives us every single ounce of honesty he can possibly give, all with the accompaniment of his spectacular vocal range. He not only has an unabashed mastery over his emotions, but even the intricacies of song structure––something that goes miles beyond the bounds of his age. Even with all the success in the world on his horizon, his ambitions are wrapped in the thing the most important to him: his family, “My highest goal is I want to get rich off this. That’s what I want to do. I want to get rich off of music. I want to be the first one in my family to be rich, that’s what I think of it as. Break the generational curse of poverty and stuff like that. That’s what I want to do. That’s gonna happen to me––I know that.” Jay Esco’s prosperity is ensured and solidified, with the whole city on his back, the love and support of his family, and an unbreakable bond with his devoted fans, all that’s left for us to do is witness what’s about to happen for the kid from the East End of Bridgeport.