Thursday, January 10, 2008

Jelani Waits For His "Day" To Arrive...

In a meticulously kept dorm room in West Village E, middler Jelani Day plays a song off his new album, "Wait, You Can Rap?!?!" He rocks his head to the beat blasting from his computer speakers.

"You got a dream, you should follow that," Day raps in his song 'Living My Dream.' "Alotta times what you wanna do ain't really where the dollars at / And people ask, 'Where your knowledge at? / You went to college and you rap? / You retarded, you ain't doin' jack.'" (Cont.)
At 21, Day has completed his first album and collaborated with artists like Mike Kawesch, better known as 6th Sense, who graduated from Northeastern in 2007. Together they have performed shows in New York City, including opening for Sean Price/Boot Camp Clik at the well-known S.O.B.'s venue in Manhattan.

During Welcome Week 2007, Day performed in the Stetson East Quad at the WRBB Block Party. He also served as the master of ceremonies and performed at "Generation Next," an open mic event on campus last October.

Balancing a full course load and a music career is difficult, but Day has little doubt he will gain success.

"My strength is my versatility," he said. "I can't put myself in a box."

When Day raps, his voice is clear and confident. He raps his words without a stutter or pause. He said his songs tell a story of someone who always wanted to prove he could rap.

"I address my life," he said. "My hardships, my dreams, even the dance floor."

Day represents a less-fabled demographic of rappers. He did not grow up in poverty or in a fatherless home; rather, he attended private schools in the Harlem area and is now a Ujima Scholar at Northeastern. Rap has always been a part of Day's life.

Day said his father, Dapper Dan, a clothing entrepreneur who styled rappers for music videos and album covers in the mid-'80s, is much of the reason Day has such a devotion to rap.

"I have been around the culture for so long, it is infectious for me," he said.

In spite of his father's connections to the rap world, Day does not want to use his father's success to help his own career.

"I asked my dad not to help me," he said. "[My father's success] is my history, but I want to get a record deal on my own."

A future record deal may not be far off. Day's song, "The Proposal," was featured on 6th Sense's album, Go For It. He is also featured on 6th Sense's album Rawkus 50 Presents It's Coming, which is available on iTunes and has received several positive reviews, with one reviewer questioning why Day has not been signed yet.

"He has talent," 6th Sense said. "Raw talent. He is open to learn, to experience and expand."

Yet raw talent alone will not turn Day into the rap superstar he aspires to be, said music industry professor Leon Janikian.

"I think it is difficult to break into the scene," Janikian said. "You need to be dedicated and stick with it. Having done that, if you're good, you will get your shot. But Day is dedicated."

As a music industry major, Day is able not only to pursue his love of rapping, but also to educate himself in the business side of the rap world.

"I keep up daily with hip-hop news," he said. "It's second nature to balance music and business. The future of rap is the rapper entrepreneur."

Day said this is one of the reasons he idolizes Jay-Z, who he said possesses musical talent and business savvy.

To Day, becoming a rapper does not mean owning an oversized Hummer, big bling and a pool full of half-naked women. Instead, he said, his biggest dream would be to tour the world with his music and to prove himself.

"[I want to] inspire other kids like me that they can rap," he said. "I come from private schools and Harlem. I want to make those kids that feel out of place, [feel] in place."

With a little luck, a lot of dedication and a solid education, Day said he hopes he has set himself up for success in the rap world. Now he is just waiting for others to notice him.

"I am still relatively unheard of but my talent is unmatched by anyone my age," he said.

Day doesn't seem worried as he waits for his future record deal.

"If the sky is your limit," he raps in his song, 'Living My Dream,' "The universe is mine."

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