A 20-year-old Ypsilanti rap artist is hoping his performance at the Nov. 29 Detroit Pistons game at Little Caesar's Arena in Detroit will be an opportunity to advance his budding career.
Ypsi native Kid Jay, whose legal name is Jason O’Banner Jr., attended Ypsilanti Community Schools, graduating in 2017. He now attends Eastern Michigan University, where he is studying audio engineering. He began rapping in high school, and wasn't happy with his first big performance at a school talent show when he was 15.
"I kind of lost track of my words and lyrics," Kid Jay says. "After that, it encouraged me that next time I do stuff on stage, I'm going to make sure it's perfect."
Before he turned 20, Kid Jay attracted national hip-hop stars' attention; performed more than 50 shows in Michigan, New York, and Atlanta; opened for T.I.; and met Lil Bow Wow. One of Kid Jay's favorite memories is when he opened for rap artist Jermaine Dupri at the Fox Theatre in Detroit, performing in front of 5,000 people after entering a song in a radio contest.
"When I walked out it was kind of silent, and then everyone saw me and got loud even though they didn't know who I was," Kid Jay says. "I was looking out into the crowd and people were so far away (that) all I could see were lights from camera phones. It was a pretty cool experience."
Kid Jay built a reputation early on as a "clean" rapper who didn't use profanity, but his new album, Golden Child, does contain a few expletives.
"The majority of my album is clean. Out of seven songs, only two are explicit," he says. "You don't have to be so vulgar in your lyrics for people to understand what you want to say. And if you keep it clean, it looks good for radio play."
Like many aspiring artists, Kid Jay hopes to become rich and famous. But his aspirations aren't purely based in self-interest.
"My little brother is 8 years old and he's autistic. He's the most lovable person you ever met," Kid Jay says. "I want to get rich one day and build an (autism-friendly) high school for my brother and name it after my deceased grandmother, Shirley."
He says he'd also like to give back to his parents. His father works around the clock as his promoter and manager, and his mother works midnights as a certified nurse assistant.
"I want to make my dream happen for my mom. She gave birth to me at 16, and people didn't think she'd graduate, but she did graduate with almost a 4.0 (grade point average)," Kid Jay says proudly. "I have the same mentality. Nobody can tell me nothing, just like they can't tell her nothing. She did everything people said she couldn't do."
More information about Kid Jay's performance at the Pistons game is available here. Fans can see a video of Kid Jay performing his rap about Washtenaw County, Welcome to the 734, on YouTube or stream his music on his SoundCloud.
Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township and the project manager of On the Ground Ypsilanti. She joined Concentrate as a news writer in early 2017 and is an occasional contributor to other Issue Media Group publications. You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo courtesy of the O'Banner family.