Jaylin Wade, today known as J Wade, began making music in 2016, while he was a junior at Lindblom College Prep Academy. Within just a few short years, the independent, underground South Side rapper has quietly perfected his craft, putting out a consistent stream of projects defined by intentional storytelling and dense lyricism. 

“To get the way paved, I get the acres razed to make a statement, my head splitting, from executive decisions, caught up in ‘em.” 

The names of Wade’s recent projects, from Lily of the Valley and Ozymandias to The One Who Knocks, suggest more than a passing interest in the TV show Breaking Bad

But what he really sets out to accomplish—whether as a rapper, beat selector, or creative director—is cinematic impact. Whether he’s sampling a blaxploitation satire like Coonskin, a classic anime like Afro Samurai, or a video game, each J Wade project is an exercise in world-building. 

“It’s intentional. The things we [sample] might vary as far as the medium. But the point is: you want the moment to be grand,” Wade said.  

The Weekly recently spoke with Wade to trace his creative journey across five of his most notable projects to date. 

Lily of the Valley is pretty important because it has different emotions and different sounds”, Wade said. Produced by Cloud Boy and DVNTBeats—two of Wade’s friends and collaborators in the fast-growing Creative Mansion collective—the eight-song EP serves as a formal introduction to J Wade’s sound, with fast-paced flows woven across soulful and jazzy beats. 

Wade said that when he and Cloud Boy decided to release a collaborative follow-up, Ozymandias, it was to “hold people over until their next big project” came out. But the project was their “first time putting a project together on [their] own,” and a leap forward for Wade’s world-building. 

“Whenever I think of this project, I think of the fourth song, ‘Latosha, I’m Sorry,’” Wade said

“It was me, Jesse 5k, and Cloud in the studio. He pretty much found the beat and then he freestyled the whole thing. But while he was recording it, I wrote my whole verse. So we pretty much did that song in not even two hours.” 

Wade also credits Ozymandias for expanding his fan base and getting the attention of future collaborators like Lord Jah-Monte Ogbon of Charlotte, North Carolina. “When people first found me, this was pretty much the project that they were really listening to.”

The One Who Knocks, which dropped in March 2022, was three years in the making. For Wade, it remains “the peak of world-building, cohesiveness, and just intention, from start to end.” As he raps on “Midnight Magic”: 

“If I can stay hungry, Defunct things, Sneakin into my timeframe, The line stays as gray as ever, True you too in tune to use it as leverage.” 

But just six months later, Wade followed it up with Means To the Ends. Executive produced by Raleigh’s Pleasant Sherman (who Wade never met in person) and professionally mixed, Wade views it as his first time curating a project on his own. “[Pleasant Sherman] just sent me all the beats, and I’d record in my room,” Wade said. “I was handling everything: deciding what went where, and deciding what beats I wanted to use. A lot of songs didn’t make the cut.” 

Wade’s Feint of Heart EP, on the other hand, came together quickly, and draws on a range of production talent. 

“I recorded all of these songs in one studio session—like, I just came with all of them written, and then just recorded all of them in like three-and-a-half hours. Then I went home and just put it all together.” 

One thing is true when it comes to J Wade as an artist: he is a student of hip-hop. His appreciation for the art form is affirmed through utilizing intentional modes of storytelling. His catalog, smooth delivery, and technical abilities only grow over time because his projects are rooted in collaboration. Inspired by the likes of distinctive, witty rappers such as MF DOOM and Lupe Fiasco, Wade is forced to be reckoned with in an era that is redefining rap.

J Wade’s Means To The Ends vinyl is available now via Supa Sounds on Bandcamp. 

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Kristian is a writer and visual storyteller, inspired to shape perspectives by sharing unique narratives.

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