Jay Verze
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Jay Verze

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Although he already sees a future in music, 16-year-old Jay Verze has his priorities in order.

“School definitely comes first,” said the Owings Mills hip-hop artist. “Education is important to me and my family.”

Outside of school, however, Verze writes, records and performs original music.

He releases his debut musical project, 21117 (Two-Eleven-Seventeen), on August 17. He describes the project as “everything that I have learned up to this point in my life”. The title of his project is obviously inspired by the Owings Mills zip code.

“I’m giving the world an insight to my point of view,” he elaborated. Verze also has a single, “Cruisin,’” debuting August 3 on Verze's official website www.JayVerze.com for free download. This will be the second release from 21117 (Two-Eleven-Seventeen).

The multi-talented teenager writes all of his own music and cites Lupe Fiasco, Wiz Khalifa and Tupac among his musical influences. Verze also draws inspiration from old soulful music his father used to play for him, which perhaps provides him with his unique, “old-school vibe,” he said. It was at the age of seven that Verze first explored the world of hip-hop and began writing rap lyrics.

“If I’m going through a situation, I’ll write about it, or if I’m just feeling something that day, I’ll just write about, and it comes out naturally,” he said.

Verze, going into his senior year at , describes his music as “a college experience” because his music, specifically 21117 (Two-Eleven-Seventeen), is a culmination of his life experiences.

Growing up Owings Mills has had a major influence on his music, and Verze said support from his friends has greatly contributed to his success. He used to perform for empty crowds, and now people are coming out and paying to see him perform. He also has over 1,000 Facebook fans and gets almost 1,000 dowloads and plays of his music each day.

The hopeful artist was also recently picked up by a manager, Syranno DeBergiak, the owner and operator of Illustrious Symphony Media Group, a local promotion company. DeBergiak met Verze on Facebook, and after hearing his music and meeting him in person, he signed him in late 2011. Syranno has provided Verze with direction, and helped him grow as an artist and a businessman.

Although only 16, Verze can already imagine a future in music.

“In five years, I see myself growing as an artist. Hopefully, I’ll be financially stable at the time,” he said. “I want to be at the point where I’m comfortable with myself.” He hopes to have at least one full-length album out within that time.

For now, Verze is excited with the level he's at, and plans to enjoy it while it lasts.

“This year and last year has been a big change in my life,” he said. “From being a nobody last year, and now I’m getting more popularity.” - Dustin Levy, Owings Mills Patch


Seventeen year-old young gun Jay Verze hails from Baltimore County, not Baltimore City, and released his latest single
"David Ruffin" this week. As he recently told Undaground Radar, "[Baltimore County] is different from what people think. There's calm vibes. I observe—I'm not out in the streets but I can see what goes on."

Lanky Verze has a sort of soft, raspy flow that blends well with his teen-idol vibes—think a nascent Wiz Khalifa that's less obnoxious/into weed. On last year's promising 21117 mixtape (his zip code), he trotted out glossy synths, melodic hooks, and pre-AP English verses.

"Ruffin" is a re-introduction and a manifesto of sorts that outlines his grind and pays homage to friends. The beat sounds like something from an '80s cop show, and the hook is post-Screw sauce. Mostly fire. - Ramon Ramirez, Washington City Paper


Last summer, the CW network attempted to jump into the post-American Idol gold rush of singing competitions with “The Next,” which went from city to city looking for hometown heroes. I recapped the episode in which the show’s celebrity mentors came to Baltimore, and pop singer Jordan Baird won the night and went on to compete in the first season finals. At the time, I regarded Chris Bivins, the teenage R&B singer who was mentored by Nelly and performed an Usher song, as the weakest of the episode’s four prospects. But he’s been apparently emboldened by his moment in the spotlight, and his new track ”Heaven” is pretty good.

“Heaven,” the lead single Bivins’s upcoming HoCo Red EP, features a guest rap from up and coming Baltimore MC Jay Verze. Producer BJR gives the track the kind of brooding, textured production that makes it feel very up-to-date with R&B in 2013, not necessarily a hit in the making but certainly a confident first step towards mainstream radio. And the video, co-directed by Bivins and Addy Play, may be as impressive for showcasing the young entertainer’s visual sense as for his singing and dancing skills. - Al Shipley, City Paper


Jay Verze, who’s been rising up the ranks of the Baltimore hip hop scene lately and collaborating with other skinny young MCs like Rickie Jacobs and StarrZ, has been campaigning for Best New Artist at the upcoming Baltimore Music Awards. In August he dropped the album 21117 (TwoElevenSeventeen), named after his Owings Mills zip code, and more recently, he unveiled the Syranno-directed video for the single “Cruisin’,” a polished clip for a catchy track.

“Cruisin’” is melodic and upbeat, and sounds as good now as when it was first released over the summer, and the video merely accentuates that, without adding much thematically. Jay isn’t the most charismatic guy in the world, and he opens the song with more fake laughs than a Wiz Khalifa mixtape, but for a teenager he’s pretty quickly growing in ability and confidence. Perhaps a little too much confidence, though – the line “I’m so different, just take a listen” betrays that he may not realize just how many rappers are doing these kinds of songs just as well these days. - Al Shipley, City Paper


While the rest of us patrolled the mall as bored teenagers, Verze shows off effortless slick talk over canned snares and twinkling keys on 'Boring Nights & Hiphop'. A memorable hook and chopped-and-screwed pre-chorus illustrate his flair for melody. - Wesley Case, The Baltimore Sun


When asked about his inspiration to pick up a microphone, Jay Verze (born Darius Exum) doesn't cite Snoop, Wayne or Eminem.

"When I was younger, my father played old records in the house," Verze said. "I was the biggest Temptations fan."

You won't mistake any of his music for "Ain't Too Proud to Beg," but Verze's answer makes sense after hearing his most recent effort, "21117" (named after the zip code of his hometown, Owings Mills). Verze has a singsong flow that puts melody over wordplay, an artistic choice that has launched plenty of rap careers (Wiz Khalifa, most recently).

"I love singing," Verze said. "For my song 'Cruisin',' I didn't want to focus on the lyrics too much. I had the melody in my head first."

That might make some hip-hop traditionalists (read: curmudgeons) cringe, but that type of rapping has become immensely popular in recent years. Verze, an observant and mature teen, has taken mental notes on how rap has diversified its sound since he began listening at age 7.

"Starting at a young age has given me time to make mistakes and to learn the game as much as I can," he said. "I know what not to do."

Verze is cautious about how he presents himself. He knows the perceptions older people have of his generation, and he aims to change them.

"People always think we're loud, ignorant, hot-headed," he said. "People think we're immature. But that's not everybody. I don't smoke or drink, honestly."

His next project is a currently untitled EP Verze hopes to release next summer. To hold fans over, he plans to release a new single, "David Ruffin," named after -- who else? -- the Temptations singer.

Verze says Baltimore's rap scene is still finding its place, which he considers an exciting prospect.

"It hasn't really taken off yet," he said. "A lot of new talent is coming out but it's not to the point where a label can come in and say, 'OK, let's find somebody.' We're still developing our sound." - Wesley Case, The Baltimore Sun


Discography

Singles:
Gimme A Microphone (2010)
Feelin' Like A Star (2012)
Cruisin' (2012)
Whylin' (2013) [Current single]

Mixtapes:
AnimateTheLifeLess (2010)
HipHop, Life, America (2010)
21117 (TwoElevenSeventeen) (2012)

Photos

Bio

It has been stated that Hip Hop is more than just a culture, more than just a sound, that it is a vehicle for life as complex as a fully grown woman. Sadly, however, that woman has been corrupted. She who once breathed light into the minds of the youth has been silenced with words colored pitch black in darkness–empty in meaning, empty in thought. In the words of Nasir Jones: Hip Hop is Dead.
And the killers are amongst us, profiting . . .

In such turmoil, Darius Jaron Exum, better known as Jay Verze has grabbed hold of the microphone with dreams of rekindling the simmered out torch with an inferno of original lyrics and a message that transcends all age barriers–death is not the end. He intends to animate the lifeless beauty, Hip Hop, in his own way with his own style. Inspired at a young age by the soulful music that his Father filled their home with, years later, he decided to form a band with his friend. This was the beginning of his love affair with music. And like all love stories, things only grew more intense from there.
From the electric drum kit he received at seven to that snowy winter day when his pen first touched paper, music, Hip Hop, had claimed him as her own. In 2005, he took things to another level. He grew his musical aptitude by taking keyboard lessons and learning how to play the trumpet. That same year, a very important event took place in his life–a talent show. With hopeful stars in his eyes, he signed up to audition. Sadly, he could not make the cut. It was very difficult for him to overcome this lack of recognition as it lingered in his mind as a sign of poor skill.

“Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.” – Michael Jordan

Jay Verze was not content with failure and he came back stronger than ever! In five short years later, August, he released his first mixtape. It received well over 2,500 downloads and was quickly followed up by his sophomore mixtape “Hip Hop, Life, America”–the latter of the two displaying a more mature side that the audience had yet to see.
After coming so far, with his microphone in hand, he still stands with one goal–perfecting the craft he knows and loves. His newest project “21117 (TwoElevenSeventeen)” appears to be the result of all the experiences that he’s collected since starting his journey. Now, only one question remains…

Are the lifeless of 2013 ready to become animated?