$CARY JERRY: Q&A WITH AN UP-AND-COMING BOSTON UNIVERSITY RAPPER
WRITTEN BY SUZANNE CROW
APRIL 20, 2021
$cary Jerry is a Bronx-based rap artist who is a student at Boston University. Shortly before his most recent single, “Player,” was released, I had the opportunity to speak with him about his music and learn more about his background, inspirations, burgeoning musical career, and goals.
*This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.*
What inspired you to get into music?
I wasn’t really listening to hip hop like that until high school. I had to take the train for two hours to get there so one day, I asked one of my friends who’s a little older than me to put me onto some hip hop that I could listen to during the ride. It was during these trips to school that I started listening to all these different artists, and eventually, I was like, yo, low-key, I think I could do this too. After that, I would mess around with my friends in high school, and we would do rap battles and dis battles and jokes. I wasn’t really that serious, but it sparked an interest. Then, when I got to college, and class was looking slow, I was like, you know what, I’m finna take music seriously now.
How would you describe your music?
I think my music is inventive and infectious. I like putting twists on instrumentals not many people are using, but have existed for a long time. Being African, I listen to a lot of Afrobeats, but I’m also inspired by music from lots of other cultures. So I’m always trying something different, but also always keeping the same goal of making something catchy that people want to dance to. I want someone to hear my music and never forget it.
How has the pandemic affected your music?
Before the pandemic, I had a plan to drop a mixtape, perform at some house parties, and even secured an opportunity to perform at the Middle East in Cambridge. I was going to use Boston as a springboard ‘cause I know a lot of people here and wanted to work with these guys to take my music to the next step. And then, out of nowhere, we couldn’t even go outside, and I couldn’t even see these people anymore. After the pandemic hit, I was just trying to find new ways to keep people engaged and grow my fan base. Eventually, I started messing around with TikTok a little bit and began a little tradition called $cary Sundays, where I would drop a single every week of the Halloween season ‘cause it went with the $cary theme, and that actually got a lot of hype.
What inspired your name — $cary Jerry?
Mostly ‘cause it rhymes, and my birthday is near Halloween. I remember in high school, I went to the office, and somebody said $cary Jerry as a joke, and I was like, you know what, that’s pretty funny. I’m lowkey a clown sometimes; you can hear it in the music.
What is your songwriting process like?
It varies sometimes ‘cause sometimes I go in knowing what I want to write a song about, but most times, it’s not like that. Most times, I hear the beat, and I’m like, hmm, what vibe do I get from this? Eventually, I start humming. Then, when I get a catchy melody, one that I think sticks and that I can’t get out of my head, I’m like, this is it. ‘Cause if I can’t get out of my head, other people won’t get it out of their heads.
What is your favorite song you’ve written and why?
I haven’t dropped the song yet, but I’ll talk about it. It’s called “Casamigos.” One of my friends is Latina, and she showed me this Dominican song. I sent the song to my producer, and he sampled the song, and then we made a song about Casamigos, the tequila. It’s coming out this summer ‘cause, you know, that’s when people dance. It was a lot of fun to make that ‘cause I played a role in helping pick the sample for the beat and all that, so I felt like a complete artist. I was like, yo, I got the full package now. I’m really excited to drop it.
Can you talk a bit about your upbringing?
I was raised in the Bronx. My parents are both immigrants from Ghana, which means they were really strict. They were like, you got to do extra well in school at all times, you got to be focused. So, when I was younger, I read a lot of books. Besides reading books, I was probably playing video games and watching anime, so those are all really big influences. And since I’ve been reading books for a minute, my vocabulary was always pretty advanced, so I mess around with it when I write my songs.
Tell me a bit about yourself outside of music.
Besides music, I also plan on getting into filmmaking, maybe like making a TV show, like a comic. Especially ‘cause I’ve always had a large interest in animated shows. I plan on at some point making a little show of my own. And I definitely plan on directing videos in the future. For my next video, which I’m about to shoot, I’m playing a role in directing and coming up with ideas, so I’m really excited for that.
How do you balance school and music?
Balancing school and music is really difficult. I’m a computer engineer and my workload is super tough. I have work all the time and I have projects that I always have to deal with. And then, at the same time, I’m trying to be this artist. But the thing is, a huge thing for being an artist nowadays is you need to be consistent. I’m not going to lie, I’ve struggled with it, but I’m definitely getting better over time. I realize that since school is always going to be there and is going to be a huge problem sometimes, I’m going to have to pre-plan a lot of the music stuff. So even when I have school, I can just have it lined up to drop, and it doesn’t interfere with the schoolwork as much. For recording and making music, I have some weeks where I just go to the studio and record stuff. And then I just do the homework after.
Who or what are your musical inspirations/influences?
I like Kanye a lot. Especially ‘cause he was revolutionary. He’s always pushing the boundaries and doing something new. When I first got into music, one of the rappers I really listened to was Meek Mill. I really liked Meek Mill — I don’t know if it was ‘cause I was going to school in New York or ‘cause I was angry in the morning, but I was listening to a lot of Meek Mill. He was mad aggressive, but a huge theme was chasing your dreams, and I liked that. I also listen to a couple of African artists, like Wizkid and Burna Boy, and I really like their music, too. Every once in a while, I’ll mess around and use Afrobeats instrumentals. Most of the time, it won’t be specifically Afrobeats; it’ll probably be like a mix of Afrobeats and hip hop so that I can still like rap on it versus just being a singer.
Who or what are your inspirations/influences for your songs?
It’s usually whoever I’m listening to at the time. So I remember when I made “Scary Time,” I think I was listening to probably a lot of Playboi Carti, a lot of Juice Wrld, a lot of the younger artists who have more fun music and their music is more melody-based. So when I was making that song, I was just also more melody-based too. I was like, alright, I’m going to mess around and sing and have the fun lyrics.
What are you working on now?
Right now, I have a list of songs that I’ve been waiting to drop. During quarantine, I was working on a lot of songs. And after I came back to Boston, I realized I have a lot of music, but something I really need to work on is marketing and getting in touch with more people. So what I’ve been doing is just working on recording videos for all the songs I already have in the vault and just coming up with a plan to market these songs and how exactly I’m going to post them on Instagram and if I’m going to have a little rollout strategy. I’m just working on what’s going to happen next. I was thinking about dropping a project, but I wanted to wait a little bit. I feel like I want to grow the family a little bit more and let them know all the flavors I have before I give them a real project.
What are your hopes for the future of your music?
Right now, I’m making more fun music, but eventually, I want to get to a point where I can push boundaries in my music and try even more new things. Definitely, one of the goals that I have is to hear my song in the car that’s passing by, so I know other people are listening to my music. I want to know other people outside my friend group are enjoying my music. So it’s not like I care about personal clout; I just care about people enjoying the music. That’s probably what matters most to me. I also think that, especially since I’m directing a video right now, I want to create experiences that tie into the music. So having a video that is like a physical representation of the video is also really cool. You can hear the song, but now when you watch the video, you understand exactly what I’m trying to show you.
Can you tell me a bit about your song, “Player,” that will have dropped by the time this article is published?
I’m excited for that song ‘cause it’s a sample of Big Pun’s song “Still Not A Player.” So it’s like a modern day representation of that song, but with a little scary twist to it. I’m warning all the young kids out there to watch out. These girls can be ruthless.
Is there anything else you would like to talk about?
When Halloween season comes back around, I’ll definitely drop a project this time ‘cause, you know, it’s about to be scary season again. But until then, I have a lot of good music on the way. I have the “Casamigos” song for the summer and a lot of new flavors.