For ISSUE EIGHT of Off Licence Magazine, we had the pleasure of interviewing Layfullstop, the Birmingham-raised, Manchester-based artist who has just added another masterful mixtape to her discography.
‘STiR is songs that I’ve always wanted to make, all in one place. I think it’s the best project I’ve ever made, and that’s why I’m taking so long.’
Lay chuckled as she revealed how long she’s been working on this tape, but as she explained just how close it is to being ready to release, her arms raised above her head, and she started to rotate them in unison, one after the other as if to say the wheels are very much in motion.
The final part of any project’s creative process is pressing that big button and putting it out there for people to listen to. Having shared very personal anecdotes about growing up on her previous body of work, Lay has gone on record to say that there’s a feeling of being exposed when she eventually shares her art – such is the nature of its personal and personable quality.
With the countdown very much on to pressing that big release button again when we spoke, we wanted to see if that was the reality for the rapper still. ‘Kind of,’ she says, looking up to the far corner of the room whilst the cogs turn in this quick lyricists’ head. It wasn’t long before Lay was explaining her headspace in admirable clarity: ‘I think as I’ve grown up, there’s a sense of maturity where you feel less exposed and start feeling more like, “here I am”.’
‘This new project, this is who I am, there are no secrets, it’s very in your face. I’m still the same vulnerable artist, but this time I don’t feel exposed, I feel like I’m just fact-checking, telling you where I’m at. This is me.’
To be honest, that kind of self-assuredness can be heard in every track that Lay’s ever chatted on. Whether it’s rapping or singing, there’s this feeling that the artist knows exactly what kind of verse, what kind of cadence and what kind of delivery needs to go where. That sensation of off-the-cuff improvisation between styles is perhaps where Lay’s ‘jazz influence’ expands far beyond piano samples or chopped up horns.
Delve anywhere into this artists’ catalogue and tracks sound like they’re recorded live, such is the organic way in which the vocalist explores the instrumentals that guide her expressions. When we did the inevitable music journalism move and discussed influences, fittingly it was the creative freedom that one particular strand of jazz provides that took us on a beautiful tangent.
‘That essence of improvisation in my music, that could definitely be taken from jazz. I always say I’m a vocalist rather than a rapper or a singer to allow for that freedom. You might hear a song and think that a good, long rap would work really well here. That’s when I might do the opposite, I love that creativity – I think I get that from growing up on a lot of Japanese funk and jazz.’
‘My dad and my uncles always used to play video games; Nintendo 64 and them ones way back where you just put a cartridge into your TV and you’re away. They were so good at these games I just used to love watching them. And these video games were all soundtracked by Japanese jazz-funk artists. My uncle loves instrumental music and ended up downloading all of these soundtracks to play in his car and we’d be cruising around with that playing.’
Lay continued, taking us all the way back to musically-scored drives around Brum, educating us on a realm of jazz that most are only exposed to as a result of YouTube’s algorithms: ‘So as much as I grew up listening to hip-hop and RnB and gospel, I had this completely different thing going on. It was amazing to be honest. And it’s that kind of sound that I love to rap and sing on.’
We can expect rapping and singing to be scattered across STiR, as well as all of those uniquely LayFullstop qualities that the artist mentioned at the top of our interview. When we chatted, the release date was yet to be officially penned, but by the time you’re reading, the tape will be doing the rounds.
Words by Greg Stanley, photography by Jay Bartlett and Matt ‘Brickcellphone’ Leppier.