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Teejay Opens Up About Career Transformation and More in Exclusive Billboard Cover Story

'Drift' Deejay Shares Insights on Collaborating with Sharon Burke, Turning Points, and Earns Praise from Shaggy: "He's Making Music Outside of the Box"

Teejay, Receiving International Recognition

Teejay's journey in 2023 has been nothing short of remarkable, characterized by resilience, reinvention, and fruitful collaborations. The success of his hit song 'Drift' has propelled him into the international spotlight, garnering widespread acclaim and creating numerous opportunities. His signing with Warner Music and performances at prestigious events like the Hip-Hop Forever show at Madison Square Garden are clear indicators of his rising stature in the global music scene. In an interview featured as the main story on the Billboard website, Teejay shared insights from his journey.

One of the key turning points in Teejay's career was the tragic loss of his close friends Romario "Grimy Boss" Wallen and Philip "Afro-Man" Lewis in 2020, prompting him to reevaluate his musical direction. "Hardcore music has a barrier," he stated in an interview. "You can't play it in a Christian home or in certain homes. I decided we're not going to be violent; I want to do something happy."

Teejay's decision to make significant changes in his career, starting with transitioning to the management of experienced artist manager Sharon Burke, reflects a strategic move to elevate his professional trajectory. "Jamaican artists don’t even know what proper management is,” Teejay expressed.

Taking advice from Burke, who has worked with the biggest names in the industry such as Bounty Killer, Barrington Levy, Aidonia, and Shaggy, to name a few, the Montego Bay native embarked on a new journey that culminated with 'Drift.

By infusing Afrobeats elements into his music, he aimed to bring a more dance-friendly and universally appealing sound, departing from traditional hardcore dancehall. This strategic move has proven successful, as seen in the viral success of 'Drift' and its crossover appeal. "Me and the team, we created something called ‘Afro dancehall,’ " the deejay said. “It’s more of an Afrobeats song with a dancehall artist on it. We created that old dancehall feeling where people just want to dance. It’s simple math. We used fewer words and more melody so people can remember it," he shared some insights.

The 29-year-old deejay is enjoying advice from his mentor, dancehall icon Shaggy, who compliments him. "He is incredibly talented. He’s a guy that is making music outside of the box, and he also works extremely hard,” Shaggy praised. “And I think that is the formula that is needed to have a very long and successful career.”

Enjoying is transformation (Photo: Jamar Cleary)

Teejay is now enjoying a foray into the burgeoning afrobeat scene after releasing a remix version of 'Drift' with Nigerian superstar Davido. "It’s a totally different dancehall than what we have today. The sound of it is different. The dancehall they make today is more of a trap kind of dancehall. That’s just evolution at the end of the day. With an artist like Teejay, it gives him the opportunity to experiment and try a different vibe," Shaggy shared some of his thoughts regarding the current dancehall.

As Teejay continues to experiment with his sound and embrace new opportunities, guided by the advice of industry veterans, the future looks promising for this Jamaican artist. His ability to adapt, innovate, and collaborate suggests that Teejay's musical talent has the potential to reach even greater heights on the global stage.


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