By Natelegé Whaley
Newcomer Jahkoy is not here to ride the sound of Toronto. He’s building on it. The 22-year-old Def-Jam singer is a product of the multi-culturalism the city is known for. With equal parts Jamaican and East African roots, his affinity to beauty across several genres results in a smooth fusion on his EP Foreign Water.
So what’s in his blend? Future electronic soul and pop beats with a dash of Caribbean spice. The seven-track project is part R&B/pop guitar-led tracks and the rest riddim-inspired. Yet, don’t crown him the king of the dancehall.
Some fans may find he detours from doing many records like his February release “Odd Future.” That track borrows from the Six’s popularized formula of high-pitched crooning over airy, eerie sounds and dramatic beat breakdowns overdone by Torey Lanez, PND, The Weeknd, and Drake. But where his predecessors tend to tread along the lines of depressive scripts, Jahkoy is trying to lighten the mood in his conversations around relationship circumstances on Foreign Water.
"Everybody singing bout war / Nobody wanna sing about love,” he declares on his track “No Regrets,” filled with cruise-y acoustic pop guitars. This line sums up Jahkoy’s mood to be love’s advocate on this record. He reveals in several interviews that he fell in love before making this EP.
If the Toronto native’s goal was to set himself apart from his fellow Canadians, then he has done so in sound and content. Foreign Water showcases creative growth. But beyond the obvious comparisons, this is Jahkoy coming into his own. Just a few years ago he was rapping under the stage name Raheem and built a buzz online releasing mixtapes. He later changed his name so as not to be confused with others making music with that moniker.
Right before the change, an encounter with the soulful house music of twin-DJ duo Disclosure at a concert shifted his perspective on how he wanted to make music. The high vibes that evening inspired him to cut tunes that had a vibrant feel and that knew no boundaries in their aesthetic.
On Foreign Water, Jahkoy produces an effort that’s not too ahead of the curve, but right on time. He's comfortable switching up styles, and while no song feels identical, he stitches them together for a decently cohesive record. After all, his inspiration for the EP was Rihanna, a musical chameleon herself.
On the opening track “California Heaven,” Jahkoy sings cliches about the city he now calls home: warm weather, palm trees, and crazy partying. But the allure is all new for him. On the track, reggae dubs ring in the background and Compton-native ScHoolBoyQ drops in for the assist. Koy brings more futuristic-island vibes on several tracks: With "1000 Times," he’s begging to link with an old flame and breaks from singing to spit a few bars; "Selfish" is a cheating confessional over a weeping OVO-like chopped and screwed sample; and "Don't Stop the Vibe" activates the slow wines.
Track four “F N Sexy” is a finger-snapper about overdosing on lust, and on "Don't Beg" he’s ready to stop trying with an ex. "It's hard to pretend the one that I loved didn't do me wrong," he reveals.
Last year he commissioned his single “Still in Love” to several producers for reworks, a move that reveals he’s thinking bigger as far as the audience he hopes to reach with his music. This can eventually set him all the way apart. Match this with his intentions to make deeper music about love, and we can say that Jahkoy’s re-introduction is a solid delivery — but his grand arrival is still on its way.
Listen to Foreign Water below: