“Jalen provides listeners with consistent wordplay & plenty of witty metaphors.” – Respect Magazine
“Jalen provides consistent wordplay over a soulful jazzy sound which results in a vivid picture for listeners. “– The Source
Music is a tonic for Jalen Santoy. From his breakthrough single “Foreplay” to his debut solo EP Charlie Eastern, the Charlotte, NC native has used rapping as an outlet for expression throughout his life, interpreting the world and relationships he’s forged and boiling them down into clever, thought-provoking songs while digging deep into his psyche, all set to grooved instrumentals that have made him one of hip-hop’s most promising newcomers.
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“The same medication feeling that I get from my music, I want to find a way to have a little more transparency so people can have that same emotion,” says the 23-year-old, born Jalen Santoy Gathers. “That’s something I personally work at every day and try to better myself, so I can better the environment and people around me.”
He channels that mindset into his independent release Charlie Eastern, distributed in partnership with EMPIRE. The seven-track EP (out Nov. 18), featuring production from B!nk (Kanye West), Big Duke (King Chip), MostHigh (Drake) and Jordeaux, is named after a group to which his cousin Seiyid “Fast Cash” Rahmaan belonged in the wake of his sudden death at the hand of police brutality. Though there are elements of aggression, it has a more positive outlook in spite of the circumstances that led him to the project, led by the jazz-inflected “Foreplay” that racked up two million listens on Soundcloud and over five million on Spotify.
“In the grand scheme of things, I want to promote positivity and mental health and mental wealth,” he says of his music. “I’m more of a realist. I’d rather not just talk about something that’s going to be here today and gone tomorrow. I’d rather talk about something that’s going to stand the test of time and remain relevant.”
Jalen has honed that perspective since his youth, growing up in a musical family where his mother played piano in church and uncle served as a producer in Atlanta. His passion for rapping, inspired by greats like Jay Z and Lauryn Hill, came in his early teenage years and developed in high school as part of the group IGII CK. While attending University of North Carolina at Charlotte to play soccer, he pursued a degree in philosophy and used hip-hop as an outlet for creativity, putting down a song every day during his tenure.
It was when he met his manager and released his first official song “God” featuring Gliss in 2014 that he was introduced to Little Brother’s Rapper Big Pooh, who mentored him and gave him a promotional push by hopping on the remix to the track. The following year, Pooh returned the favor by putting him on his song “Kings” alongside Novej and Lute, setting the scene for him to drop “Foreplay” and etch out a space for himself across hip-hop blogs.
Though his output has been relatively staggered—he last dropped the B!nk-produced “No Peace” in September as a response to the turmoil in his native Charlotte—he’s poised to build himself even further in 2017, promoting his lifestyle brand Ventwood and repping for Nar&B CK, a collective of likeminded artists spread across the country. And when it comes to setting himself apart as an musician, he’s already got his vision mapped out. “I feel like a lot of people want things but I don’t know if they really want those,” he says. “I feel like I actualize things more than some of the peers I’ve been around in the past. I’m trying to find the words to be able to say that.”
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