Jay Guevara is a music journalist, poet and gym rat who is based in the Richmond, VA area. During his time as a journalist he has contributed to several brands and publications such as Lovelace Magazine, FeelGood RVA, VirginiaGotNow and more. We got a chance to talk with Jay and learn more about his journey in journalism, his passion for community service, the release of his book “The Mission Told Thru Poetry” and more!
BLACKHEARTSCLUB: You are VCU alumni and VCU is a school that is heavily populated with creatives due to their arts program. How do you feel that attending VCU helped your creative journey as a journalist?
Jay Guevara: What most people forget or don’t know about myself is that I actually went to VCU primarily to study health and exercise science. I currently work two health jobs alongside my creative ventures. The ratiocination I had going into VCU creatively was that of a recording artist still at the time. I stopped doing music back in 2016 for a set of reasons and then I started writing album reviews, interviews, and event coverage. When I started doing that, I entered more rooms than I ever would primarily as an artist. However, I been writing since 2008 so I was always a poet before anything else. That led to being a part of the international slam poetry organization, Good Clear Sound, and hosting open mics from 2016-2018. Thanks to that platform, I had artists come from all over who followed VirginiaGotNow, Lovelace Magazine, and the Richmond music community to support every week.
What contributed to my writing was really my formative years in high school. I was a part of this international studies program, the IB Program and we would have to write analytical commentaries to any historical propaganda, poems, short stories, and more for it to be graded. Outside of the final exams that were sent overseas to be graded to eliminate any American biases, I would write raps from front to back talking about the very poem or short stories that we had to break down in ten minutes. My journey doesn’t even stick specifically as a journalist. I returned to rapping on shows thanks to the RVA Rap Elite (think of like a YO! MTV RAPS, but for 804 and 757 rappers. I was the very first person to perform on that platform by performing a poem about hip hop. Then, I ended up doing the open cyphers there and surprising people with my rapping. In my interview for the RVA Rap Elite Instagram live show, I even opened up about how this nice battle rapper Habeeb, who battled the likes of Xcel, John Chllum, and Radio B, wanted to battle me and how that almost happened.
I see myself as a swiss army knife of different abilities honestly. How I even propelled myself in the VA Hip Hop community wasn’t even having a solid music following or my poetry, but it was when Sway came down to VCU in 2016 to have a private film screening at the college. It was for a film called The Cycle, which is a twelve-minute short film about inner-city violence and police brutality with an all-black cast. I was still making music at the time and I remembered being in line for the Q&A thinking, “I should spit some bars! Nah, let me surprise them with something”, so I did. I first thanked Sway for putting me onto my idols at the time like G.L.A.M., who inspired me to rap, JAY IDK, and BIG KRIT. I started hearing all these whispers in the crowd. Then I quoted Andy Mineo from a doomsday cypher he did with G.L.A.M. in 2015 where he was talking about media corruption in the cypher, saying “A White man kills somebody, then he’s insane. A black man kill somebody, oh, I told you they’re all the same” and I asked him how does that bar correlate with the theme of the film along with how we can change that narrative Andy mentioned in the cypher. Considering it’s an all-black cast and the plot of the film is a fall out of a cop killing someone innocent, I thought of this AS I WAS WAITING IN LINE FOR THE Q&A AND I WAS SECOND IN LINE. I had to think of something to talk to Sway about. What happened after that was the day I launched myself into the VA hip hop scene. Sway answered my question and everyone was blown away with the question. Everyone came up to me after the Q&A asking me for my socials. Marc Cheatham and Big Rich of The Cheats Movement Podcast reached out to me and handed me some GTA V-influenced flyer, inviting me to be on the podcast one day. Then Jimmie Thomas, a movie director of this five part film, The Curators of Hip Hop reached out to me. He told me that he followed IDK from the days he was cutting hair and paying restitution back in 2012-2013, and was surprised I said IDK was one of my idols. We talked and he said that I am all hip-hop from the conversation. Part one of his documentary featured Logic from the basement days to him creating his own label, NOLA rapper Dee-1 from his independent days to signing with RCA Records at the time, and more artists. He had two cases of part one that night. One was just the display case for Sway’s office. Another was the raw copy of the film. He gave me the raw copy. I still have it to this day along with the GTA V-influenced Cheats flyer. Eventually, I would help The Cheats Movement bring Joe Budden to the Broadberry later on in that same year and Twitter went crazy over that for me and at that point, my music career ended and I started as a journalist with VirginiaGotNow.
BHC: A big part of what you do is also centered on community engagement and volunteering. What sparked your passion for getting so heavily involved in community service?
JG:Richmond was the former murder capital in 1997. I grew up on Route 1 my whole life which was a melting pot ghetto and a hub for drug abuse and sex trafficking. Richmond was 11th for most homicides in the US in 2019 and was 10th in the nation within sex trafficking cases. In the 2000s, Richmond was in the top ten for murder rates consecutive years 2002-2004, 2006-2007, peaking at fourth in 2004. Plus with a history of gang affiliation and two stints of addiction 2012-2014, 2016, I was engulfed in the recklessness that the Gritty City had first hand, even during my VCU tenure. There was a program at VCU called VCU ASPiRE, where I got my community engagement background from, that showed students the true Richmond. The ever-growing topic of the two Richmonds always interested me.
To break it down like this: the RVA name is pretty much-spotlighting downtown Richmond, VCU, and the West End which has a lot of breweries that makes RVA the third most popular brewery city in the United States. Then there’s Richmond. The RIC [the old acronym of RVA before the rebrand around 2011-2012, I know it was changed around the early 2010s.] RIC is pretty much whatever is south of the James River, Southside, East End which has most of the housing projects in the city and Armstrong High School that has a daycare, and Northside, depending on which part you’re in, you’ll either be alright or risking your life. I prided myself in coming out of Southside, Richmond. I still do but to a much less degree to handle my pride. All the things that I mentioned, I knew first hand while the classes we’re learning about it. I joined the program to also dispel any negative connotations that students from Northern Virginia or by the 757 area out east would have of said locals. I would get snarls and side-eyes from students every time I introduced myself and say I’m from Southside Richmond born and raised. To be on the worse end of community issues from poverty, bad living conditions, and addiction just to name a few, I wanted to undo everything and show people that someone like myself that had little to nothing made it everything and propelled me forward. Stars can’t shine without darkness. Eventually, I became the first, and unfortunately, only unanimous student of the year when I graduated from the program. VCU ASPiRE and the other living-learning programs there are merging into this new program now from what an old ASPiRE professor told me.
BHC: You have released your first book “The Mission Told Through Poetry”. How was the process of putting together this body of work and what message did you want to convey to your readers thru this book?
JG: It was like how Nickelus F would drop his Gold Mine albums: just cleaning out the hard drive. The poems I had in that book, I either performed at shows, open mics, NEVER put out, and even one of them was used for a film for Mississipi State University and GoldPrint Entertainment out that way. I knew all my Ordinary Love Shit poems at the time had to be there. I released the final OLS Poem out on social media months after. I divided it into three sections: community issues, mental health, and love. Formatting everything was hell though. Well, not really hell, just tedious. I felt like people knew me for what I do more than the man behind what I do. To use this metaphor, they know the character in the film, but not the actor himself. I wrote a lot of pain in the poems I never put out and some like Flowers and Christmas that I made in 2018 and 2017 respectively, people LOVED the most. I knew in 2020, I built a solid following to that point by writing for six platforms in four years at that point, my poetry being loved overseas on social media, and the love I get from the battle rap community. Eventually, the book is in three continents, eleven states as far as I know, and even Lil B The Based God has a book.
BHC: You have a brief history as a recording artist. Was there a particular reason that you stopped recording? Do you think you will ever begin recording again in the future?
JG: I recorded six mixtapes from 2014-2016 then stopped due to my lifelong stuttering issues. That and I was in a terrible mindset at the time due to going through withdrawals and fighting to overcome a semester of addiction and academic probation. In 2018, I returned back to a studio to speak on an intro for Big B’s We Up We Good feat. Skuzii. Then in 2020, I ended up recording an acapella poem for former URL Battle Rapper Sonny Kolfax for his song Julius Carry under the Cult Classic moniker. I have an upcoming feature I did for Skinnyy Hendrixx and his upcoming album in May. So I’ve been doing real seldom features. Now for an album or whatever, it’s something I don’t really desire. I made my impact in so many other ways that going back to music is something I do not need to do anymore. I still think about it though so maybe one day, but right now, do not expect an album from me. Just features.
BHC: You have written for several different brands during your time as a journalist such as FeelGood RVA, Virginia Got Now and Lovelace Magazine to name a few. What memorable moments have you experienced during your journey as a journalist?
JG: I’ll try to give one for each platform I’ve written for.
VirginiaGotNow- My first interview as a journalist was with Nickelus F in 2016 for VirginiaGotNow. Someone who was on Complex, Fader, 106th & Park and worked with Drake as my first interview ever??? Months after doing a cypher with him on the Cheats Movement podcast months prior to joining VirginiaGotNow??? Glad to have him as my first interview and he’s a good brother of mine now. I used to work out with him all the time in 2019 doing calisthenics like The Bartendaz.
Lovelace Magazine- When I took over their IG Live and interviewed battle rappers for their story the whole weekend of Banned Legacy 2 in 2019. My time with Spanish Harlem was hilarious. We talked for twenty minutes with BC, the best cameraman in battle rap, about life and goals, and when I said, “With myself being from Richmond, Virginia, I-“. He cuts me off and asks me, “Wait. So You’re not Khabib [the famous UFC Figther]?” We laughed and said yes to the interview after and he’s the reason why people always mention me or tag me in pictures of Khabib. What’s even scarier is that we’re almost the exact same height and weight.
HennyNCoke- Definitely my album review of the Inland Empire artist Cam Archer’s “Inside Voices”. Great artist that’s well affiliated with the 4-Bar Fridays Damian Lillard created and I met Cam very recently. He and the Over Everything collective that I covered a few times are some of my favorite artists there.
RVA Mag- I only wrote two articles for them but to write for the top magazine in Richmond was so dope to me. Especially because in 2018, I was on the cover of the winter edition of RVA Mag alongside Richmond legends like Michael Millions, Radio B, Nickelus F, artists like Henny Lo, Fly Anakin, Big Kahuna OG, Sonny Kolfax, and major radio personalities like DJ B-Rice and Big Rich.
FeelGoodRVA- Definitely either the Lil B interview which was all positivity and love. He was an influence on my life in 2014-2017. That and the Zev Deans interview. He’s a video director that shot videos for Denzel Curry’s Clout Cobain and Vengeance and Action Bronson’s Mongolia. I was even in a video of his for this New Zealand metal band that he had to shoot for. After setting that interview up, he was the most off-the-wall, random interview yet. I wasn’t expecting him to say everything he said. He’s such a colorful character with such dark humor. I loved it.
Cheats Movement- Definitely covering The Dark Room at The Hof and their manager Peter LeBlanc. Peter is such a huge music head and has a diverse musical background that I didn’t know about. I was pleasantly surpised.
TheMSQShop- When I interviewed DJ Banga, The Dumpoff DJ. THAT WAS HUGE. HE DOESN’T DO INTERVIEWS EVER. For those that may not know who he is, he’s a Richmond DJ that hosted mixtape exclusives for Future in 2014, The Game, had Drake and Nick F on the same mixtape around 2011-2012, Waka Flocka during the Flockaveli era, and so much more. He gave me my props and said he was watching me move for years and rocked with what I do. I was surprised and loved that interview so much. I’ll still talk to him here and there to check-in and talk shit.
Follow Jay on Instagram and Twitter @justinhisprime and check out his website justinhisprime.wordpress.com