Ambjaay is a 19-year-old who knows exactly what he wants. Besides the fruitful rap career which lies ahead, he actually wants so much more. Taking after the late, great Nipsey Hussle, the South Los Angeles rapper is determined to invest in not only himself, but his community and his people.
The “Uno rapper” arrived to meet me with his brother and sister by his side, illustrating the family man that he is. Coming from humble beginnings, he remembers the days where they didn’t have the blessings he holds now. Now, he preps his growing fanbase for the new sounds he’s about to unleash.
L.A. WEEKLY: For those who don’t know, who is Ambjaay?
AMBJAAY: Ambjaay is here from Watts, California, the Nickerson Gardens projects. Really came from nothing, the trenches area. The household, mom and dad did everything. My parents gave me everything I wanted, really did everything parents are supposed to do.
Were you in the streets?
Nah, I always wanted to go my own way. I low-key did get in the streets, but that ain’t the way I wanted to go. I wanted to do music since I was young. My brother used to be a producer. He started having kids, so I started taking after him.
How does being from Watts play into your life and career?
It’s influenced me a lot. Most people my age give up their talent. It’s nothing but gang banging, people stealing, flockin’. That ain’t no way I wanted to go, I wanted to get it the easy way. A way where I didn’t need to rob or steal from nobody. Just positive vibes, no negative vibes. Once I figured my style out, that’s when everything started coming together.
What is your style?
My style is the West Coast, but that ain’t only what I got. When I drop my new album, it’s finna be over with. I just had to kick down the door real quick.
And you did that with “Uno”?
Yeah, I kicked down the door with “Uno.” I really was a comedian before I was rapping. I was a class clown. I needed one more song for my EP, and my boy Almighty Quise sent me the beat on Instagram. I told him “don’t give the beat to no one, it’s gonna go viral.” It did numbers like that. I don’t know, it was God’s plan.
What was your mindset creating this?
Really just having fun with the record. Every time I make a song, I do a promo video. It’s going crazy on Insta. In a couple of months, it starts buzzing. I didn’t think it was gonna go viral like that; not that viral, not gonna lie. When I was recording it, I was just having fun. I told my boy like “it’s gonna go viral” — but I was just playing. I spoke it into existence. It feels good. The video finna hit a mil, but as far as SoundCloud and all that, it been hit a mil. 4 million on SoundCloud.
What was the best part of shooting visuals?
Renting out the taco stand [laughs]. I didn’t think though [I] was gonna shoot it in no taco stand, that was dope to me. They seen the bigger vision for me.
Did you feel like Lil Nas X with the cowboy hat?
Oh yeah, I did. I ain’t wanna do that. I knew people were gonna compare me to him. I ain’t gonna lie, I don’t like being compared. It is what it is.
Are your other records gonna sound like “Uno?”
I got different songs, that’s just to kick down the door right now. I got a different sound. Not just West Coast, but other things in the future. I’m finna drop an album, so you’ll hear it soon.
What can we expect on the album?
Mainly I’m trying to get some big artists right now, but something different. Different vibes, not just the West Coast sound. Party vibes, summer vibes, fun vibes, trap vibes! That’s it. I don’t got no features yet, I’m tryna get some.
Anyone on your radar?
I’m trying to get some big artists like Quavo or Offset.
You think they’re hip to “Uno?”
Yeah I think so. Not them, but Kehlani’s been on it, Wiz been on it, Chris Brown. It’s taking it off.
What was your reaction seeing Kehlani with the retweet?
I’m not gonna lie, I didn’t know who that was. I’m sorry! When I seen it, I asked my sis like “who’s this?” She said she’s a famous singer. I’m like “damn!” Instantly reposted it. That’s a blessing though, I appreciate.
What was the inspiration behind your name?
My name’s already Jay, so the inspiration came from my homie Lucko. We had AMB like the name of our street called Antwerp. When he passed, I just ran with it. Because I was gonna name myself something else, but I’m like “nah I’ma just take it” after his history. Keep his name alive.
Why should people fuck with you?
Because there’s history behind that name, I’m really doing it for somebody who passed. People don’t really be doing that too much, they forget about people once they pass. Once somebody dies, they won’t bring ‘em up too much. It’s history behind him. AMB damn near his, I just ran with it
What is it you want fans to get from your story?
I came from the trenches. I came from the struggle, I really grind hard to get where I’m at. It was hard doing it, because I used to be broke.
Did you graduate school?
I graduated high school. I went to college for a month or two, dropped out. I couldn’t do it. I went to El Camino in Compton. I dropped out. I knew music was for me, I just had to find my style.
Bring us back to the independent grind before you were signed.
I ain’t gonna lie, I used to ask my brother and sister, “can I have money here?” Ask my girl I used to go with, “can I have money here?” I was just grinding. I’d go to the studio, spend $40 or $60. From last year to now, I’ve just been grinding — and I took off this year. That fast.
Talk about your journey to Columbia.
It was great! All positive vibes. I like how they treated me, so I went with them. That’s the home team. I liked the vibes they gave me. I don’t like to talk on other records labels, but I just felt comfortable there. If I would’ve went somewhere else, it wouldn’t feel like home. I feel like Columbia is home, it’s homebase.
What are some goals for yourself?
To quit rapping and invest in something else. Become an actor. Not quit rapping, but you don’t wanna rap too long. You wanna find something else that gets you money, like an actor or invest in property. Something so you won’t have to rap. Ain’t nobody wanna rap all they life. I don’t want to rap that long. I want to rap, but I want to do something else too. Just have fun with it: go into acting, make clothes or fashion.
You gonna go to acting school?
Yeah, I’m go the acting route. Like Will Smith! You see Will Smith. He was rapping at first, then he went to acting.
What’s a normal day in the life?
Sometimes if somebody sends me beats, I’ll write to beats. But I just be chillin’ with my boy Ralo Ralo, my boy Almighty, or my family. I just be chillin’ man, tryna get my life together. Really just focused. Really shows too! Been tryna do little shows here and there. I love the high school shows.
Three things you need in the studio?
I really don’t need ‘em, but my brother and my sister because they give me advice. A good engineer. And some cookies! Chocolate chip cookies and something to drink.
What would you be doing if you weren’t doing music?
Probably looking for a job, not gonna lie. If you don’t have no degree, it’s hard to get a good working job.
Did you work a part-time?
I had a full-time bullshi- ass warehouse job in Carson. I couldn’t do that shit, I quit after my birthday. I was there for three months.
L.A. has a whole new wave. Where do you see yourself fit in?
I feel like I got my own thing. I don’t be tryna sound like too many L.A. artists, because a lot of them be sounding the same. I try to separate myself from that. I don’t like being compared to a lot of people.
What was Nip’s influence on your career?
Nip had a big influence to really invest in a lot of stuff. You really can do shit by yourself if you want to. You gotta watch out for your surroundings too. When you become somebody in life, you gotta watch out. ‘Cause everybody don’t want to see you win, especially in your neighborhood.
You got haters?
Hell yeah, especially right now. Even before I started taking off — everybody got haters. You do too! When you’re doing something positive, something negative is gonna happen. That always happens, you just gotta watch out.
What advice do you have for an aspiring Ambjaay?
Don’t ever give up on your goals, keep pushing forward until you get to the finish line. Many times I wanted to give up, but I said “fuck it” and continue the journey. Continue the path. Look where I’m at today!
Ambjaay performs at BET Experience on Friday, June 21st.