Is Jakey Ready to Be the Next Joji?

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The first video of Jakey’s, or NakeyJakey as some of you may know him, which I ever stumbled upon was a suggested YouTube video titled “Rockstar’s Game Design is Outdated.” The longform video essay was not only a well-thought-out critique of one of the year’s biggest video games –Red Dead Redemption 2– but the catalyst that would lead me down a rabbit hole for the next few days. The exit to that rabbit hole would end with me having binged pretty much the entirety of the South Dakota Native’s content.

Yet, even after hours of making my way through Nakey Jakey’s entire filmography, it was not the clear adoration for Halo’s legacy or the wealth of childhood nostalgia on display that played on repeat in my head; it was a three-minute-and-forty-second music video. “Not Dead Yet,” the music video in question, sees Jakey making a serious foray into the world of music, and with it, the South Dakota native manages to simultaneously explore themes and sounds wholly foreign and familiar to anything he has created in the past.

“Not Dead Yet” may not be Jakey’s first official music venture, but it certainly feels like his most accomplished to date. The first single from the artist in over two years follows “Moby Dick,” a Melvillean tale of self-loathing built over ominous hip-hop production. While the hip-hop inspirations remain in his latest outing, Jakey seems unwilling to stick to the typical conventions of the genre, or any genre for that matter. Elements of lo-fi, darkwave, R&B, electronica permeate Jakey’s bittersweet musings and bars to create a sonic offering that is quite like anything else out there, in spite of its wide arrange of influences.

As I let “Not Dead Yet” play on loop in the background at this very moment, it is difficult to not draw comparisons to a similar YouTuber turned viral artist. The past couple years saw Joji go from Internet personality “Filthy Frank” to an artist who is genuinely leaving an innovative mark on the world of music at large. In many ways, Joji paved the way for artists aiming to leave their past YouTube personas behind in order to pursue an authentic musical career. While the parallels to Joji may abound, “Not Dead Yet” raises as an important differentiation–we don’t think Jakey is aiming to sacrifice one creative output for the other.

The internet at large, a noted love for video games, childhood nostalgia, and cultlike obsessions are at the core of much of NakeyJakey’s content, including “Not Dead Yet.” The song itself is built around a sample from cult anime Berserk and features samples from both the video games Golden Eye 007 and The Legend of Zelda’s Majora Mask. While those production details may be missed by the majority of listeners, it is impossible to ignore the inspiration behind the accompanying visual.

Donning thick black eyeliner and fishnet sleeves, Jakey appears as much more than a dancing Hot Topic ad. He is paying homage to one of the Internet’s most iconic moments, a group of cybergoths dancing under a freeway underpass. The potentially obscure reference creates a surreal moment of bewilderment for those unfamiliar and a sense of inherent nostalgia for those readily familiar with the iconic arm flailing and knee breaking. And considering the video for “Not Dead Yet” has racked up well over a million plays in a matter of weeks, chances are it is safe to say Jakey’s formula is working.

In many ways, it makes perfect sense that I first stumbled upon one of my new favorite musical discoveries from a critique of Red Dead Redemption 2’s open-world mechanics. More than just the same game that laid the groundwork for the meteoric rise of Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” to become the most popular song in history, it is continued proof that the avenues to music discovery are no longer solely in the hands of major labels or gatekeepers. The future of music belongs to people like Joji and Jakey–the ones actually creating the content and music worth consuming.  

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