With her velvety vocals and colorful storytelling, neo-soul singer/songwriter Rayana Jay imbues her music with an old-school spirit, bridging the gap between contemporaries such as SZA, Janelle Monae, and Solange and major influences such as Anita Baker and Jill Scott. Debuting in the late 2010s, she issued a trio of EPs — including 2016 debut Sorry About Last Night — before the end of the decade.
Born in Richmond, California, she was raised by her grandmother and mother, who worked at a record label. Introduced to Johnny "Guitar" Watson at a young age, she was also exposed to the Atlanta sounds of Organized Noize and Outkast. She began singing in church youth choir as a child — later becoming its director — and started songwriting at 16. After interning for an Oakland radio show, she decided to pursue a career in music. Slowly rising on the local Bay Area scene, she issued her debut, Sorry About Last Night, in 2016. The set featured production by 1-O.A.K., Drew Banga, and Mikos the Gawd; the latter two returned the following year on sophomore effort Morning After. Jay's third EP, Love Me Like, arrived in 2019, boasting guest appearances by Duckwrth, G-Eazy, and Beni Moun. ~ Neil Z. Yeung