Jaegen is a 25-year-old producer who emerged from the unassuming Toronto suburb of Brampton in 2015, by providing his close friend and collaborator Ramriddlz with a Xanned-out, dancehall-inspired sound. Jaegen, whose real name is Jake Aujla, was the chief producer on 2015’s P2P, the debut EP from Ram, a Mississauga rapper whose first single was a trailblazing tropical-rap novelty song, “Sweeterman." P2P's songs recontextualized the idea of bringing the cookout to the club for a new generation of artists and fans, and represented a precursor to the balmy sounds dominating modern pop. Jaegen’s beats floated above the dark clouds casting a sonic mood over the city of Toronto, providing a stark contrast from the more doleful sounds the world had come to associate with Canadian hip-hop via Drake and The Weeknd.
It’s been about three years since Jaegen started making beats, but he’s gathered a number of solid credits and broadened his style: the neon-streaked sex dirge of Zayn’s “Pillowtalk” remix featuring Lil Wayne, A-Boogie’s brooding flex, “Timeless,” which cracked the Billboard 100 in February 2017, and the low-slung Playboi Carti and Ramriddlz banger “Dem Calling,” where an effortless feeling of glory saturates every kick drum. Most recently, he co-produced French Montana's “Unforgettable.” Speaking over the phone from his brand new condo in downtown Toronto, Jaegen is excited about this new record and proud of how far he’s come: “When I showed my parents that Drake was going to remix “Sweeterman,” they didn’t believe me,” he said, chuckling. “They thought I was bullshitting and told me to finish school.”
As he graduates from an in-demand SoundCloud producer to the next phase of his career, Jaegen talked to The FADER about his love of collaboration, bringing tropical sounds to the mainstream, and the importance of understanding the value of your own work.
What was your upbringing like?
I was born in Mississauga, Ontario but raised in Brampton, which is another [Toronto] suburb. My parents were pretty strict. They’re from India, so they had pretty typical immigrant parent views: Get a degree, get a good job, education first, that kind of thing. I listened to all sorts of music in high school, and went through phases. I still do. I listened to a lot of hip-hop: G-Unit, 50 Cent, Game, Eminem. Then I got into punk and rock, like System of a Down and Sum 41.
I got into making music in 2014 when I was in my second year at Ryerson University. Ramz was fucking around with bars that were, like, mad witty Instagram captions. I was down to make beats for that. I started to track them and mix the vocals. I didn’t know what I was doing.
Back then, I was listening to Soundcloud all the time, digging and finding crazy, different shit. Vaporwave was cool because it sounded like anybody could make it. It didn’t sound too complex, which inspired me. That was just a stepping stone, though. Later I started listening to more mainstream, poppy stuff. I’ve come a long way in making my beats sound much more full and polished, less amateur.
When did you know what the Jaegen sound was going to become?
The song “P2P” has this guitar backing and synthy-bass. It’s one of my favorites because of the time and place I was at when I made it. I was confused with what was going to happen with Riddlz and “Sweeterman.” I didn’t know if I should push forward with music or university, but I ended up getting suspended later that year, in September 2015 on some bogus plagiarism shit, so I was at home, up all day and all night making beats.
It’s just all about positive vibes. Nowadays, it’s something I look for. It feels better to listen to that. Obviously you have your moments when you want to listen to something more down. But stuff that makes you feel good? It’s better for the soul, you know? Uplifting stuff that makes your girl wanna dance.
Who are some dancehall artists and producers you admire?
My favorite dancehall artist is Alkaline. Mavado and Vybz Kartel, they’re classic guys. Tommy Lee Sparta, too. Producer-wise, [Mixpak producer] Dubbel Dutch . I actually collaborated with him on a Ramriddlz track. I’ve worked with some producers in Jamaica over the internet, like Krs. and JackSpade.
How do you see your work fitting into mainstream dancehall-inspired rap and pop?
The summer when [Ramriddlz and I] came out with music, you weren’t really hearing what we were doing in the mainstream. Obviously I’m not going to take credit for it because dancehall’s an established genre at the end of the day, but it definitely feels like we inspired folks.
The sound itself has gone through evolutions, too. It’s not just one thing. You could say we contributed to the new Toronto sound. Before it was darker, cloudier music. Some people think the sound is just super emotional and sad, but that’s not true. Especially in the summer, that’s when it’s really popping out here.
You were in L.A. a bunch last year.
I was still enrolled at Ryerson when I went. I had the Zayn/Lil Wayne remix going on, and went to L.A. planning to just stay for reading week, and ended up staying there for two months. I dropped out and started working on Venis with Ramriddlz and some other producers in L.A.
What have your collaborations taught you about producing?
With Riddlz, it comes down to the vibe. Sometimes we’ll bounce ideas back and forth, or I’ll sit on the beat for a while; I’ll feel it one day, maybe not so much another. When I collaborate on beats, I’ll have the idea and send it out to someone who I think will do great work on it, or they’ll send something to me. Overall though, I learn a lot more when I’m in the studio with a producer. I might know how to do a certain thing the other person might not, and vice versa.
“[Ramriddlz] was fucking around with bars that were, like, mad witty Instagram captions. I was down to make beats for that.”
How did the Zayn remix come about? I remember your credit wasn’t initially attached to the song.
His label really liked a song I had with Ramriddlz and Playboy Carti, “Dem Callin,” and hit me up and sent me stems. They wanted to pull some shit, lowball me with some chump change compared to what the names attached to it made the song worth. But my boy knew the lawyer who deal with RCA, and negotiated something way more worthwhile. I could tell they were fuming though, because I only had Ramriddlz to my name so they thought they could get away with it.
I signed off on it, but the credit tag was nowhere to be found. They tried to give me some bullshit reasoning like, Bro, it’s a Lil Wayne remix. We gotta put Lil Wayne’s name on it. I had no leverage, realistically.
Did that remix lead to your tracks with A Boogie and Swae Lee?
To be honest, I’m not sure if the remix really did anything for me. It was more so the connections I made and the work I put out afterwards, like Venis. My name wasn’t attached to the Zayn thing, so what could it do for me?
With “Timeless,” my beat went to C.P Dubs then to Spinking, who was making a mixtape. He was trying to do the DJ Khaled thing where he gets artists together. We sent the song to the label and they wanted to put it out as a single, so A Boogie took it for himself, but Spinking still wanted credit for some reason. I was seeing a lot of bullshit on social media claiming that it was his beat when he had nothing to do with it. I got hot. It’s one thing to not get credit, but for someone else to get credit for my shit and not pay me? I aired it out on Twitter. Eventually they put my name back in the Soundcloud description, but my producer tag is gone from the audio.
How do you stay optimistic when stuff like this happens?
Around the time this was happening, “Unforgettable” with Swae was going down. I had met him, and we had an understanding, which was cool, because I had never met A Boogie. I had a better feeling about the song, too.
So tell me how “Unforgettable” came together.
Me and 1Mind worked on that beat together. C.P Dubb was asking for beats so I sent it over, and soon Swae got a hold of it. We met up in Toronto after talking in Twitter DMs, me showing him what’s good. He has a few more things on my other beats. I’m telling him, “Swaegen’s our thing, man!” We’ll see how it comes out. I’m sending him a lot of stuff.
Who are some people that helped you get where you are today?
I owe a lot to Riddlz. He’s the reason why my name’s really out there, but we made our sound together. I met most of connections in L.A. through Riddlz, but some producers hit me up directly. I made the “Timeless” beat with Arnold, and 1Mind, that’s the collective I made “Unforgettable” with. C.P Dubb, he’s basically the plug. He gets my beats to these artists. I don’t go out of my way to put myself out because I know what it’s like when people do that to me. It’s more right place, right time. I’d rather let my work speak for itself.