Rapper J.Lately releases album named after Bodega Bay

By Camille Escovedo, Staff Writer, SoCoNews, September 6, 2021


J.Lately's newest album is heavily inspired by his time growing up in west county. (Photo courtesy J.Lately)

Sebastopol-raised rapper J.Lately is back with a new album named for and greatly inspired by the peaceful flow and freedom of Bodega Bay. “Bodega,” released Aug. 27, is like “a love letter,” he said, to Sonoma County where he grew up and to the person his experiences in the area helped make of him.

The rush of live shows taking J.Lately to Los Angeles, San Diego, Berkeley and Santa Cruz will also land him in Hopmonk Tavern in Sebastopol on Sept. 25, coming home to headline. Tickets and links to platforms streaming his music can be found at justlatelymusic.com, or his Instagram, @jlately.

J.Lately wrote most of “Bodega” along the coast, the vast majority recorded in producer West Coast Trey’s studio in Jenner, “right on a hillside overlooking the water out there,” he said. West Coast Trey isn’t a stranger to the beaches of Bodega Bay either — he grew up in Sebastopol, too, and the two played basketball together at Analy High School.

Living in Oakland, the rapper said the studio and “the open air” by the coast was an escape of his during the pandemic shutdown, putting the album together around the beginning of 2021. The Bodega Bay area itself harbors memories of childhood beach days with family and mischievous teenage bonfire scenes with friends and no parents around, he said.

“It’s just always held a really special place in my heart, so being able to write an album out there and just be in that environment again was kind of a way to connect back with myself,” J.Lately said. This is the second album he’s delivered in 2021.

While his previous album, “Winnebago,” coalesced from a yearning to be free from mental “confines,” the insecurities, fears and limits holding him back; “Bodega” claims the good he’s already got. J.Lately strives to deliver the message of “feeling comfortable at home again,” fulfilled and grateful for one’s blessings in love, luck, good friends and successes “as opposed to always being so focused on searching for something more.”

Those days of seeking escape or sweating over how to justify himself as an artist are in the rearview mirror, the album seems to show in contrast. Once uneasy in his career as an uncommon rapper in Sonoma County, eager to separate himself, J.Lately said he realized his experiences and roots in the region helped make him who he is today.

“I don’t need to pretend that I’m not from this little town on the coast where no one’s a good rapper at. I don’t need to pretend that I had these certain experiences in my life that I didn’t. I don’t need to prove to anyone that I’m supposed to be here because the connection I have with my listeners and my fans is already proof enough of that for me, and now it’s time to enjoy those things, you know, and nourish them and help them grow,” he said.

Like marriage, for instance. “So, one big thing, I actually earlier this year got married, and so that was a topic that comes up a number of times in this album,” he said. J.Lately and his wife wed in his parents’ backyard in Sebastopol this past March, he said.

J.Lately mentioned an outlook he’s noticed in hip hop where “we often are taught or grow up believing that the cool thing to do is have tons of different women.” He said, “Instead of hiding the fact that I chose to go a different route with my life and marry someone who I’m in love with and commit to them, on this album I wanted to actually highlight that fact because that is a beautiful thing.”

Playing around with sound, song structure, voice and choice of beats in “Bodega” rather than trying to convince anyone of what he’s already learned has been an exciting part of the process and growing as an artist, according to J.Lately.

“For me, it’s not being scared to try things, really,” he said. “I’m not an amazing singer, but definitely on this album I played around a lot more with melodies and things like that, so just allowing myself to follow whatever it is that the beat and the backing music is inspiring me to go with.”

His favorite songs on the album are its opening number, “By the Ocean,” and its closer, “All I’ve Ever Been.” The first song gives form to “this idea of the freedom and the peace and the acceptance of this place,” he said, part of why he chose to name the album, “Bodega.” The parting song releases the pressure to prove himself and embraces the peace of what he has going for him, the rapper said.

Besides J.Lately, the album has seven tracks produced by West Coast Trey going for it and features rappers Dizzy Wright, The Grouch, Fashawn and Ian Kelly, he said.

J.Lately’s musical journey continues in Oakland, where he enjoys the energy and being “in the mix over there,” but also tries to manage a need for space and solitude, he said. “It’s a situation where, in my ideal world, I would live in the middle of a city in one house and also have a house right out somewhere like Bodega, on the coast where I recorded this album, and be able to keep a foot in each world,” he said.

With “Bodega,” it appears J.Lately still finds ways to keep the spirit of coastal west county with him. “What I want is what I’ve already created here. Now, it’s just time to appreciate it and to help it grow,” he said.

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