Janei Maynard ‘16 — known as Jae on stage — keeps pushing the boundaries of what a Stanford student can be. A singer, songwriter and poet, she describes herself as a “soulful voice with a hip-hop head.” In August, she released her debut solo project as a member of The Outsiders, Stanford’s young and prolific hip-hop collective. The EP, “Endless Summer,” is available on Soundcloud, featuring six original tracks, a Christina Aguilera cover and a bonus remix of her single, “She Bad.” Her debut is a solid effort featuring catchy R&B archetypes, socially conscious spoken word and quality songwriting.
Jae stands out as the only woman in the The Outsiders’ current lineup as well as the only member with a primary focus on singing. But she’s avoided the limited supportive role played by so many hip-hop vocalists — especially women — by doing her own songwriting and making her voice the unmistakable center of her projects. In short, she doesn’t rely on features or guests to make her point. As a whole, “Eternal Summer” is undeniably shaped by her individual style and artistry.
Jae’s moody, laid-back vocals shine brightest on slow jams like her opener, “A Toast.” Over a Záck-produced beat with organ accents and Kendrick Lamar samples, Jae delivers Friday night party lyrics with quiet but confident poise. Her faint style feels especially at home over the jazzy Nujabes-esque beat on “Take Your Throne,” which features production and a guest verse from Stanford’s own hip-hop duo Geronimus — twin seniors Aidan and Charlie Geronimus.
There are Stanford fingerprints all over the “Eternal Summer” project, with notable assists from Outsiders EAGLEBABEL, Meetus, C4 and MZZZA (Tyler Brooks, Daryle Allums, Chance Carpenter and Muzz Shittu, respectively). EAGLEBABEL is responsible for a stand out sing-song verse on “Let Go,” spitting with the melodic swagger we’ve come to expect from the man behind “Odes.” But Jae, with her soft-spoken style and clean harmonies, remains the center of attention.
That’s not to say her performance is flawless, though. In some cases, Jae’s vocal restraint hurts her. Her style is far from forceful, and while the subdued character of her voice lends valuable emotion to ballads like “Save Me From Myself,” it feels a bit out of place on more energetic tunes like “She Bad” or “Let Go.” With solid production from EAGLEBABEL and catchy songwriting from her own pen, “She Bad” should come across as an emphatic ode to self-confidence. Instead, her gentle treatment of the melody gives off a feeling of hesitation — maybe even fear.
It’s hard to ignore the contradiction between delivery and content. On “She Bad,” vocal wavering over the lyric “I’m killin’ this beat” gives off a surprising sense of uncertainty — not at all what you’d expect from such a danceable tune. It’s a reminder that even if the production, lyrics and mixing are on point, the vocals need to fill the space created, no matter what. If not, the song feels incomplete.
Jae’s artistry has grown since her spring debut on The Outsiders’ first mixtape, and here’s hoping she doesn’t stop any time soon. All together, “Eternal Summer” is a thoughtful and enjoyable ode to the days of freedom and reflection we all yearn for during these first few weeks back on campus. If you want to find catchy R&B jams, support Stanford musicians or just catch a fleeting taste of summer gone by, I have a few words for you: Don’t forget about Jae.
You can contact Benjamin Sorensen at bcsoren ‘at’ stanford.edu.