Even before his debut album Replay is released by Beluga Heights/Reprise Records later this year, singer, songwriter, and rapper IYAZ has already delivered a knockout punch. His debut single and the album‟s title track, “Replay,” soared to No. 1 on the Top 40 chart and the UK singles chart in July 2009, and has been certified triple-platinum by the R.I.A.A. The track sold more than 106,000 copies in its first week in the UK. The prequel and regular versions of the “Replay” video have racked up 60 million views on IYAZ‟s Official YouTube Channel. His videos, including the clip for his chart-topping second single, “Solo,” have streamed more than 75 million times on his YouTube channel. Now his recently released third single, “So Big,” is poised to repeat its predecessors‟ success. If that weren‟t enough, IYAZ has joined this summer‟s hottest tour supporting Justin Bieber and Sean Kingston.
It‟s been a whirlwind journey so far for the Virgin Islands native, who is at the forefront of the “Island Pop” sound — a brilliant fusion of rap, reggae, pop, and island vibes that has been popularized by fellow Beluga Heights recording artist Sean Kingston. In fact it was Kingston who first stumbled across IYAZ‟s MySpace page in May 2008, liked what he heard, and recommended him to in-demand songwriter and producer J.R. Rotem, who has also worked with Rihanna, 50 Cent, Britney Spears, and Rick Ross. “IYAZ‟s songwriting style is timeless and universal,” says Rotem of the 23-year-old‟s lilting reggae-infused R&B melodies inspired by island shorties, wireless romance, and the anguish of unrequited love. “He‟s a storyteller who paints visual scenarios that tug at the listener‟s heart-strings.”
Rotem signed IYAZ (whose real name is Keidran Jones) to his label Beluga Heights and crafted most of the tracks on IYAZ‟s album, including “Replay,” which boasts an irresistible melody, crisply syncopated high hats, and a few well-placed electro-violin riffs. IYAZ says that the song is about obsession: “You think about the girl you like every second of the day. You even call other girls by her name.” Then there‟s “Heartbeat,” which is about how the right girl can make his heart race, hands shake, and stomach flutter.
Born in the U.S. Virgin Islands and raised in the British Virgin Islands, Keidran Jones grew up amid swaying palm trees in idyllic Tortola, where he had a breathtaking view of the turquoise sea from his home. His father toured with a singing group, while his mother has directed church choirs for many years. It was at her insistence that an 11-year-old IYAZ sang Kirk Franklin‟s “They Need to Know” for a Christmas concert. “Even if you don‟t do great, it‟s like „Amen!‟ „Hallelujah!‟” he says with a chuckle. IYAZ doesn‟t do much gospel these days,
but his music is sparkling clean. “I‟m even cleaner than Sean,” he says, adding that he doesn‟t need to resort to curse words or negative themes to express emotional depth.
When IYAZ was in college, he and some friends recorded a song called “Island Girls” that was soon bumping out of every jeep and yard across the Caribbean. “I recorded it on my laptop, using a headset mic from Wal-mart,” he says. “Because I studied engineering, I can make any mic sound like it was placed in a million-dollar studio.” The song became a massive radio hit, earning heavy rotation in Anguilla, St. Kitts/Nevis, St. Thomas, St. Croix, St. Martin and Tortola, and caught the attention of Rotem and Kingston.
IYAZ was skeptical when he saw Kingston‟s messages in his MySpace inbox, wondering why a pop star would reach out to an unknown, so he ignored them. But Kingston wouldn‟t leave him alone, so after receiving three more messages, IYAZ thought he‟d better respond. He soon found himself partying with Kingston in Ft. Lauderdale, grubbing on delicious chicken cooked by Kingston‟s mama over Memorial Day weekend. Within two weeks, IYAZ signed to Kingston‟s newly formed production company, Time is Money Entertainment. Rotem subsequently signed IYAZ through Time Is Money to Beluga Heights, which has a label partnership with Warner Bros. Records. Now Kingston and IYAZ are inseparable as friends and as musical partners.
“Sean is my 'little' big brother,” IYAZ says. The two live just blocks away from one another in Ft. Lauderdale. Not only do they finish each other‟s sentences and celebrate holidays with each other‟s families, they collaborate seamlessly on songwriting and production. “When you put us in the studio together, it‟s like magic.”