By John Benson
Hoping to follow in the footsteps of regional MCs gone national such as Kid Cudi, Wiz Khalifa and Machine Gun Kelly is Youngstown rapper Jason “Jay Mel” Melidona, who admittedly has undergone quite an education over the past few years.
Currently a student of the game, Melidona used his infectious hooks and catchy rhymes to come out of obscurity in 2010 and win 101.9 WRBP-FM Jamz’s “Best Local Rapper” contest.
The nod led the 2002 Howland High School graduate to the Big Apple, where he met with Island Def Jam higher ups. However, the big break to become the next overnight sensation didn’t come his way. What did was an eye-opening experience that today fuels his dream to become the next Northeast Ohio rapper to go mainstream.
“Before Jamz, I really had no direction with anything,” said Melidona, who has a day gig working for the Geek Squad at Best Buy. “I was under the notion at the time that you can create the best music ever and because you’re capable of creating the best music ever, you could go into somewhere and get signed off of those tracks that you recorded. I now look back and think if I had any insight into life, I would have known that was completely untrue.”
What Melidona learned was the hip-hop world is filled with talented artists. What makes the difference is the promotional and marketing game, which includes presence in the local music scene as well as on the Internet.
“The Jamz thing was the first really outward appearance of what people saw of me,” Melidona said. “That was the kind of a boost and wake-up like, ‘You have to get out there and can’t be sitting in the house and recording music and not letting people hear it.’ It’s seeing your face and handing them CDs personally and being a presence.”
Since then, Melidona released his first mix tape, “Who Is Jay Mel?” and began booking local shows, including opening for B.o.B and other national acts. While he released singles such as “In and Out,” “You Know,” “All I Need,” “I’m Good,” and his latest, “Live It Up,” the next big project is his debut full-length effort, which is due out this summer.
Compared to the likes of Drake and LL Cool J, Melidona said the upcoming CD features a variety of styles, including club joints, R&B hooks and even rock tunes.
“I have a lot of music just about the struggle,” Melidona said. “I’ve been doing this for a while, and things are starting to fall into place for me. I work a full-time job, I raise a son and I’m trying to make music my dream. So it’s just the daily struggle of life.”
Melidona’s next hometown show takes place at a pre-St. Patrick’s Day event booked for Saturday at O’Donold’s in Austintown. While playing a green-beer and shamrock-heavy type of gig doesn’t seem hip-hop, Mel said he’s got a surprise.
“I got my little kilt on, and I go hard,” Melidona said.
When it’s pointed out that oftentimes men don’t wear anything under the kilts, Melidona said, laughing, “Oh, I’ve got mine. I usually have my little leopard thing on.”