A lot of people pursue a music career for fame or money. Not Isaiah Jenkins. The Bronx, New York native better known as Rich Yung Zaya is making music to save his life.
“I need a kidney transplant,” Jenkins says. “I’ve been on dialysis for about three years now and after three years nobody has come up to want to donate so I decided I’ve made music since I was 14 and I’m going to take that serious.”
“I have no other choice,” he says. “Nobody is going to help me so I have to make people listen to me, make people notice me. There’s no failing for me in this. I have no choice. It’s my life.”
Given the choice to sign with a record label or get a new kidney, Jenkins says it would be an easy choice.
The kidney is his priority over everything else. “After that then my new goal is to be better than everybody else.”
The 29-year-old, a product of Castle Hill, James Monroe and Sackwern houses, has faced obstacles with his health since birth. A doctor told his mother he wouldn’t live past five months and his heart stopped four times before he was a year old. A dog bite when he was 9 left a wound so deep he could see bone and almost required his leg to be amputated. He was diagnosed with kidney disease at 14, and in high school had to have brain surgery after suffering a seizure.
Almost everyone in his family sold drugs, and Jenkins saw firsthand the results but he managed to avoid jail or worse by turning to college. His sister’s boyfriend was shot in the head in broad daylight. He’s seen his neighborhood go from one where everybody looked out for you to chaos and everybody looking out for themselves.
Through it all, music has been a constant companion. His mother played everything from Barry Manilow to rap and R&B when he was in the womb, and his grandmother exposed him to the church choir. He later took up electric bass and clarinet.
Now he’s releasing his own music, like a new single called “Don’t Make A Move” he calls a typical New York drill song.
“Other people say I have a sound but me, I don’t think I have a sound because it’s totally different music,” he says. “Everything is vastly different and I don’t know anybody in the rap game that even remotely can do that. Even great artists have a sound like J. Cole, they have a specific sound but I feel like I don’t have it because everything I do is different. I’m very versatile.”
“Everything I speak about is me,” he says. “What I’ve been through, what I’ve witnessed, what I’ve done, what I haven’t done, what I’m going to do, how I feel. It’s pretty much me venting.”
Fans are catching on. A music video for “The Weed The Dope” has already garnered more than 100,000 plays on YouTube in just a month.
Most of the songs for his upcoming full album are already done. That project, still untitled, should be released later this summer. One title he’s considered: Scattered Pieces, because “all my songs are drastically different.”
He’s already released two mixtapes: Methods to Flossing and 4 Days And 4 Nights. He’s dropping another previously unreleased tape, “The Hold Over (Methods to Flossing 2” on July 28 as he builds momentum towards releasing the full album.
“I was given a talent and this is the easiest way for me to succeed,” he says. “Anything that gets my foot in the door where somebody can notice me enough that I can get a transplant.”
For more, check out @richyungzaya or @kidney_for_zaya on Instagram, @richyungzaya on Twitter or RichYungZaya on YouTube