Chances are you’ve probably never heard of Jeremy ‘Jay’ Cohen. Hell, you might not even give him a second glance on the street as you walk by with your ear buds in, listening to your latest jam. Ironic, considering that Cohen more than like had a direct hand in shaping the very music you were listening to.
Over the past decade, Cohen has been involved with Chicago’s modern hip-hop scene through his music operations services company, On the Grind Management (OTG). Since he started the company five years ago, he has worked his way through sleepless nights and long days to get his clients involved in preeminent events such as Lollapalooza, and even opening for Jay-Z and Beyoncé. His roster boasts artists who are paving their way through the music industry while repping the entire Chicago art community.
It’s his way of giving back to a community that’s given him a whole lot, according to him. He was fortunate enough to have a wealth of strong local influences throughout the years, having inherited his business savvy from his father, and gaining direction from mentors in the Chicago art community. From his experiences and interactions with people in the scene, he witnessed how the ups and downs of life are directly embodied by the city.
“I think Chicago is in an incredibly strong creative state,” Cohen says. “People are moving to the city to pursue their dreams. This is powerful and something that I didn’t think was possible even a handful of years ago.”
Cohen utilizes Chicago as the scouting grounds and true home for OTG—a desire he has had from day one. He believes that the city can provide a positive spark for listeners who are caught in an often negative music industry landscape.
“This positive connection to people makes it more [important] to put in the non-stop work that is needed to take a movement from nothing and make it great,” says Cohen. For him, this positivity comes from a celebratory place, and that is evidenced in the talent and music that is birthed in the the city.
“Chicago needs more role models,” he explains.“People like Common, Sir the Baptist, Chance the Rapper, and others who affect change in a positive way give the next generation much needed role models.”
With all of the recent success of Chicago artists, the city’s influence on the greater cultural zeitgeist becomes clearer by the day. And on the vanguard of the scene are people like Cohen, whose focus and determination champions what’s best about the city’s creative community, even if people might not recognize it.